Saturday, 28 March 2009

Gujarat 'riot minister' resigns


A minister in India's Gujarat state, Mayaben Kodnani, accused over the anti-Muslim riots of 2002, has surrendered to police and resigned her posts.

Ms Kodnani is alleged to have led a mob of rioters in Ahmedabad's Naroda Patiya area. She denies the charge.
Nearly 60 Muslims were killed in this Muslim-dominated area with more than half of the 1,300 houses destroyed.
After evading arrest for two years, Ms Kodnani had asked the Gujarat high court for bail but was refused.
Following the rejection, Ms Kodnani on Friday resigned from her posts as junior minister for higher education and minister for women and child welfare
Dismissing the bail application, the high court said that "religious fanatics don't belong to any religion and they are no better than terrorists".
A special investigating team, appointed by India's Supreme Court to investigate several riot cases in Gujarat, says more than a dozen witnesses saw an armed Ms Kodnani leading the rioters.
Ms Kodnani, a member of the state's governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has denied the involvement.
Analysts say the news will be an embarrassment for the BJP with parliamentary elections due to begin in just over two weeks.
Gujarat's Chief Minister Narendra Modi was accused of failing to halt the religious violence.
In fact, his opponents say he indirectly egged on Hindu mobs who are believed to have led most of the attacks.
But his supporters say he could have done little under the circumstances to prevent the violence.

Kodnani, Patel surrender before Special Investigation Team

State minister for higher education Maya Kodnani on Friday surrendered before the Special Investigation Team, constituted by the Supreme Court, which is probing the Godhra riots cases afresh.
Earlier today, she resigned from the Narendra Modi government after Gujarat High Court cancelled her anticipatory bail for her alleged role in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case.
Holding that religious fanatics are no better than terrorists, Gujarat High Court cancelled the anticipatory bail of state minister Maya Kodnani, accused in the 2002 Naroda Patiya riot case.
The High Court also cancelled the anticipatory bail of Jaideep Patel and rejected the plea of both the accused seeking time for further appeal.
"Communal harmony is the hallmark of democracy and religious fanatics are no better than the terrorists," Justice DH Vaghela said.
The court held that presence of Kodnani and VHP leader Patel at the scene of offence is prima facie established from the evidence produced by the Special Investigating Team (SIT).

Minister arrested over India religious riots case

Fri Mar 27, 2009 6:48pm IST
AHMEDABAD, India, March 27 (Reuters) - Indian police arrested the child welfare minister for the western state of Gujarat on Friday for leading a mob that attacked Muslims during one of the country's worst religious riots seven years ago, officials said.
The arrest of Mayaben Kodnani is an embarrassment for the state's ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party ahead of the country's April/May parliamentary election.
Some victims and witnesses alleged that Kodnani led a Hindu mob that killed more than 100 people on the outskirts of Ahmedabad city in 2002, police said in the charge sheet against her.
"The charges against Mayaben Kodnani includes abetment to murder, conspiracy to kill people and use of firearms," Mitesh Amin, Kodnani's lawyer, told reporters after her arrest.
Kodnani has said she was innocent and being framed.
Human rights groups say about 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were hacked, beaten or burned to death in Gujarat after a suspected Muslim mob burnt alive 59 Hindu activists and pilgrims inside a train in February 2002.
India's Supreme Court has criticised the Gujarat government for failing to protect Muslims and compared its chief minister Narendra Modi to the Roman emperor Nero, said to have played the lyre while Rome burned.
Kodnani, who resigned as child welfare minister an hour before her arrest, was taken into custody after her bail plea was rejected in court.
Another accused, Jaidip Patil, leader of the hardline Hindu group Vishwa Hindu Parishad, was also arrested over the same case.
"They are in our custody and we will present them in court tomorrow," Pravin Mall, an investigating officer, said in Ahmedabad.
Patil, standing beside Kodnani, also protested his innocence.
"We are both innocent, we have been falsely charged in the case and we will prove it," he said.
Officials say 4,252 riot-related cases were registered in Gujarat, but police in the state dropped more than 2,000 for lack of evidence.

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