Fifteen minutes before Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal began his speech in Ahmedabad on Saturday, Fatima Sheikh snaked through the crowd, passed through a security line, went around a row of television reporters and climbed the stage.

“I am a survivor of the Naroda Patiya massacre and I have a letter for Kejriwalji,” Sheikh said. A group of AAP supporters, each wearing dutiful white caps, parted to make way for her. She handed Kejriwal a letter and he quietly began to read it. As she walked back through the crowd, I saw tears in her eyes. “He is reading my letter!” she said with awe and disbelief.

Fatima Sheikh was in her early twenties on 28 February 2002 when she witnessed the Naroda Patiya massacre in which 97 Muslims were killed. Fatima Sheikh can remember the day with vivid details – the height of the flames, the smell of bodies, the indifference of the Gujarat government, the cold response she received when she, her husband, and her children tried to move back to Naroda after living in a relief camp for ten months.

Ten years later, 29 people were convicted of the massacre. Amongst them were former minister for women and children's development Maya Kodnani and Bajrang Dal leader Babu Bajrangi. But that was hardly justice. The police had looked away as the Muslims of Naroda Patiya pleaded for protection. Her life had been wrenched by people way more senior than just a minister and a Bajrang Dal leader, she insisted.

Now in her mid-30s, Sheikh lives in an area of Ahmedabad known as Bombay Hotel that was set up by a group of Muslim-run NGOs. Her house is located next to one of Ahmedabad’s largest trash dumps. Children play cricket at the base of this trash dump. When rainwater mixes with the trash, it seeps under their skin, leaving rashes. The Muslim organisations that built the housing colony said this would be a temporary house. She still lives there. After 2002, this became the only area in Ahmedabad where one can buy land with a Muslim name.

Sheikh is somewhat of a star in Bombay Hotel. In the 2002 state assembly elections, the Congress Party made her a spokesperson on the issue of Modi’s alleged complicity in the riots. Five years later, in the 2007 elections, they reached out to her again, making her re-tell the 2002 story. She knew the shortcomings of the Congress, as well as its own role in the Gujarat riots of 1969 and 1985, but she viewed the party as a vehicle to articulate the denial of justice. Another five years later, in the 2012 elections, the Congress did not call her. Their campaign seemed to be about presenting itself in Gujarat as BJP lite, a softer, gentler Hindutva, headed by its own RSS man, Shankersinh Vaghela. Criticising Modi, or talking about the 2002 riots, was no longer on its agenda.

She lives in a predominantly Muslim constituency with a Congress municipal corporator. Congress politicians had promised that her area would see improvement: a wall would be built between the trash dump and the row of homes next to it, a drainage line would be added, a road would be built. None of these things have happened.

NGOs also made their own promises and never kept them. When donors showed up from Mumbai, London or Silicon Valley, Sheikh would be asked to tell her story about the riots all over again. Journalists came and took her story – can you stand right next to the trash dump, put your dupatta back on? She was tired of doing this, but she was poor and thought one of these would perhaps lead to a way to ameliorate her conditions. She lives with her carpenter husband and two sons. Perhaps one such person, one such interview could give her family a better life?

When Sheikh began speaking against Modi in 2002, she was joining a chorus. Those voices have gone mute today as Narendra Modi makes an ambitious bid to be India's Prime Minister. Today the only people who dare to be critical of Modi do so over dinner in fancy restaurants.

The last time I saw her, about four months ago, she told me she was done speaking about Gujarat and did not want to be contacted. In which case, what made her go up to Arvind Kejriwal with a letter?

Sheikh had been following Kejriwal’s visit on TV and said she was impressed by his willingness to do what the Congress party shies away from: asking questions of Narendra Modi. Kejriwal spoke of the lack of development in Gujarat, the poor quality of government hospitals, communalism and Modi’s favours for the corporate sector. She did not care that Kejriwal did not specifically mention the 2002 violence in his speech. That Kejriwal would even come on Modi’s turf and challenge him, she told me, showed great courage.

The Aam Aadmi Party may find a way to take advantage of her too. That is possible, she admits. The history of political parties in Gujarat, as she knows, suggests that all parties will use and throw Muslims, and that Muslims will allow themselves to be duped each time. But for the moment she has hope, something she hasn't had for a long time.