AHMEDABAD: It looks like that BJP president Amit Shah almost saved Maya Kodnani, one of the prime accused in 2002 riots of Gujarat, as he appeared in the court today. Kodnani, who served as Gujarat’s minister for Women and Child Development till she was arrested in 2009, is one of 79 people facing trial in the Naroda Gam riots case.
Maya Kodnani, former Gujarat minister and BJP leader, was in the state Assembly on the morning of February 28, 2002 and then at the Sola Civil Hospital in the city, BJP president Amit Shah told the Ahmedabad court this morning. Shah appeared as a defence witness in a riots case in which Kodnani is accused of murdering 11 Muslims on that day in Naroda Gam, an Ahmedabad suburb.
“She was inside the state Assembly at 8.30 am…From 9:30 am to 9:45 am, I was at the Civil Hospital and I met Maya Kodnani there,” Amit Shah told the judges. The BJP chief was in court for about an hour.
A judge had said last week that Shah must appear, either in person or assign a lawyer, to respond to Kodnani’s claim that she was not present when 11 Muslims were killed during the riots in Naroda Gam.
Witnesses have alleged in court that Maya Kodnani led the rioters who attacked Naroda Gam on the morning of February 28, 2002. Kodnani, who is a gynaecologist and was then a legislator, has pleaded in court that she was in the state assembly and then went straight to a hospital, where Amit Shah was present. She had sought that Shah, who was a Gujarat legislator too then, testify to help prove her alibi, repeatedly complaining that she was unable to contact the BJP president.
Maya Kodnani has been been found guilty in another case of the massacre of nearly 100 Muslims in a neighbourhood called Naroda Patiya on the same day, about 10 km from Naroda Gam. In 2012, she was convicted in the Naroda Patiya case and was sentenced to life in prison. She was granted bail in 2014 after pleading that she was very unwell.
Riots broke out across Gujarat after a bogie of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire by a suspected Muslim mob at Godhra in February, 2002. The blaze killed 59 Hindus, mostly Karsevaks or volunteers returning from Ayodhya, where rival Hindu and Muslim groups are locked in a decade-old dispute over a religious site. The train fire sparked three days of reprisal attacks across the state that left about 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, dead.
AMIT SHAH AS WITNESS
Why Amit Shah chose to be a witness and defend Kodnani is probably to refute allegations that the BJP had left all the riot-accused to fend for themselves by their party leaders. Shah, in his statement, stood by Kodnani and backed her alibi by saying that they were not allowed in the postmortem room of the hospital and taken away by the police. In the election year, where the BJP is already facing an uphill task to retain the prime minister’s home state, this step is one such effort to send out a signal to its core vote bank – the majority.
While all the witnesses have been examined in the Naroda Patiya case, the procedures will go on. The examining of defence witnesses is over and the statements will be compared with the chargesheet that was filed in the case. However, Shah’s deposition comes as a major relief for Kodnani as she was being felt left off after she was convicted in the case.