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Riot MLA walks free in two days

Ahmedabad, Nov. 6: Radhanpur MLA and Narendra Modi loyalist Shankar Chaudhary was a free man today after a mere two days in police custody in a murder and rioting case.

The BJP legislator, accused of leading a mob and gunning down two Muslim youths during the post-Godhra violence, was released on bail. But eight others arrested with him on Friday ' in the same case and on the same charges of murder, rioting, criminal intimidation and carrying deadly weapons ' were held behind for “further questioning”.

At the same time, six more people, mostly Chaudhary’s loyalists, were rounded up today. At least three of the 14 still behind bars hold important posts in BJP units at Radhanpur taluka, Chaudhary’s constituency in Banaskantha district of north Gujarat.

Banaskantha district police chief D.B. Vaghela, when contacted, claimed that the local crime branch has found “ample evidence’’ to nail the MLA ' so, apparently, he needn’t be detained any further for questioning.

Vaghela said the police would soon file a chargesheet against him and the 14 other accused in the sessions court.

The police had at first given a clean chit to Chaudhary, saying the two youths shot dead in the rioting ' Gulam Nabi Sheikh and Ghulam Rasool Sheikh ' had fallen to police bullets.

The post-mortem reports confirmed death because of bullet wounds, but it was never established whether the bullets had been fired from a police rifle or a private weapon. The police just closed the case.

Later, the case was reopened along with several others under the Supreme Court’s directives. Statements recorded under FIR 9/04 alleged that it was Chaudhary who killed the youths.

After deputy inspector-general Satish Verma, who was conducting the re-investigation, ordered Chaudhary’s arrest last March, he was transferred to an insignificant post. The MLA wasn’t even questioned.

But recently, Gujarat High Court issued a notice to the state government after a petition demanded a CBI probe into the case. Many here believe the latest arrests are only an “eyewash”, carried out only because the police had to be seen doing something after the high court notice.

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