On 29 August 2012, a sessions court in Ahmedabad pronounced its judgment in the case of a massacre in Naroda Patiya, a Muslim-dominated pocket in the city, where nearly 100 Muslims were killed on 28 February 2002, during riots in Gujarat. The court convicted 32 persons of murder and acquitted 29 others. Among the convicts were Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Bajrang Dal, a prominent faction of the RSS; Maya Kodnani, a former MLA who was believed to be close to Narendra Modi, then the chief minister of Gujarat; and Suresh Langado, who goes by the alias Richard, a Bajrang Dal member. Richard was convicted on multiple counts of rape and murder—63 eyewitnesses had named him in at least ten incidents of murder and sexual assault committed during the massacre. He was sentenced to 31 years of imprisonment.
In July 2015, the superintendent of Sabarmati Central Jail, where Richard was serving his sentence, released him on parole. Upon going home, Richard's wife said that he beat her up and sodomised her. In December that year, Richard’s wife filed a criminal complaint and a divorce petition against him, through a lawyer named Shabana Mansuri. On 12 January 2016, the Gujarat High Court granted Richard temporary bail for 30 days, on the grounds that he had to look for his daughter, who he claimed was missing. During this period, he reportedly assaulted a journalist, Revati Laul. Laul had visited Richard at his house to conduct an interview for a book she was writing, on perpetrators of the violence during the 2002 riots. On 21 January, after Laul’s complaint, the police arrested Richard and brought him back to jail. In a Facebook post she published on 30 November, Laul said that PC Solanki, who she said headed the police special operations group, held a press conference after Richard’s arrest, and unequivocally stated that the convict would not be released again. But on 29 November 2016, Mansuri told me, Richard called up his wife’s brother and told him that he wanted to meet her to discuss the divorce petition. He was out of jail again.
Laul said that when Richard’s wife heard that he had been released again, she called Laul to inform her. The journalist had met Richard’s wife about two years ago, when the former was visiting districts affected by the riots as part of research for her book. In July 2015, after Richard, according to his wife, sodomised her, she told Laul about it. Laul took Richard’s wife to Mansuri. Since then, Mansuri said, Richard’s wife has been staying with her parents, while her divorce case continues before the court. Mansuri told me that every time Richard was released from prison, his wife went into hiding until his parole ended. In addition to their daughter, Richard and his wife have a 14-year-old son. Both children, Mansuri said, stay with their maternal grandparents when their mother goes into hiding.
Laul is worried about Richard’s release as well. In her Facebook post from 30 November 2016, Laul recounted the alleged assault. She wrote that when Richard was granted temporary bail, she had decided to meet him at his home. His wife had been staying away from their home since July 2015, and wasn’t present when Laul visited.
As Laul conducted her interview with Richard, she asked him whether he would share information about himself and his past, and without provocation, he hit her. “He lurched forward, hit me across the face till my eye began to bleed,” she wrote in her post. “Then pulled me and dragged me to the nearby wall, pinned me against it, removed an entire clump of hair from its follicle, kicked and beat me repeatedly.” Laul wrote that she managed to flee only because Richard’s son intervened, along with a few other bystanders.