On Monday, September 18, BJP president Amit Shah, appearing as a defence witness for Maya Kodnani, the prime accused in a Gujarat 2002 riot case, “backed” her claim that she wasn’t present in Naroda Gam when the killings took place, NDTV reported.

Shah had deposed after the court summoned him over a plea filed by Kodnani to prove her alibi that she wasn’t present at the scene of the crime, where 11 Muslims were killed.

b’BJP president Amit Shah’

Shah told the court that he saw Kodnani in the Gujarat Assembly around 8.30 am and again around 11-11.15 am at the Sola Civil Hospital on February 28, 2002, the day the carnage took place in Naroda Gam.

But what is the Naroda Gam case? And who is Maya Kodnani? Here’s all you need to know.

The case

The Naroda Gam massacre is one of nine major 2002 Gujarat riots cases investigated by a Special Investigation Team appointed by the Supreme Court. 

According to the SIT, a mob of about 1,500 individuals had gathered at Naroda Gam, around 9 am on February 28, 2002,  to protest the attack on kar sevaks at Godhra the day before.

Maya Kodnani arrived on the scene in her vehicle, the agency said. She then allegedly proceeded to give hate speeches to incite the already agitated mob, which then went on the rampage, attacking and setting fire to properties around them.

They targeted a nearby mosque, and burnt a tea stall, the SIT has alleged. 11 persons were killed in rioting. 14 eyewitnesses claimed to have seen her at the spot, inciting rioters and telling them to kill Muslims.

She is one of the 82 facing trial in the case. 

Who is Maya Kodnani?

Maya Kodnani is the daughter of a staunch RSS worker, Surendrakumar Kodnani. After school, she enrolled in Baroda Medical College to pursue MBBS. She joined Rashtriya Sevika Samiti, the RSS women’s wing, at the same time.

She later moved to Ahmedabad and set up the Shivam Maternity Hospital in Naroda.

A gynaecologist by profession, she quickly rose the ranks within the BJP as a firebrand leader under the mentorship of LK Advani, reported The Indian Express. From her first election as a corporator in Ahmedabad, it took her 12 years to become a minister.

Kodnani was the BJP MLA in Naroda when the riots took place. Even after her alleged role in the violence, she won the 2002 elections with a huge majority. In 2007, she was appointed the MoS for women and child development.

Kodnani was arrested in March 2009, following which she resigned as minister.

She was main accused in the Naroda Patiya massacre, where around 97 Muslims were killed by mobs.

Kodnani was accused of reaching the spot where a large mob had assembled, and of inflaming the situation. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen her getting off her car, surrounded by the mob. She allegedly addressed them and incited them to kill Muslims.

In 2012, a special court found her guilty and held that she was among the “principal conspirators” and “kingpin” of the riots. She was sentenced to 28 years in jail but was later granted bail in 2014 on health grounds.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Gujarat state government under Modi had admitted in an affidavit to the high court that Maya Kodnani led a mob that killed at least 95 Muslims in Ahmedabad during the riots of 2002, reported Hindustan Times.