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Sisters free, not brother


 The sisters have been let off, not their bread-earner brother.

Siblings Ramila and Geeta Rathod, the only women to have been taken into custody in the Naroda Patia case apart from former minister Maya Kodnani, were acquitted today by judge Jyotsna Yagnik.

Their elder brother Mukesh, an advocate, was, however, convicted.

Born into a lower-middle-class state transport driver’s family at Naroda Patia, Geeta and her elder sister — both unemployed and unmarried — had been picked up four years after their father Ratilal Rathod, also described as the “butcher” of Naroda Patia, committed suicide in November 2005.

Like Maya, the sisters were arrested and put behind bars for two months after the special investigation team took over the probe into the February 28, 2002, massacre in which 97 people were burnt alive.

The charge against the sisters was they passed kerosene to a frenzied mob and cheered when the victims were being slaughtered.

Several witnesses had named the sisters, both in their 30s.

Ramila said they were innocent. “Many Muslims who did not even know us had named us because they were tutored by certain people. We have been framed,” she told this reporter yesterday.

She also said she had been preparing for the worst. “We have been in jail where we had a horrible time,” she said. “Now even if we are acquitted, what is the point?”

The sisters also said their father — who they claimed was so devout a man that he was addressed as “Bhavani Shankar” — could do no wrong.

Rathod and his son Mukesh were both arrested in connection with the case in 2003. The two, both active members of the Sangh then, got bail within six months.

The Rathod family was closely associated with former Bajrang Dal chief Babu Bajrangi who, according to the first information report, had incited and led the mob.

Mohammad Salim, a survivor who lost many of his family members, said he was disappointed that Geeta had been let off. She was very much part of the mob, he said. “She was even cheering and clapping when Muslims were being butchered.”

Geeta denied the charge, claiming she was innocent like her father, whose body was found on the bank of a canal.

Some witnesses had, however, testified that he raped a woman who was eight months pregnant, killed her, slashed open her stomach and ripped out the foetus(courtsey the telegraph)

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