05/03/2007, 00.00
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License to kill for Gujarat police

by Nirmala Carvalho
Deputy Inspector General D G Vanzara is arrested after being charged with the death of an alleged terrorist, who after being set up was tortured and killed with his wife. Since 2002 413 people have disappeared in Gujarat, leading critics to accuse the state’s controversial chief minister, Narendra Modi, and to call for his resignation. The state goes to the polls in a few months.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) – Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his government have come in for harsh criticism for human rights violations and extra-judicial killings by the police. The final straw came when the deputy inspector general (Border Range) of police, D G Vanzara, was charged in connection with the murder of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, a man suspected of ties with the Lashkar-e-Tayiba terrorist group. It is believed he came to Gujarat from Rajasthan to assassinate Chief Minister Modi.

Police forces from the two states set up a trap but instead of arresting the alleged terrorist they took him, tortured him and killed him and his wife. The woman’s body was also burnt in an attempt to conceal the crime.

In addition to his alleged political affiliations, Sohrabuddin was also known to be involved in blackmail and extortion at the expense of marble traders and builders in Rajasthan.

The brother of the alleged victim filed a petition in the Supreme Court claiming that the Gujarat government admitted its involvement in the entrapment and murder.

The state of Gujarat is run by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party, which is in the opposition at the national level.

Following D G Vanzara’s arrest, militants from the Hindu extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad have set up pickets in front of the courthouse in Ahmedabad, calling for the police officer’s release.

According to Teesta Setalvad, activist and co-editor of Communalism Combat, the case “proves [that] police atrocities have become the order of the day in Gujarat.”

If we “look at the overall picture,” she said, we find that from “the riots' time, 413 persons were reported missing, out of which 228 bodies weren't found.”

Similarly, Union Railways Minister Lalu Prasad has called for the immediate arrest of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for having state police officials stage Vanzara’s killing in 2005 after branding him a terrorist.

Under fire, the BJP reacted by saying that the Sohrabuddin case has been blown out of proportion for political reasons.

As elections in Gujarat scheduled for later this year approach, it is expected that the confrontation between Modi and the Congress-lead central government will only increase.

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