Thursday, 18 October 2012

Gujarat 2002 - Godhra


Testimony on the burning of the Sabarmati Express
Kartik, scientist, trade unionist, lawyer and human rights activist testified before the panel. He has been following up the burning of the Sabarmati Express case hearings before the Shah and Nanavati Commission.
“In the entire Godhra town and district, everyone knows only one story – that there was a conspiracy to hold the train somewhere about 20 km before Godhra. But since the train was late by four hours they could not burn the whole train so they collected near “A” Cabin and had just about resources to burn and destroy only one coach, that is, S-6.
“The facts that I give based on the hearings of the Commission prove that there was no conspiracy from the Muslim community.”
“I have quoted only from the Commission. The hearing is continuing. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) has given the report and the Assistant director deposed before the Commission. The report made headlines saying that the fire was not started from outside the train. This is just a conjecture of the FSL director, nothing else. The FSL team threw water standing outside the train and tried to show that fire could not have been started from the outside. Then the FSL Assistant director comes to the conclusion in the second report that he gave, which is most dangerous, that fire was started by pouring 60 litres of petrol from inside the train. Before this report came, the Police had filed charge sheets against the accused on the assumption that the fire was started from the outside; but after the report came the Police had to change the entire charge sheet which is unheard of in Criminal Jurisprudence. Now they are in a worse position as the report itself is bogus, it has no basis. So now they would have to change the charge sheet once again. Now they have a witness, a boy who states that he carried the petrol, he went inside and poured the petrol. We all know how confessions can be extracted. But the evidence before the Nanavati Commission suggests that there was not a drop of petrol to burn the train.”
“There were three fights. First at the station there was a relatively minor fight. The train was stopped because there was chain pulling. The second fight started after the train stopped at 7:48 for 12 minutes. Hundreds of them participated in this fight. Stones and bricks were thrown from both the sides. Kar Sevaks also used bows and arrows in the fight. We have collected some of those. The kar sevaks had gone all the way up to Single Falia throwing stones, covering a distance of 50 yards from the train. They were outside the coach. Then the train starts. Kar sevaks run to catch the train and the Muslim mob follows them. Then the train stops. The train stops the second time near the cabin. There is no evidence why the train stopped the second time. A conclusion can be drawn that it was the driver, who stopped the train. The chain was pulled from four coaches. Three breaks got corrected. The fourth one did not get corrected. Due to the fight and stone throwing the driver must have decided to start the train. Then the train was stopped to correct the fourth break, which was of the compartment where the fight was taking place. The driver has given three different versions so far. The first time he says it was due to chain pulling. The second time he says the Muslim mob cut the hosepipe and the third time he says the disk was open.”
“The smoke was seen at 8:15 a.m. Everyone talks only about smoke and smoke and smoke. No one talks about fire. We have examined 9 kar sevaks from the passengers; we have examined the SP, and he says he did not see any fire. There was no fire at the ground level at all. The fire is found at two vestibule sides, one is on S6 and S7 and other at S5 and S6. There was fire there. There is no conscious decision to burn the coach or to burn people; otherwise the Muslim crowd could have blocked the door. There is not even a single complaint that Hindus were being stopped when they were coming out. We asked the kar sevaks who were inside if anybody had stopped them. They said no. They had come out. The people inside broke three windows, ninety people jumped out. An interesting factor is that all the people who got burnt, have burns above their waist and not below the waist. Every single person is burnt above the waist. The head, face and hands are burnt.”
“No fuel fire could do this. The FSL director messed it up by saying that petrol was poured in. If petrol had been poured in the train, would people’s bodies have been burnt only from above? Sixty litres of petrol could have blown up the coaches.”
“Those people who ran out faced fire all across the top. We talked to one lady who managed to escape. I asked her whether there was fire on the ground. She said no, there was no fire on the ground. She is confused but she categorically says there was fire on the top and on the side. Her feet did not burn even when she was bare foot, had no shoes on. People died of suffocation. The kar sevaks who were in the train were hanging on inside the train up to twenty minutes. When they came out they knew that they had left people behind. There was no fire for twenty minutes.”
