The Gujarat government has revoked the security cover that had been provided to witnesses, lawyers and a former judge in 2002 Gujarat riots cases, The Times of India reported on Friday.

More than 1,000 persons, most of them Muslims, were killed in the communal riots that had broken out in 2002. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat at the time of the riots.

The Special Investigation Team had formed the witness protection cell 15 years ago based on recommendations by the Supreme Court in nine cases related to the riots it was dealing with.

The cases include the Godhra train burning case, Naroda Patia case, Naroda Gam case, Gulbarg society massacre case, Dipda Darwaza case, Sardarpur and Ode case.

The decision of the Gujarat Police to withdraw all personnel deployed for protection of the witnesses, lawyers and a judge came on December 13, following a recommendation by Special Investigation Team chief BC Solanki, the newspaper reported.

“After assessment, a decision has been taken to withdraw the protection,” the newspaper cited the recommendation letter as saying. “It is requested to instruct [the] respective police station in-charge to take care of the security of witnesses.”

The witness protection cell had also provided security cover to former principal city sessions judge Jyotsna Yagnik, who had convicted 32 of the accused in the Naroda Patia case involving the massacre of 97 persons.

The Times of India quoted Imtiyazkhan Pathan, the prime witness in the Gulbarg Society massacre case, as saying that it was improper of the Special Investigating Team to withdraw the police protection when most of the cases were pending in the court and majority of the accused were out on bail.

“If something happens to us, who will be responsible, court, SIT, or police,” Pathan asked. “We should be given arms licences for our protection if police protection is removed.”

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