Amit Shah defending Maya Kodnani comes as no surprise

15 years since the February 28, 2002 massacre in Ahmedabad, the twist in the story portends tumultuous times ahead.

 |  5-minute read |   18-09-2017
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BJP national president Amit Shah has deposed before a Gujarat court in Ahmedabad on Monday, September 18, and backed accused Maya Kodnani's claim that she was in fact not present in Naroda Gam till 11am of February 28, 2002, when 11 Muslims were killed in the statewide riots that shook Gujarat in 2002.

Kodnani, a former Gujarat minister, was a BJP leader. She has been convicted in 2012 in the Naroda Patiya massacre, which occurred within a few kilometres of Naroda Gam on the same day, and was awarded a sentence of 28 years in prison.

Kodnani had pleaded that she was in the state assembly and then at the Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad till 11am, where she met Amit Shah, then an MLA of Gujarat state assembly, when the riots were taking place. Shah backed her claim saying: "She was inside the state assembly at 8.30 am... and then I left for Sola Hospital as it was in my constituency. I reached there between 9.30am to 9.45am and met Maya Kodnani there."

Shah was asked to depose personally or send a lawyer by the trial court judge, and Kodnani had also asked for a few days to "locate" Shah's address/whereabouts, as she claimed they were not in touch. It must be remembered that Kodnani is out on bail in the Naroda Patiya massacre case, in which 97 Muslims were killed by a riotous Hindu mob, citing her "failing health".

Shah has said that he doesn't know where Kodnani went post 11am, when he last saw her that day, but his testimony gives alibi to Kodnani even in the Naroda Patiya case, for which she has been convicted. Kodnani was the minister for women and child development of Gujarat when the riots happened in 2002, and she was also a trained gynaecologist, who saw patients at the Sola Civil Hospital. Kodnani is one among 70 people facing trial in the Naroda Gam massacre.

Journalist Rana Ayyub in her book Gujarat Files recounts a correspondence with Kodnani, which actually checks out today's testimony by Shah, and what Kodnani has been saying. Ayyub has tweeted:

However, many are seeing Shah's testimony as his party's firm backing of the Hindu hardliners and leaders associated with the 2002 riots, perhaps in a bid to appear firm and unwavering in their Hindutva agenda in the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls, which are due in just three months.

It must be noted that others associated with alleged "Hindu terrorism" too have been granted bail, or have been set free, ever since the Narendra Modi government has come to occupy power in the Centre. Cases in point are Lt Col Shrikant Prasad, Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, Swami Assemanand, et al, who are being welcomed back in society after spending years in jail, stung by "saffron terror".

It remains to be seen what's the ultimate impact of Amit Shah's high-profile deposing before the court in the case of Kodnani, who's out on bail, but is suffering a 28-year imprisonment sentencing in the other - Naroda Patiya - case. The reaction to Shah's deposition has been varied, ranging from outrage to raised eyebrows at the man opening his mouth 15 years since the riots.

It must be asked why Shah never said a word about Kodnani's presence at the civil hospital any time before this. A possible answer could be that he was never formally asked. That said, Shah's testimony will surely give direction to Kodnani's fate in the Naroda Gam massacre case, though if that will impact any of the others, we can't be sure of.

Moreover, how Shah's testimony will play out in the upcoming Gujarat elections, and whether Kodnani's instance would be used as case of false accusation and victimisation, remains to be seen. We can expect high-octane emotional plea from the BJP, in case Kodnani is acquitted in the Naroda Gam case before the Gujarat Assembly polls.

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