“My assessment is that, it was the thick rubber of the vestibule that was set on fire, probably using cloth and grease from the wheels. At the bottom there are steel sleepers and on the side there is round big rubber for absorbing shocks. Those things burnt on both the sides and that gave rise to black pungent smoke. So the smoke was pouring in from both the sides. The side of the rubber also caught fire; I have got photographs of that fire from VHP people who were there. The flames are leaping from the rubber. Now there is a tunnelling effect. There is this closed compartment with fire at both ends. This is called flash over. The fire starts eating the steel of the compartment. It starts grazing along the compartment at both ends. It goes through the top surface. By chance if the door or window is opened, then fresh oxygen supply comes in. There is a spurt and it is called flash over fire, where temperature goes up to 600 degree centigrade. According to me that is what happened. And the flash over also was helped by the luggage. Cloth bags are very inflammable. The luggage caught fire. Most of the kar sevaks were sitting on the upper birth due to the stone throwing that was taking place. And they were sitting with their luggage. Those people who ran out faced fire all across from the top.”
“People did not die of burning but of suffocation. Police also knew that there were people inside. Police Superintendent Mr. Bhargava deposed before Commission that there was no fire at that time only smoke and he knew that there could be people inside.”
“After the kar sevaks came out of the train, they were very aggressive and burned all the Muslim shops and houses near that area.”
“Police can never give us the correct facts. They keep changing their version according to political requirements. They have always gone by the requirements of the Chief Minister. The criminal case is actually totally weak. They did not do panchnama of the coach up until the next day afternoon. The Chief Minister Narendra Modi was inside the coach before a panchnama was done. First the police accused the ISI, then Mr. Kalota and Haji Bhilal. Now a third person, Mr. Kukure is being named. But Mr. Kukure was selling milk at that time. Mr. Kalota was the president of the Municipal Corporation. He was called by the police to control the mob and then implicated. The DSP says that he had asked Kalota to go away and he had left. The police had even asked Haji Bhilal to go away because he had a beard and the kar sevaks were getting angry with him. He too had left.”
“The issue of molestation came out afterwards. There was a girl and her mother. There was also some minor incident of molestation. But it was brought up much later; even the Muslims did not know it then. We have also spoken to them.”
“So the fire was an unfortunate accident. The fire was a consequence of the brawl between two sides. There was no premeditation.”
Shri Rajendraprasad Misrilal Mina deposed as under:
On 27-2-2002 I was on duty as the Assistant Station Master at ‘A’ Cabin of Godhra railway station from 12 at night to morning up to 8 am.
The Sabarmati Express arrived at Godhra railway station at 7.43 am. Since the line was clear, the departure signal was given at 7.45 am. The train started at 7.48am. After some time the train was stopped after blowing the whistle. At that time there was no crowd between cabin ‘A’ and the train.
When the train started again I looked at the clock in the cabin and the time was 7.55 am. When the train reached near the cabin I was standing near the window of the cabin for showing the ‘alright’ signal. When the train arrived at ‘A’ cabin, the engine was blowing the whistle indicating that the chain had been pulled. The period between the restarting of the train and its arrival at ‘A’ cabin could have been around 5 to 6 minutes. I did not see any crowd at that time. It was about 8 o’clock when the train stopped.
When the train was moving with slow speed I had seen a crowd running towards and along with the train. When I got down from the cabin, some people from the crowd came near the cabin. Few persons from the mob were throwing stones on the train… The mob did not arrive all together but about ten to fifteen persons were coming and collecting together. There were also women and children in the mob.
I did not personally see as to who set the fire and how.
Shri Mohan Jagdish Yadav has deposed as under:
I am performing my duty as RPF Police Constable at Godhra. My duty was to do patrolling between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI from 8.00 pm on 26-2-2002 to 8.00 am of 27-2-2002
There is a culvert between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI office. I did not see any suspicious movement near and around the culvert before the arrival of the Sabarmati train at Godhra Station. I did not see any mob near ‘A’ cabin before the arrival of the train. I did not see any suspicious movement throughout the route between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI office before the arrival of the train.
On 27-2-2002 at about 7.45 am, when the Sabarmati express arrived at the platform, I was present in the front of CPWI office. We heard somebody shouting from platform no. 1. On hearing the noise, two of us went to platform no.1. We saw that stones were being hurled between the train passengers and outside people. Some passengers were shouting slogans of Jai Shree Ram. We told the passengers to go and sit in the train. We then raised our sticks and told the outsiders to go away and chased them away. I believe that the reason for the stone throwing was the quarrel that had taken place with the hawkers.
When the train started, we were still on the platform and while we were on the platform the train had moved about four coaches and had stopped. Once again we saw that people from both the sides were throwing stones. Once again we pushed the passengers to get into the train and chased the outsiders beyond the wall.
