She trained to save lives,in dock for 98 deaths

On the one hand,she helped to bring in new lives to the world,while on the other,she has been arrested for inciting and arming a killer mob...

Written by Express News Service | Ahmedabad | Published: March 28, 2009 11:52 pm

On the one hand,she helped to bring in new lives to the world,while on the other,she has been arrested for inciting and arming a killer mob that claimed 98 lives. This is the story of 53-year-old Dr Maya Kodnani,minister in the Modi government and a gynaecologist who heads her own maternity hospital.

Now facing murder,abetment to murder and arson charges,she has,ironically,a pathology lab owner for company in SIT custody: Jaydeep Patel,VHP leader,who stands accused of similar charges in the 2002 Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam carnages and was arrested with her.

Kodnani,who was state minister for women and child development until her mentor Modi finally had to let her resign on Friday,comes from a refugee Sindhi family with saffron roots. The daughter of a teacher and RSS worker,Kodnani completed her early education in a school in Deesa,a dusty town between Ahmedabad and pilgrimage centre Ambaji,in Banaskantha district. The Gujarati-medium school was set up and run by her father,in the place where he had first settled down after fleeing from the Tharparkar area of Sindh province,now in Pakistan,in 1947.

Kodnani was actively associated with the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti,the women’s wing of the RSS,from the time she joined the Baroda Medical College from where she completed her MBBS and Diploma in Gynaecology and Obstetrics.

She got closer to the RSS after returning to Ahmedabad some 20 years ago to set up her Shivam Maternity Hospital in Kubernagar in Naroda,which has a sizeable Sindhi population. A good orator,Kodnani soon became popular among local Sangh leaders. It did not take long for the BJP to pick her as its candidate for the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) elections from Saijpur ward in 1995 — Kodnani’s first step into active politics.

That year,the BJP wrested the AMC from the Congress and Kodnani,with her medical background,was made deputy chairperson of AMC’s health committee. From 1997 to 1998,she was the first woman chairperson of AMC’s Standing Committee.

And there was no looking back after that. In the 1998 Assembly elections,she got elected as the BJP legislator from Naroda by a huge margin of 75,000 votes. Such was her popularity and organisational skills that she was made general secretary of the Gujarat Pradesh BJP Mahila Morcha between 1997 and 1998. Subsequently,Kodnani was appointed the Mahila Morcha’s state chief from 1998 to 2000.

In the December 2002 Assembly elections,which was fought against the backdrop of the riots that took place barely nine months earlier,Kodnani increased her victory margin,defeating her Congress rival by 1.10 lakh votes.

Her constituency,ironically,was among the worst hit in the communal riots. She won the Assembly elections again in December 2007,posting a margin of 1.80 lakh votes — the highest n the state.

And Modi wasted no time taking her into his Cabinet,widely believed to be at the behest of L K Advani. With this,Kodnani became the first Sindhi leader to be a Gujarat minister.

Though witnesses had named her as one of the accused in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam killings,the Gujarat Police,who questioned Kodnani,claimed to have found no evidence to arrest her,in 2003.

But her troubles began with the appointment of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) by the Supreme Court to probe the post-Godhra riot cases,including the Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam killings. There were many discrepancies between the statements she gave to the SIT sleuths on December 28,2008 and the cellphone records about her movements on February 28,2002,the day riots broke out in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam,as first reported by The Indian Express.

The SIT summoned Kodnani on January 29,and again on January 31,to question her. Among other discrepancies,her statements also differed from depositions that a police inspector posted in the area during the riots had made to SIT.

Fearing her arrest,the minister went underground on February 2 this year,while the SIT began looking for her.

Kodnani’s husband Suredra Kodnani is a general physician practicing in Saijpur area of Ahmedabad. The couple have a son who studies in the US.

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