Indian state minister arrested over Gujarat riots

Indian state minister arrested over Gujarat riots

NEW DELHI: A cabinet minister in India’s western state of Gujarat surrendered to police Friday over charges that she incited a mob during 2002 anti-Muslim riots that left at least 2,000 dead.

Women and Child Welfare Minister Maya Kodnani is the highest-ranking Gujarat official to be arrested in the wake of the riots.

She is accused of leading a mob that killed more than 100 people during some of the worst religious riots since India’s independence in 1947, but denies all charges.

The arrest is a major embarrassment for the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the run-up to national elections, where the BJP is contesting as the main opposition party.

Kodnani turned herself in to a special investigation team in the city of Ahmedabad, where a court had previously cancelled the anticipatory bail which had kept her out of jail until now.

At least 2,000 Muslims were hacked, beaten, shot or burnt to death in the 2002 riots, which erupted after 59 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire first blamed on a Muslim mob, but which an inquiry later concluded was accidental.

In March 2008 the Supreme Court ordered a fresh probe, after accusations that the Gujarat government was dragging its feet.