The passengers who were shouting and throwing stones were passengers of the two coaches. The people who were throwing stones from Singal Faliya, were doing so from behind the wall and some of them were trying to jump across the wall to enter the station. The passengers who were throwing stones, some of them were also going towards the wall and were shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’. The people, who were throwing stones from outside were throwing pieces of bricks.
The depositions before Nanavati commission:
The Guard of the Sabarmati Express Shri Satyanarayan Punchuram Varma deposed as under:
I joined Sabarmati Express as the Guard on 27-2-2002.
There was chain pulling immediately after the train left Godhra station and I was informed about it by the Driver. Some passengers had been left behind at the station. The chain was pulled because the passengers were left behind. The train moved further after all the passengers had boarded the train. The train stopped once again after moving about one kilometre.
Shri Raju Bishankumar Bhargava, Police Superintendent of Godhra, deposed as under:
I had reached the burning coach at about 8.30 a.m.
I had seen people with black faces and with some burn injuries on the head coming out of the coach. I had seen ten to twelve passengers coming out of that coach… They were coming out of the door on the Godhra side…The injuries which I noticed on the passengers were on the upper part of their bodies…. I had not noticed any injury below their waist.
I had not seen any flames in the area of the coach, which I could see from the door. I had seen only smoke in that area… I had not noticed any flames on the floor of the area between the doors. I had also not smelt any inflammable fuel like petrol, kerosene, diesel etc.
Some persons were able to get down from the coach but according to my understanding others were not able to get out of that coach because they got suffocated…As I did not hear any cry for help from the passengers trapped inside that coach I presumed that they had become unconscious and therefore they were not raising any cries.
I had not seen any person from the Muslim community preventing the passengers in S-6 and S-7 from coming out of those coaches. No passenger had complained that they were stopped from coming out of those coaches.
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In the mean time, a huge amount of material (370 kilos) from inside the S6 coach was collected on 1st May 2002 and sent for Forensic examination. The FSL report No. 2002/c/594 dated 17th May 2002 failed to report any detection of petrol from the burnt residues of the things inside the coach.
The only FSL report that had detected presence of residual petrol in samples collected was the first FSL report (No. FSL/EE/2002/c/287) dated 20th March 2002 prepared by D.B.Talati, Assistant Director of Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) Ahmedabad. He had claimed the presence of residual petrol hydrocarbons in 25 samples, while the other 20 samples he had tested did not disclose the presence of any hydrocarbons. Shri Talati had informed the Commission that he had performed the Gas-liquid chromatography for the detection of residual petrol which he defined as the remains of petrol after it is burnt.
However, when cross-examined, Shri Talati admitted that he had not done any quantitative analysis of the ratios between the higher and lower volatile components of the hydrocarbons of the samples he had examined. Without a quantitative analysis, it’s not possible to ascertain that the petrol that has been detected is unburnt petrol or burnt petrol residue!
On behalf of Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM), a quantitative analysis was carried out by experts from the chromatographs supplied by Shri Talati. The results of analysis1 proved that Shri Talati actually detected unburnt petrol in the samples instead of burnt residual petrol which is contrary to what he had claimed in his FSL report. It may now be pertinent to ask, did some one mix unburnt petrol in the samples obtained from S6 coach to fabricate the presence of petrol?
Further, in his report, FSL/EE/2002/c/442, dated 26th April 2002, Shri D.B.Talati stated that he could not give a clear opinion whether the petrol detected in some samples in and around S6 and the petrol detected in the samples from Kalabhai’s petrol pump were same or not!
It is clearly seen that first 9 witnesses were fabricated to make a case of burning from outside the coach using kerosene. Since that did not stand the scrutiny of FSL, the story was conveniently changed to show that coach was burnt from inside using 140 litres of petrol. However their star witness, Ranjit Singh Patel, who had stated that he had sold petrol to Salim Panawala, got caught in a Tehelka string operation and admitted that he had taken Rs 50000 to give a false statement. Another witness, Binyamin Behera also retracted his statement based on which the entire Petrol theory was founded. Mr Talati failed to do a quantitative analysis of the gas chromatograph to find out whether he found burnt residual petrol or raw liquid petrol – and JSM’s analysis proved that he’d found unburnt petrol instead of burnt residual petrol.
All these evidences and observations prove that the Gujarat Government’s claim that the S6 Coach was burnt by pouring petrol inside the coach is absolutely concocted and experts need to review the evidence in this regards.
--Read More At:http://www.truthofgujarat.com/burning-s6-coach-godhra-using-petrol-fabricated-story/

