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5 years on the run, BJP leader arrested

Fatehsinh Chauhan, sitting MLA from Rajgarh constituency, was arrested on Monday for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. He had been absconding for four years, reports Prasad Nichenametla.

india Updated: Jun 30, 2009 00:16 IST
Prasad Nichenametla

A second Gujarat BJP politician was arrested on Monday for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. He had been absconding for four years.

Fatehsinh Chauhan, sitting MLA from Rajgarh constituency, charged with looting, rioting and arson in 21 Muslim dominated villages in Panchmahals district during the riots, surrendered at the Devgarh Baria police station in adjoining Dahod district, 220 km east of Ahmedabad,

Earlier in March, the then Women and Child Development Minister Maya Kodnani had been arrested for allegedly leading a mob which attacked and killed Muslims in Ahmedabad’s Naroda Patiya area.

“The accused surrendered and was immediately arrested,” said Vipul Agarwal, Dahod superintendent of police.

A case against Chauhan was first registered in 2002, but later withdrawn for want of evidence. Three years later, however, it had to be reopened at the direction of the Supreme Court.

The case, however, is not among the nine being investigated by the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT).

Though officially proclaimed as ‘absconding’, Chauhan freely contested the 2007 assembly elections from Rajgarh, and won.

“Instead of arresting him, the government was protecting him,” said Shaktisinh Gohil, Congress legislature party leader. “He even campaigned for the BJP during the recent Lok Sabha elections. The government has made a mockery of law and order by allowing him to move freely.”

“Though Chauhan’s name did figure in the case, his involvement was not clear,” said J. D. Sutaria, inspector at the Devgarh Baria police station, defending the police’s failure to arrest him earlier. “The statements of various witnesses had not been recorded earlier.”

The surrender comes at a time when Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is himself under the SIT scanner, for his alleged role in abetting the riots. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission, investigating the riots, which had in its first report given Modi practically a clean chit, is also re examining his role.

According to sources, the development coming on first day of the budget session of Gujarat assembly is largely due to the pressure building on the state due to the Supreme Court’s monitoring of the riot cases.