Home India News Final Coimbatore blasts sentencing from Wednesday

Final Coimbatore blasts sentencing from Wednesday


Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) : Almost 10 years after serial blasts in this textile town killed 58 people, a court here Wednesday begins sentencing the last batch of the guilty, the most prominent among them being prime accused Syed Ahmed Basha of the Al Umma group.

All eyes are on Basha, who grew from a small time trader to a local don and then founded the feared Al Umma group.

While Basha has been found guilty of conspiracy and transporting bombs for the February 1998 blasts, Al Umma’s general secretary Mohammed Ansari has also been convicted.

This week’s verdict by the sessions court headed by special judge K. Uthirapathi will be the final pronouncements of punishments for those accused of engineering 13 blasts in Coimbatore on Feb 14, 1998, a day when the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) L.K. Advani was scheduled to address an election rally in the town.

The blasts, which occurred between 3.30 p.m. to 7 p.m., killed 58 people and injured more than 250 with property loss estimated at more than Rs.1 billion. Advani had later claimed that a human bomb was present at the rally site and blew himself after a police chase.

A total of 166 people were charged in the case with various degrees of conspiracy and murder. Of these, eight people, including the Kerala-based People’s Democratic Party leader Abdul Nasser Maudani, were acquitted.

The trial began in March 2002. On Aug 1, the judge began awarding the sentences one by one and released 76 who had already been in jail for seven years and more.

In 1984, prime accused Basha is believed to have masterminded an attack on the now deceased K. Jana Krishnamurthy, who later became president of the BJP.

In 1987, he is also said to have attacked Hindu Munnani leader Ramgopalan at the Madurai railway station. In both cases, he was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

After 1987, Basha allegedly began providing leadership to militant youths and running extortion rackets by levying tax on rich Muslim businessmen in Coimbatore.

Basha’s outfits were involved in a spate of violent brawls with pro-Hindu outfits from 1989 to 1991. In 1993, the year after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, he officially set up the Al Ummah.

In August 1993, the outfit was blamed for an attack on the RSS office in Chennai in which 11 people were killed. Basha and 15 others were arrested under the National Security Act and the anti-terror TADA act but the DMK government freed them in 1997.

In November the same year, Coimbatore was hit by communal riots, following the killing of a policeman by Al Umma activists. Eighteen Muslim youths were killed and shops belonging to Muslims were ransacked.

Three months later, in February 1998, the serial blasts, considered a revenge for the riots, ripped through this city.