Saturday, November 24, 2012

Modi's Ex-Minister Guilty of Naroda Patiya Massacre

BJP shields CM, says Kodnani was not minister, only MLA, during massacre


    Maya Kodnani, a former minister in the Narendra Modi government, has been convicted by a special court for the massacre of Muslims in Naroda Patiya, along with 31 others. One of the biggest massacres during the 2002 Gujarat riots took place in Naroda Patiya. The verdict is a setback to chief minister Narendra Modi's claims that his government had no role in the post-Godhra riot, which his detractors allege were state-sponsored. Besides Kodnani, a three-time MLA from Naroda area, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was held guilty of criminal conspiracy, murder and attempt to murder under different sections of the Indian Penal Code. On February 28, 2002 - a day after 58 Hindus returning after 'kar sewa' at Ayodhya were burnt to death in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra by a Muslim mob - 97 Muslims were killed in Naroda during a bandh called by the RSS-affiliate VHP. The court, which heard arguments on the quantum of sentence, will decide on the punishment on August 31. “The maximum punishment for criminal conspiracy and murder can be death sentence,” advocate Shamshad Pathan, representing the victims, said. One of the accused, Suresh, alias, Richard Chara was also convicted for rape. The court convicted several of the accused on charges of rioting, arson, unlawful assembly and causing hurt with weapons and acquitted 29 people.
Kodnani was arrested in March, 2009, when she was the minister for women and child welfare in the Modi government, and had to resign from the post. She became an MLA for the first time in 1998 and won elections from the constituency twice more. Modi made her a minister in 2007. The verdict has given ammunition to Congress to attack the Modi government. “No minister would have been involved in such a crime unless they had the consent of the chief minister,” Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said. Welcoming the verdict law minister Salman Khurshid said it would “enhance people's faith in the legal system.” However, he refused to comment on Modi saying “I don't want to mix politics with issues around the case. It is not a political battle, but a legal and moral one.” BJP refuted Congress' charge that Kodnani's involvement pointed fingers at Modi. “I don't think so,” BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said when asked if it implied the state government's complicity. Wherever riots take place it is unfortunate. Riots should be condemned. This is the first court judgement. It's a legal process,” he said. To a question about Congress demanding Modi's resignation, he said the person who was allegedly involved had already resigned. He also pointed out that Kodnani was not a minister at that time.
Though the Gujarat government has washed its hands of Kodnani, the ghosts of the Gujarat riots have returned to haunt Modi just when the state is headed for elections. “Maya Kodnani was not a minister when the incident happened,” Gujarat government spokesperson Jai Narayan Vyas said. He said an MLA was not a government functionary.
During the arguments on the quantum of sentence in the special court today, special public prosecutor Akhil Desai sought death sentence for all the convicts. He argued that it is a fit case to be termed “rarest of rare” and the court should award capital punishment to the convicts. If the court takes another view, then it should at least award a minimum of 20 years of imprisonment to each of the convicts, he submitted.
Opposing his contention, defence advocate Niranjan Tikani appealed to the court to show leniency towards the convicts, keeping in mind their family background and financial condition.
Setalvad Hails Court Verdict
AHMEDABAD Social activist Teesta Setalvad has welcomed the court's ruling in the 2002 Naroda Patiya violence case, which convicted 32 people, including BJP MLA and former minister Maya Kodnani, of murder and conspiracy. “We welcome the verdict delivered today and consider it a historic judgement as it has established that no matter how powerful and politically influential the accused might be, he/she can also get convicted,” said Setalvad, who has been working for Gujarat riot victims for the past several years. On February 28, 2002, during a bandh called by Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a large crowd of rioters attacked people belonging to the minority community in Naroda Patiya area here, killing 97 people. Addressing the media, Setalvad said the ruling was a big victory, especially for the women victim-witnesses. “The raw courage of the victimwitnesses, especially the women who deposed fearlessly while still living in Naroda Patiya, is a reflection of the confidence generated by the trial,” she said. “Eleven eyewitnesses have deposed...assigning in detail the role played by Kodnani in inciting the mob to murder...” -- PTI