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Four Naroda riot accused continue to figure in peace committee

It could not have been more ironical. State minister Maya Kodnani,Naroda BJP councillor Vallabh Patel,ex-BJP councillor Ashok Sahib and VHP leader Fula Vyas — all accused in the 2002 riot cases — are also members of a peace committee.

Written by Vikram Rautela | Ahmedabad | Published: February 12, 2009 2:02 am

Three BJP leaders,one VHP member,accused in Naroda Gam,Naroda Patiya cases,are members of Naroda Shanti Samiti

It could not have been more ironical. State minister Maya Kodnani,Naroda BJP councillor Vallabh Patel,ex-BJP councillor Ashok Sahib and VHP leader Fula Vyas — all accused in the 2002 riot cases — are also members of a peace committee.

The Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) has named them as accused in the Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya massacre cases. Incidentally,all of them are also members of a committee —the Naroda Shanti Samiti — constituted after the riots to foster communal amity.

Retired police officers say it is not consonant with the law,while the police now do not know what do with their membership,and also refuse to comment on the issue.

The Gujarat Police manual advocates peace committees comprising influential people from all communities to be appointed by the inspectors of all police stations in the communally sensitive areas. It also specifies that those with past criminal records and accused in cases,which are under investigation,to be strictly kept out from these committees.

After investigations into the Naroda Gam and Naroda Patiya cases,the SIT wants to arrest Kodnani on charges of serious offences,like inciting and leading communal mobs,murder,attempt to murder,assault,arson and rioting during the post-Godhra violence in the state.

“As per rules,Kodnani’s name should be removed from the Naroda Shanti Samiti members’ list,as now she has several criminal offences registered against her,” said an Additional Director General of Police on condition of anonymity.

Kodnai,a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) from Naroda,is a prominent member of the peace committee and attends all its meetings and programmes. The sessions court,which had granted anticipatory bail to her and VHP leader Jaydeep Patel on February 5,has,however,banned the duo from visiting Naroda till further orders.

When asked if Kodnani’s name will be removed from the peace committees’ list,city police officers gave different reasons that only exposed their helplessness to enforce law against a minister.

Police officers associated directly with the working of the Naroda Shanti Samiti shrugged off the question citing different excuses. Inspectors of the Naroda police station — P R Pandya and B M Vasava — refused to speak on the issue saying it was a sensitive matter. “This is a serious issue and I will not like to comment on it. You can speak to my higher ups,” Vasava said.

Their immediate higher ups — the Assistant Commissioner of Police (G Division),K K Rathod,and Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone IV),A S Gehlot — refused to comment on grounds that it was the special branch of the city police that looked after the committee.

“If the special branch find it appropriate,they can remove Dr Kodnani’s name from the list during the next update,” Gehlot said.

When Newsline contacted Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) P B Gondia,he passed the buck,saying,“I will have to refer to the police manual rules before commenting.”

Manual rules encourage police inspectors and sub-inspectors to constitute mohalla and peace committees in all communally sensitive pockets under their jurisdiction. All committee members remain in touch with the police. Before issuing its own police manual in 1975,the Gujarat Police followed the Bombay Police manual of 1957.

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