Wanted for allegedly leading and inciting mobs during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots, Gujarat minister Mayaben Kodnani on Friday resigned and surrendered before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) following cancellation of her anticipatory bail by the Gujarat High Court.
The first high-profile arrest in the 2002 riots cases comes as an embarrassment for the BJP ahead of the elections. The party has so far denied involvement of its leaders and cadres in the riots, which killed 1,180 Muslims.
The names of Kodnani, along with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Jaideep Patel, figure in the list of accused, wanted by the SIT for their alleged role in instigating a mob of 15,000 people that killed 106 Muslims in Ahmedabad’s Naroda area on February 28, 2002.
HT, in a series of reports in February, had exposed how Kodnani managed to get anticipatory bail from the Ahmedabad sessions court following a “mistake” by the SIT.
The SIT had told the sessions court that she was not required for “custodial interrogation”. However, after the HT stories, the SIT retracted its earlier stand and moved the high court, seeking the bail cancellation.
“Religious fanatics do not belong to any religion. They are no better than terrorists, who kill people without any rhyme or reason,” said Justice D.H.Vaghela of the Gujarat high court in his order.
“Therefore the offences which are alleged to be committed by the faceless mobs of thousands of persons led by few have to be treated as very heinous and having far reaching implications,” the judge said.
Soon after the court order, state Women and Child Welfare minister Kodnani resigned and submitted herself before the SIT in Gandhinagar. Patel was also taken into custody.
“She submitted her resignation which has been forwarded to the governor by the chief minister,” said Jay Narayan Vyas, state health minister and cabinet spokesperson. BJP spokesman Balbir Punj said in Delhi: “The court order would be followed in letter and spirit.”
The Congress has asked the BJP to apologise. “It has to apologise to the nation for what happened in Gujarat in 2002,” union minister Kapil Sibal said.
The SIT would now seek the custody of both leaders for interrogation. “We would be presenting them before the magistrate on Saturday and ask for their custody,” said Pravin Singh Mal, deputy superintendent of police, investigating the case for the SIT.
Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam riots cases are among the 10 cases being re-investigated by the SIT, set-up by the Supreme Court last year.