Naroda Patiya: How Maya Kodnani fell from BJP poster girl to convict

by May 14, 2013

Editor's Note: This copy was originally published on 30 August 2012, when Maya Kodnani was convicted for her involvement in the Naroda Patiya case. Given the continiung debate over whether or not she will get the death penalty, we have republished the piece.

A gynecologist who was always more keen on politics than on her medical practice, Maya Kodnani's fall from being a poster girl for the RSS in the state after being implicated in the 2002 Naroda Patiya massacre has been rapid and had finally ended in tears on 29 August 2012.

Kodnani achieved infamy when she became the first woman and sitting MLA to be convicted for her involvement in the 2002 massacre in the Naroda Patiya area of Ahmedabad in which 97 people were killed in broad daylight.

An Indian Express report speaks about how Kodnani, the daughter of a staunch RSS worker who immigrated to India due to Partition, studied in a Gujarati medium school and joined the Rashtriya Sevika Samiti before entering Baroda Medical College where she became a doctor.

Maya Kodnani appearing before the court yesterday. PTI

Kodnani had set up a  maternity hospital in Kubernagar in Naroda, but then quickly began her political ascent with victories in the Ahmedabad civic elections in 1995 and by 1998 she had become an MLA.

In 2002 during the communal riots that engulfed Ahmedabad following the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, Kodnani was accused of instigating the rioters, firing a pistol and even distributing arms that she had transported to Naroda in her car.

However, the minister denied the claims and said she had been attending the State Assembly at the time was caught out by statements of witnesses and mobile phone records that showed she was in Naroda at the time of the violent riot.

Dildar Umrav Saiyed, a witness said that he was working at his garage, testified in court that he had seen the BJP leader distribute a bundle of sharp weapons. He said was offered money not to testify against the rising leader and even faced attacks

"I was offered lakhs of rupees but I refused,” Dildar was quoted as saying in a Telegraph report.

It wasn't hard to see why. Kodnani's star was on the rise after the riots. Mentored by none less than party patriarch LK Advani, she won the 2002 elections that followed the brutal riots by a thumping majority and by 2007 had been elevated to MoS for women and child development.

However, in 2009 when the Supreme Court appointed SIT summoned her for questioning in the case she refused to appear before them and was declared an absconder. After hiding, ironically accompanied by her police guard, Kodnani finally surrendered and resigned from the ministerial post.

She was then arrested but later released on bail by the high court. And with it came to an end the fiery oratory.

"I believe what happened in 2002 riots was wrong and I have sympathy for the victims, whether they are Muslims or Hindus," she was quoted as saying in an interview while in relative political wilderness.

"I regularly attend the court hearings from morning till the end of the proceedings. Then I come to my clinic to attend patients and people who expect help from me," she said.

However, as the verdict approached, the doctor remained largely absent from the maternity nursing home, choosing to instead spend more time in the state Assembly and appearing for the court hearings.

When the verdict was announced, Kodnani was asked by the court if she had anything to say, she said the charges against her were politically motivated. She and her husband, who is also a doctor, were in tears when she was convicted. Kodnani's lawyers have opposed the prosecution's plea for capital punishment on the grounds that her husband was not in good health and her son was studying abroad.

And as the court sentenced her to 28 years in jail, it perhaps also spelt the death of the political career of the fiery orator, who will spend a long time in prison cell.

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