Saturday, November 24, 2012

Modi ex-minister guilty of '02 riots conspiracy

Aug 30, 2012 - Rajnish Sharma | Age Correspondent
In a major setback to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, former state minister Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, former head of the Bajrang Dal state unit, were among 32 people convicted by a special court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday for the infamous Naroda Patiya riots of 2002, where 97 people were killed. Twenty-nine other accused were acquitted.
Maya Kodnani, a former minister for women and child development, is a three-time MLA from Naroda and is considered close to Mr Modi. Importantly, both Kodnani and Bajrangi were convicted on charges of murder and criminal conspiracy, for which the maximum punishment can be death. The court is likely to announce the quantum of punishment on August 31.
The Naroda Patiya riot investigations were conducted by a Supreme Court-appointed special investigation team that found concrete evidence, material and technical, of Maya Kodnani's involvement in the killings.
With Gujarat's Assembly elections due in November this year, the Congress was quick to react. AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh said: “It is proved now that BJP ministers and officials were involved in the Gujarat riots. Everything that happened was at the behest of Narendra Modi.”
The BJP said the verdict was part of the judicial process.
“We don't like to politicise the judicial process, specially in cases of riots wherever they happen, whether it's the 1984 riots in Delhi, Mumbai or Assam,” said spokesman Prakash Javdekar.
This is the first time a former minister and sitting MLA has been convicted for the Gujarat violence, a senior SIT official said.
Technical evidence from cell towers played a big role. When the rioting was at its peak, the cell location of Kodnani and Bajrangi kept moving to areas which saw the worst rioting, sources said. The SIT also relied heavily on statements by 300-odd witnesses who claimed Kodnani had incited the mob which led to large-scale violence in Naroda Patiya in 2002. She was arrested by the SIT in 2009, after which she resigned as a minister.