BJP minister, charged with inciting riots, surrenders


Ahmedabad/New Delhi : Maya Kodnani, who resigned Friday as Gujarat’s minister for higher education, surrendered later in the day before the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that has named her as among those who led mobs in the Naroda Gaam and Naroda Patiya localities here in which 106 people were killed during the 2002 communal riots in the state.

Support TwoCircles

Kodnani quit from her post Friday morning after the Gujarat High Court rejected her anticipatory bail plea. She was joined by former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary Jaideep Patel who also surrendered before the SIT.

The BJP immediately distanced itself from Kodnani, saying the law would take its own course, while the Congress said the party had it coming.

“Once the decision has come from the Gujarat High Court, the party asked her to resign. She resigned. Rest, the law will take its own course,” BJP spokesperson Balbir Punj told reporters in New Delhi.

“It was coming. Slowly, slowly, the crimes in Gujarat will unravel,” Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal said in New Delhi.

Kodnani and Patel arrived together at the SIT office at the Old Secretariat in adjacent Gandhinagar and surrendered to a senior official. While Kodnani refused to comment, Patel told reporters: “I have faith in the judiciary regarding the decision taken by it. I respect the Gujarat High Court’s decision.”

In its plea to the Gujarat High Court, the Supreme court appointed SIT stated that Kodnani was evading arrest even after being named by witnesses who submitted that they saw the minister in the localities on that day.

Witnesses in the Kodnani case also told SIT that they were being harassed over the phone and told to drop charges against the minister.

The Godhra train burning led to widespread attacks on Muslims in the state, leading to 1,180 people, mostly Muslims, being killed.

Earlier Friday, the Gujarat High Court rejected Kodnani’s anticipatory bail plea, stating that her role in leading mobs during 2002 sectarian violence was “nothing less than organised crime”.

In his order, Justice D.H. Waghela said: “Maya Kodnani was leading a mob but still did not control them (mob). This is nothing less than organised crime.”

He also rejected the plea of Kodnani’s defence lawyer who sought more time for her to file an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Kodnani’s surrrender came on the day the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi were to address a public meeting here to kick off the party’s Lok Sabha campaign in the state. Advani will contest the election from Gandhinagar.

The state government put up a brave face, saying the court ruling against Kodnani was not an embarrassment to the BJP.

“This is not at all an embarrassment,” said a Gujarat government spokesperson, adding that nobody could be pronounced guilty “till the last word” had been spoken.