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http://rajeev2004.blogspot.in/2007/02/myth-and-truth-of-godhra.html


Justice Tewatia Report on the Godhra issue published on April 26, 2002 under the aegis of the Council For International Affairs And Human Rights, based in New Delhi.

It was a report based on a six-day field study of a team headed by Justice D.S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice, Calcutta High Court and Punjab and Haryana High Court. Its other members were Dr J.C. Batra, senior advocate, Supreme Court, Dr Krishan Singh, academician, Jawahar Lal Kaul, veteran journalist, and Prof. B. K. Kuthiala, Dean, Faculty of Media Studies, G.J. University, Hisar.

The five-man team visited three affected areas and relief camps in Ahmedabad, interacting freely with the public and members of both communities, and without government interference. In Godhra, five delegations from both communities and also of mixed composition presented their views and facts to the team. Similarly, free discussions with the public and affected communities were held in Vadodra at seven affected areas and five relief camps. It collected information from the staff at the Godhra Railway Station, district administration, including the Collector and Police Commissioner, passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 in S-6 compartment as well as in other compartments, staff of the Fire Brigade, Godhra, reports in 22 newspapers and nine magazines (local, regional and Delhi) and views on media coverage articulated by some 500 persons including intellectuals like lawyers, doctors and businessmen. The site where the train was initially stopped and stoned was also visited. A high point was that 13 delegations consisting of 121 citizens met Justice Tewatia's team and presented their viewpoints and information. The delegations ranged from the Association of Hoteliers to a group of Vanvasis and affected Muslim as well as Hindu women.

