Saturday, November 24, 2012


Ex-BJP minister among 32 held guilty in Godhra riots

Former Modi aide Maya Kodnani, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi had incited a mob to run amok in a Muslim-dominated pocket in Ahmedabad; the violence left 97 people dead

Vijay Zala and Zahid Qureshi 

    AGujarat special court on Wednesday convicted 32 people, including former BJP minister Mayaben Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi, of killing 97 Muslims in one of the worst incidents of mob violence post the 2002 Godhra carnage. The court acquitted 29 people for want of evidence.
    All those convicted, including Kodnani who was the then minister of women and child development in the Narendra Modi government, have been charged under various sections of Indian Penal Code such as 302 (murder) and 120B (conspiracy). One accused, Suresh alias Richard alias Suresh Langdo Deedawala, was convicted of rape besides other sections. The quantum of the sentence will be pronounced on Friday.
    On Wednesday morning, the court compound turned into a fortress under heavy police bandobast. No vehicles were allowed inside the premises. The cops also barred vendors from entering the premises. Only the advocates of the accused were allowed inside the courtroom.
    All the 61 accused were produced before the court at 11am. The scene quickly turned emotional as the judge began reading out the verdict. Several of them were in tears and made frantic pleas that they were innocent and the only breadwinners of their family.
    Of the 63 accused in the case, one died during trial, while one person is absconding. The remaining were tried for murder, arson and rioting. Most of them were out on bail.
    In 2009, the Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the case as well as other cases relating to the Gujarat riots which had claimed over 1,000 lives.
    The SIT registered cases against many of the accused. Kodnani, who was the MLA from the area, was also the first minister to be arrested in a riot case. Witnesses in Naroda Patiya case alleged that Kodnani had incited the mobs.
    Kodnani's conviction is likely to cause embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government. Modi has oftenbeenaccusedofgivingafreehand to the rioters by doing little to stop them from indulging in violence in the aftermath of Godhra train burning incident.
    Welcoming the court ruling, social activist Teesta Setalvad said it was a historic judgment which established that people with huge political clout could also be convicted. Setalvad has been working for Gujarat riot victims for the past several years.
    In 2007, Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi was caught on camera by by Tehelka in 2007 while describing how families had been set afire.
    Public prosecutor Akhil Desai said he would push for the death penalty when sentences are handed down.
    On February 28, 2002, a mob attacked Naroda Patiya, a Muslimdominated area in Ahmedabad with guns and bombs, burning 97 people alive. As many as 33 were seriously injured. Witnesses alleged that Kodnani and Bajrangi had incited the mob.
Timidity had taken over temerity as Maya Kodnani sat in the courtroom. Tears rolled down her cheeks when Designated Judge Jyotsana Yagnik pronounced the judgment in the Naroda Patiya case.
    With folded hands she requested the court that she suffered from blood pressure related problems, her son studied abroad and she lived alone with her husband. “I am a victim of political vendetta. I should be acquitted.” Kodnani spoke haltingly.
Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi had been boastful of his role in inciting the mob to kill, saying he felt he had "done something like Maharana Pratap".
    In a sting operation by Tehelka in 2007, Bajrangi had boasted of how he had collected bombs and guns and mobilised a group to massacre the Muslims in Naroda Patiya on Feb 28, 2002.
It has been established that no matter how powerful and politically influential an accused might be, he/she can also get convicted
No minister would have been involved in such a crime unless they had the consent of the chief minister
Whether is anti-Sikh riots of 1984, or the Maharashtra, Assam or Gujarat riots, it is unfortunate and a blot on the face of the nation