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Naroda Gam massacre: Will Amit Shah come to Kodnani’s rescue in court?

Anurag Dey | Updated on: 6 September 2017, 19:42 IST

Naroda Patiya massacre convict Mayaben Kodnani is pinning her hopes on BJP President Amit Shah for a reprieve from the court. But with just two days left for the hearing in the special trial court, it is highly unlikely that the Shah will appear to testify in her favour.

Currently on a three-day visit to Odisha, Shah is among over a dozen defence witnesses named by Kodnani. She has been accused of murder and criminal conspiracy in the 28 February, 2002 Naroda Gam massacre, in which 11 Muslims were killed.

In her defence, Kodnani a doctor by profession, has contended that on the day of the carnage she was in the Gujarat Assembly, then at the Sula Civil Hospital and finally at her home.

Shah’s testimony is crucial for corroborating Kodnani’s assertions: In her application in April listing defence witnesses, Kodnani claimed at the Assembly, she was in the presence of Shah. The BJP chief was then a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.

With Shah being the only defence witness left to testify, the court asked Kodnani if the BJP chief would appear before the court.

She sought more time, pleading she was facing difficulty to reach out to Shah owing to his busy schedule. She also contended that she was unsure about the address at which summons is to be served to Shah.

On Monday (4 September) the court gave Kodnani four days to respond and fixed 8 September as the date for next hearing.

The fact that Kodnani’s plea to call Shah as a defence witness was approved by the court in April but she didn’t make any move to ensure his appearance, is perhaps an indication that his testimony is a distant possibility.

Besides the danger of the 2002 pogrom coming back to haunt the BJP, Shah testifying for Kodnani may also expose him to uncomfortable questions that might be raised during the court proceedings.

With Kodnani already convicted in the Naroda Patiya case- the bloodiest episode of the Gujarat riots, it hardly makes sense for Shah to make a case for Kodnani’s innocence.

A minister in the then Narendra Modi led government in Gujarat, Kodnani in 2002 was convicted and sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment for masterminding the Naroda Patiya massacre, in which 97 people were butchered. It is considered to be the worst incident during the Gujarat pogrom.

Kodnani is out on bail since 2014.

With the party gearing up for the upcoming Gujarat Assembly polls and also chalking out the blueprint for 2019 general elections, Shah or the BJP getting embroiled in the Gujarat riots—would be the last thing it would desire.

First published: 6 September 2017, 19:42 IST