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Naroda Patiya case: Maya Kodnani, Babu Bajrangi + 30 guilty

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BS reports:

A special court in Ahmedabad on Wednesday convicted 32 persons, including a former minister in the Narendra Modi government, Maya Kodnani, for murder, in connection with the 2002 Naroda Patiya case, in which 97 people were killed during the 2002 anti-minority riots in Gujarat.

Principal Sessions Judge Jyotsna Yagnik, also acquitted 29 others, giving them the benefit of doubt. After reading out the verdict in open court, the Judge scheduled the pronouncement for the quantum of punishment to those convicted for August 31.

Among those found guilty also include a three-time sitting MLA from Naroda, ex-VHP leader Babu Bajrangi, local BJP leaders Bipin Panchal, Kishan Korani and Ashok Sindhi. This is the first instance where a sitting MLA has been pronounced guilty in a 2002 riot case. Kodnani was a minister of state for women and child development from 2007 to 2009.

The Gujarat government tried to distance itself from sitting MLA Maya Kodnani, found guilty of murder and criminal conspiracy by a trial court on Wednesday.

State government spokes-person Jaynarayan Vyas told mediapersons after the verdict was pronounced, “Court verdict is not for comment or celebration. We are yet to see the fine print of the judgment. Once we get that, and after taking appropriate legal advise, we will think about a further course of action.”

Vyas said, “An MLA is not a state government functionary. Moreover, Kodnani was not a minister when the incident took place. She was an MLA from the area where the incident took place.”

IE adds:

Additional Principal District Judge Jyotsana Yagnik, who delivered the verdict amid heavy security, upheld the conspiracy theory and convicted Kodnani and Bajrangi under Sections 302 (murder) and 120 (b) (conspiracy) of the IPC.

The 32 accused were also convicted for hurting religious feelings, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and for attempted murder, arson etc. Several of them were facing charges of gangrape.

Of the three convicted for gangrape was Suresh alias Richard alias Suresh Langdo Dedawala, who has a Muslim wife. He took this as his line of defence, saying he couldn’t indulge in such massacre being married to a Muslim. The others held guilty of rape were Manubhai Maruda and Mukesh Rathod.

Kodnani and Bajrangi are facing trial in another 2002 riots case, the Naroda Gaam massacre, where 11 people were killed.

Only the accused, concerned lawyers and SIT officers were allowed inside the court room for the hearing. One of the convicts in the case, Suresh alias Sehjad Netalkar, was not present and the court has issued a non-bailable warrant against him.

Ninety-seven Muslims had been killed and many injured when a mob of thousands had attacked Naroda Patiya on February 28, 2002. While the case had been investigated by the Ahmedabad City Detection of Crime Branch initially, the Supreme Court had later handed over investigation to the SIT. Out of the 61 accused, 24 were arrested by the SIT.

More information comes from the Hindu:

After the special court convicted 32 persons in the Naroda-Patiya massacre case on Wednesday, special public prosecutor Akhil Desai demanded the death penalty as it was the “rarest of rare cases.”

He demanded capital punishment for all the 32, including Mayaben Kodnani, a former Minister in the Narendra Modi Cabinet, arguing that many victims were unarmed women and children who were burnt alive. If the court did not agree to the death sentence for all, those who were given the life term should serve their sentence “till their death.”

But defence counsel countered that none of the convicts was habitual offenders; nor did they have any criminal background. He maintained that the mayhem was the result of a surcharged atmosphere stemming from the train carnage.

The police initially arrested 46 people — and after the Supreme Court-appointed SIT took over the probe, 24 more, including Ms. Kodnani, were held. Of the total of 70 arrested, six died before the charges were framed, and one died during the trial, while Mohan Nepali and Tejas Pathak jumped bail and are at large.

