Seven years after more than 800 persons were killed in one of the worst communal riots the country has witnessed, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to reinvestigate the cases of communal killings in Gujarat in 2002 arrested a police officer for alleged destruction of evidence, abetment and other crimes.
Deputy Superintendent of Police K.G. Erda was arrested on Sunday morning by a team of SIT officials from the south Gujarat town of Valsad, 200 kilometers from Mumbai, where he is currently posted. He is the first police officer to be arrested in connection with those riots.
Erda has been arrested in connection with the massacre at Gulburg Society on February 28, 2002 where 42 persons, including former Member of Parliament Ehsan Jafri, were burnt alive by a mob which had gathered in the area in response to the BJP-VHP sponsored state-wide bandh.
The bandh was called in protest of death of 59 kar sevaks in a fire on board Sabarmati Express a day earlier.
Erda was then the senior police inspector of Meghaninagar police station in whose jurisdiction the massacre took place. He has been brought to Ahmedabad where he will be produced in the court tomorrow and the SIT will seek his further custody for further investigation.
Interestingly, he is the complainant in the case and though 22 people were arrested after the killings, all were released on bail by the court later due to weak evidence against them. SIT has charged Erda for framing incorrect records with intent to save a person from punishment.
"We have enough evidence against him. More arrests are likely in coming days," said and SIT chief R.K. Raghvan.
The evidence is mainly in the form of cellphone records and statements of witnesses.
Four years ago, the Supreme Court had ordered reopening of more than 2,000 riot cases closed by the state police on grounds of lack of evidence and had transferred the 10 most serious ones to the SIT.