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Published in the 16-31 Aug 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Hot POTA-toes in Gujarat curry 
Of 305 people booked under draconian law POTA, all are Muslims except eight Hindus

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: The efforts of repealing or amending POTA could be a bad news for the BJP-led Gujarat government which has used the law to book nearly 305 persons under it since the Godhra incident and the post-Godhra riots. Of the arrested, only eight are Hindus, the rest Muslims.

If the cases are reviewed, ironically the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), set up to counter terrorists and anti-national activities, could invite some back-patting because no one has been arrested by them.

The high-profile Ahmedabad city Crime Branch has registered 10 of the 14 POTA cases, while the CBI registered two cases including Haren Pandya murder case in which Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Shakeel have been named as absconders.

The Godhra carnage case remains Gujarat’s first and biggest POTA case in which 131 persons had been named as accused. The controversial law was used when it was still an ordinance. The Modi government booked some 47 persons, including minors, under POTO in March 2002, soon after the Godhra incident on February 27, only to withdraw it after the issue was raked up in Parliament.

POTA was also invoked in Akshardham temple attack case in which 33 persons were killed in September 2002. When the case was about to be solved, it was transferred from the ATS to the Ahmedabad Crime Branch which promptly invoked POTA in the case.

Till date only the Haren Pandya case has been put before the POTA review committee in Delhi. But with the release of POTA-detenue Vaiko it could come under the scanner soon because DMK is an alliance partner of the Congress led-UPA government. Ahmedabad-based human rights activist and lawyer Mukul Sinha has demanded that the long-constituted state level POTA review committee be made functional with immediate effect. High court lawyer Hashim Qureshi says, "instead of repealing POTA, it should be invoked against accused in riot cases like Gulbarg and Naroda Patia so that the BJP is compelled to demand its repealing.”

POTA has been invoked in 14 cases in which 20-odd accused have been arrested in three cases. 

Meanwhile, the Crime Detention Branch of Gujarat police, entrusted with the job of arresting the accused in the Best Bakery case, has moved the fast track court at Vadodara for declaring 13 absconders as proclaimed offenders. They are Raju Baria, Mahendra Jadhav, Harish Gosal, Pankaj Gosai, Jayanti Bhai Gohil, Ramesh Gohil, Mahesh Gohil, Harsad R. Solanki, Sanjay Thakkar, Jagdish Rajput, Shane Baria, Shailesh Tadvi, and Kamlesh Tadvi. 
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