After the SIT, led by the former CBI Director, R.K. Raghavan, completed the probe, the trial began in the special fast-track court in August 2009, and charges were framed against 62, including Ms. Kodnani, the former Bajrang Dal convener, Babu Bajrangi, and Vijay Shetty, who died during the trial. The court received some 2,500 documentary pieces of evidence and examined 327 witnesses, including eyewitnesses, doctors, survivors and their relatives, officials, forensic experts and a journalist who conducted a sting operation, in which Babu Bajrangi and some others allegedly made some confessional statements.

Mukul Sinha, convener of the Jan Sangharsh Manch, which is representing the riots victims before the G.T. Nanavati-Akshay Mehta judicial commission probing the Godhra train carnage and the post-Godhra riots, blamed the “faulty investigation” by the Gujarat police and the SIT for the acquittal of 29 others.

31 August, 2012

Reuters reports:

Former Gujarat minister Maya Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in jail on Friday for murder during one of the country’s worst religious riots, when up to 2,500 people, most of them Muslim, were hunted down and hacked, beaten or burnt to death in 2002.

Modi appointed her as a minister in his government despite the fact she had already been implicated in the killings, although she was not arrested until 2009.

Witnesses told investigators that 57-year-old Kodnani, a gynaecologist, played a leading role in the massacre of 95 people – 30 men, 32 women and 33 children – in Naroda Patiya.

Kodnani handed out swords to Hindu rioters, exhorted them to attack Muslims and at one point fired a pistol, according to witness statements seen by Reuters.

Kodnani arrived at the court in a police bus. Wearing a white saree she was led into the building by women police officers. Also on the bus was Babubai Bajrangi, a Hindu nationalist firebrand who was accused of disembowelling a pregnant woman with a sword. He was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

The others convicted were sentenced to lengthy terms in jail.

An article in the Hindu reminds us of what this case is about:

“Ninety-six people were killed without any provocation on their part and 125 were grievously injured. Grant of reprieve would be misplaced, unwarranted, and would aggravate the grief of the victims,” the judge read out her order, calling the post-Godhra riots in Naroda-Patiya “targeted, systematic.”

Many recounted the events of February 28, 2002 when over 800 Muslim families from this haphazardly-built settlement on the eastern outskirts of Ahmedabad desperately tried to flee mobs.

“The police were present on the road near the Noorani mosque, but when the mob started attacking us in the morning they did not help. I ran with my two daughters, then seven and 15 years old, my mother, my sister-in-law and her one-year-old son and hid on the terrace of Gangotri housing society building nearby. But the mob reached there too,” recounted Farzana Ayub Khan. “Someone poured fuel over me. They broke my seven-year old daughter Reshma’s hands with rods, then they raped and stabbed my other daughter. My back was burning and my clothes melted. I tried to roll on the ground to douse the fire,” she said.

Farzana’s and several hundred such families from Naroda-Patiya, who managed to survive, spent the next seven months in relief camps in Shah Alam.

On Friday, many families made plans to go together to a dargah in Shah Alam where their resilient struggle for survival had started.

Naroda-Patiya and Gulberg Society witnessed some of the most gruesome acts of violence during the 2002 riots. Among those killed in Naroda-Patiya was Kausar Bano, who was nine months pregnant. The local residents, with the help of NGOs Citizens for Justice and Peace and Sahr-Waru, fiercely contested the defence lawyers’ claims that incident was concocted. “I saw them split open Kausar Bano’s womb; how can they say the incident was concocted?” said Jannat Bi Kallubhai Sheikh, one of five key witnesses. Residents said that while all the witnesses had stayed back, many families in the neighbourhood left town two days before the court passed its verdict, fearing a violent retaliation.

IE opines:

A clever politician, [Narendra Modi] may cite this ruling as evidence that courts in his state are untrammelled. He may scoff at the transfer of communal cases out of Gujarat — the Sohrabuddin case may now go to Maharashtra. And if higher courts overturn the Naroda Patiya ruling, which is not impossible, he will score on all fronts. That’s the real story.

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Written by Arhopala Bazaloides

August 29, 2012 at 6:59 pm

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