Shah goes to jail, CBI doesn’t seek remand (Intro Roundup)

July 25th, 2010 - 8:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Ahmedabad, July 25 (IANS) On the run for three days, Gujarat’s disgraced former minister Amit Shah was Sunday sent to Sarabmati Jail here for 14 days over an alleged Islamist’s murder, after he dramatically surfaced at a media meet and surrendered to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The entire drama lasted around six hours from the time Shah walked into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office here at 11.35 a.m. and vehemently denied charges that he was involved in the November 2005 gunning down by police of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, an alleged Lakshar-e-Taiba activist.

After making a detailed defence of his case and answering a flurry of questions from journalists, the close aide to Chief Minister Narendra Modi drove to the CBI camp office in the state capital Gandhinagar, about 35 km away, accompanied by a large contingent of supporters.

As he left Ahmedabad, his supporters gave him a ceremonial send off with an ‘arti’ and put vermilion on his forehead. Only journalists were allowed to enter the four-storey CBI office.

Once the CBI formally arrested him, with Deputy Inspector General P. Kandaswamy coming racing down the stairs to inform Shah of his arrest, the former minister of state for home was driven to CBI judge A.Y. Dave’s house in Ahmedabad.

As BJP activists ringed the house shouting slogans hailing Shah who quit as minister Saturday amid a hunt for him, Dave ordered judicial custody after the CBI did not surprisingly seek his remand, raising eyebrows as the agency had been eager to question him earlier.

In no time, Shah was lodged in the Sardar Patel barracks in Sabaramati Jail, which once housed Mahatma Gandhi and Vallabhai Patel. Prison officers said Shah could wear his own clothes and eat home-cooked food.

But strict instructions have been given that Shah should not be allowed to mingle with 15 police officers arrested and jailed in the case.

Sunday’s developments marked a new turn in the case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh that has pitted the Congress-led government in New Delhi against the BJP government in Gujarat.

All those in the case are accused of conspiring to kill Sheikh in cold blood. His wife has disappeared. The chargesheet says she was murdered and her body burnt to destroy evidence.

The BJP has accused the Congress of using the CBI to target opposition parties. It has also charged the Congress with “vote-bank politics” — an euphemism to mean the Congress was trying to woo Muslims, India’s largest minority.

Earlier Sunday, Gujarat BJP president R.C. Fardu was addressing a press conference at his office when a confident looking Shah suddenly walked in, stunning many of his colleagues and the media alike.

Accused of ordering the killing of Sheikh near Ahmedabad, Shah said: “The accusations against me are fabricated, politically motivated and framed at the behest of the Congress government.”

Shah explained that he ignored the summons to appear in the CBI office Thursday and Friday because he was convinced the 3,000-strong chargesheet against him had been prepared in advance and his questioning was to be a sham.

He said he did not fear arrest. “I have full faith in the judiciary and want to say that this is a conspiracy and misuse of power by the Congress to come in power in Gujarat.”

Shah had sought anticipatory bail Friday but the plea was rejected by the court.

Shah insisted that Rajasthan resident Sheikh was very much a terrorist, pointing out that the Gujarat Police seized 46 AK-47s, 100 grenades and 100,000 ammunition from a well in his house.

He said while there has been 1,700 “encounters” — suspected fake gun battles — all over India, only those which took place in Gujarat were now being investigated.

The Congress hit back, accusing the BJP of making Shah a scapegoat because his interrogation would lead to Chief Minister Modi.

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