Former BJP minister Maya Kodnani was on Friday acquitted by the Gujarat High Court in the 2002 Naroda Paitya riots case in which 97 people were killed by a mob. A division bench of Justices Harsha Devani and A S Supehiya said the charges against Kodnani, who was earlier sentenced to life imprisonment by a trial court, could not be established.
Who is Maya Kodnani?
Educated in a Gujarati-medium school founded and run by her father in Deesa, Maya Kodnani joined the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the RSS women’s wing, around the time she entered Baroda Medical College from where she got an MBBS followed by a diploma in gynaecology and obstetrics. She later moved to Ahmedabad and set up the Shivam Maternity Hospital in Kubernagar in Naroda.
In 1995, the BJP fielded her in the Ahmedabad civic elections from Saijpur ward. The party swept the polls following which she was made deputy chairperson of the civic health committee. She was later elevated as chairman of the standing committee, the first woman to attain that post.
As a gynecologist, she was popular in Saijpur, largely because she spoke the same language as most of her local patients. Her skills as an orator boosted her popularity among Sangh leaders, including L K Advani, who mentored her. She regularly took up her community’s cause, leading angry protests over issues such as temple demolitions and removal of illegally built shops in areas dominated by her community. Her last public appearance was at the World Sindhi Conference in Ahmedabad, along with Advani.
In December 2002, Kodnani contested her first assembly election and defeated Purshottam Harwani of the Congress by a whopping 1.80 lakh votes. In 2007, she was assigned the portfolio of MoS, Women and Child Development ministry of the state, under the chief ministership of Narendra Modi. She, however, resigned in 2009 following her arrest in the Naroda Patiya case. She was the first sitting MLA and woman to have been accused in the case.
CASES AGAINST KODNANI:
Naroda Patiya case: Maya Kondani was accused of inciting a mob to kill the Muslims in Narogan Patiya, on February 28, 2002, a day after the kar sevaks were attacked onboard the Sabarmati Express in Godhra. While eleven eyewitnesses claimed to have seen the former minister getting off her car, Kodnani, however, said she was at Assembly session during the first half of that day. As many as 97 Muslims were killed in the riots.
In 2012, a designated special court found her guilty and held that she was among the “principal conspirators” of the riots. The court said that while there was no evidence of her having been part of the unlawful assembly, however, her role as the “kingpin” of the conspiracy was proved beyond doubt. The judgment said: “Accused 37 (Kodnani) has been proved to be the kingpin of the entire communal riot and one of the principal conspirators who has actively instigated the rioters and has abetted them to form unlawful assembly to execute the conspiracy hatched under her leadership with other co-conspirators”.
She was granted conditional bail for three months in 2013 after her advocate told the court that she was suffering with tuberculosis of intestines, besides heart disease and depression.
Naroda Gam case: Kodnani and VHP leader Jaideep Patel had been accused of delivering hate speeches at Baghol in Naroda Gam on the same day. Kodnani reportedly incited the already agitated mob to go on an rampage, attacking and setting fire to properties around them. The mob targeted a nearby mosque, and burnt a tea stall, the SIT alleged. One person was allegedly set on fire near Bank of Baroda Street, and another five were burnt at Chandubhai ki Chaali.
The SIT’s chargesheet named 14 eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen her at the spot, inciting rioters and telling them to kill Muslims. One of the witnesses testified to having seen her sitting with the then Naroda police inspector.
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