Maya Kodnani, a former minister and a BJP leader, who was sentenced to 28-years in prison for the biggest massacre in the 2002 Gujarat riots, the Naroda Patiya case, has been acquitted by the Gujarat High Court. In 2012, Maya Kodnani was given the 28-year sentence after Special Investigative Team (SIT).
However, the Court has confirmed the sentence of another high profile convict Babu Bajrangi, a leader of the Bajrang Dal, an affiliate of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), reported NDTV.
Along with Maya Kodnani and Babu Bajrangi, 29 others were accused of causing the riot in Naroda Patiya, a suburb of Ahmedabad which resulted in the death of 97 Muslims. She is also accused of murder in the riots that took place on the same day, February 28, 2002, next door in Naroda Gram, where 11 Muslims were killed.
In 2007, she was made the Minister for Woman and Child Development by then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. She was in office until 2009, when she was arrested.
Maya Kodnani was granted bail in 2014 on grounds of her sickness by the Gujarat High Court. Doctors said that Maya showed extreme signs of depression including suicidal tendencies. They also said that Maya was given electrical shock therapies from time to time.
“Maya Kodnani was given electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) under anaesthesia. Her depression failed to improve despite aggressive treatment and she showed suicidal tendencies even under medical care. This prompted the team of doctors to consider giving her ECT,” said medical superintendent of Civil Hospital Dr MM Prabhakar, said in 2012, reported The Times of India.
A special investigative team said, “Following the Godhra Train incident, that killed 59 Kar Sevaks coming back from Ayodhya, Maya Kodnani incited mobs for violence”. 11 witnesses were presented. They said that they had seen Maya give out swords to the mob and incite them to attack Muslims and at one point she also fired a pistol. Trial Court said that she organised mass killing.
Today, the High Court noticed that the 11 witnesses never mentioned her name when the riot cases were registered. The witnesses claimed that they saw Maya Kodnani get down from a car to talk to the police. The court said “no criminal conspiracy could be established”.
In the other case that she is accused of, the Naroda Gram case, current BJP President, Amit Shah had testified.
What is the Naroda Patiya Case?
On February 27, 2002, a coach of Sabarmati Express was set on fire. This resulted in the death of 59 Kar Sevaks and 49 others were injured. At least 2,000 Kar Sevaks, who were returning from Purnahuti Maha Yagna at the insistence of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), were on the train. The Yagna was part of the Ram Temple Building ceremony.
After this incident, VHP called for a statewide bandh the next day. The VHP leaders also spread rumours about Muslims kidnapping 3 Hindu girls during the attack. Retaliatory attacks began and thus began the Gujarat riots of 2002 wherein total 790 Muslims and 234 Hindus were killed.
In Naroda, on February 28, 2002, a mob of 5000 members, looted, stabbed, sexually assaulted, gang-raped and burnt Muslims individually and in groups over 10 hours. Public and private property were damaged. Mosque was vandalised. Many were left injured, molested and orphaned. 97 Muslims were killed.
Allegations were levelled against state authorities, police and the then Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Several eyewitnesses said that police helped the perpetrators of violence by attacking Muslims and damaging property.