Based on the considerable oral, audio and visual evidence obtained from the above interactions, the Justice Tewatia team's conclusions most relevant to the blindfold on Godhra were as follows:
  1. Burning of 58 Hindu pilgrims on February 27, 2002 was an act carried out at the behest of then government of Pakistan which had planned to burn the entire Sabarmati Express carrying some 2000 passengers. The primary objective was to create Hindu-Muslim communal conflagration in India. The actual perpetrators were jehadi elements in the predominantly Muslim town of Godhra where
    1. a very high traffic of telephone calls was recorded between Godhra and Pakistan, especially Karachi, before the date of the carnage
    2. an abnormally large number of passports were issued,
    3. there was a large number of persons without ration cards
    4. a large number of unemployed Muslims had mobile phones,
    5. though there is no tradition of being a Muslim pilgrim center and the local Muslims are not affluent, three istema (religious gatherings) have been held and attended by large numbers of foreigners, and
    6. an Assistant Collector (a young Muslim from eastern UP) went on leave two days before the gory incident and did not return till the middle of March though the district of his posting was aflame with communal riots much earlier.
  2. The vacuum pipe between the Coaches No. S-6 and S-7 was cut thereby preventing any further movement of the train. Miscreants threw bricks and stones at the train as soon as it left Godhra railway station. The stoning intensified after it finally stopped about 700 metres from the station. The passengers of the train, particularly Coaches S-5, S-6 and S-7, were the main targets. Burning missiles and acid bulbs were thrown on and in the coaches. One such acid missile landed in Coach S-7 and a fire started which the passengers were able to extinguish. But the attack continued and more burning missiles were thrown into the Coach S-6.
  3. In an effort to control the subsequent riots, the Gujarat government
  4. Publicly announced its decision to employ the Army on the evening of the day riots began on February 28 (Within less than 24 hours at least one brigade of Indian Army had air-landed at Ahmedabad),
  5. Made preventive arrests of over 33,000 people,
  6. Fired over 12,000 rounds of bullets,
  7. Fired over 15,000 rounds of tear gas shells,
  8. The involvement of Vanvasis in the post-Godhra riots added a new dimension to the communal violence. In rural areas the Vanvasis attacked the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and the forest contractors. They used their traditional bow and arrows as also their implements used to cut trees and grass while attacking Muslims. They moved in groups and used coded signals for communication. Apparently, the accumulated anger of years of exploitation by Muslim moneylenders (interest of 50 per cent per annum), shopkeepers and forest contractors had become explosive after moneylenders sexually exploited their womenfolk.
  9. The media selected, distorted and added fiction to prove their respective points of view. The code of ethics prescribed by the Press Council of India was violated by the media with impunity. It so enraged the citizens that several concerned citizens in the disturbed areas suggested that peace could return to the state only if some of the TV channels were closed for some weeks. Even the Vanvasis complained that the media had no time to hear their agony and was spreading canards against the Hindus. Newspapers published in English from Delhi invariably editorialised the news. Direct and indirect comments in the news writing were so telling that the personal likes and dislikes of the news reporters were too obvious to be missed. They appeared to have assumed the role of crusaders against the State Government from day one. It coloured the entire operation of newsgathering, feature writing and editorials.
Conclusions 1 to 4 above are indicators as to why our national media, ever afraid to criticise the Muslim and ever ready to indulge in BJP/Hindu bashing, bypassed the Justice Tewatia Report, despite its high credentials and the fact that it was publicly released at a press conference in New Delhi. After all, our 'secular' national media simply could not have tolerated giving even a line to report's conclusion 5 above. Hence, they simply buried the whole report itself, put a blindfold on the country vision of it. After all, they had found their Hindu-bashing agenda in the post-Godhra riots and they were hell-bent in pushing it full steam, right up to the Supreme Court and beyond to the United Nations.

Will the criminal conviction of 16 by two separate sessions judges in Ahmedabad remove the blindfold on Godhra that the 'monster media' put on the people of this country?

'Sabarmati Express fire same as WTC disaster'
Press Trust of India - February 09, 2007
 
Ahmedabad, February 9: Comparing the burning pattern of S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train with World Trade Centre (WTC) disaster in the US, the Gujarat government counsel told the Godhra Commission that huge amount of fuel had ignited the fire which killed 59 karsevaks on February 27, 2002 near Godhra railway station.
Giving a power-point presentation to the Nanavati-Shah Commission, probing the carnage and the riots that followed, advocate Sumit Shah said, "the fire inside the coach (of the train) can be compared to the WTC fire."
"Here canisters filled with petrol were used to burn the coach and there (at WTC) an aeroplane filled with petrol was used," Shah said while showing photographs of the terrorist strike on twin-towers in New York on September 11, 2002.
Shah was trying to counter the 'flash over fire' theory presented by advocate Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangarsh Manch that claimed that 'given certain conditions, a small fire can spread very rapidly'.
Choosing to describe the blaze in S-6 as 'a malicious fire initiated after thoughtful planning', Shah argued that the train coach was not a air-tight and confined space which could have given rise to a flash-over fire.
"Several windows of the coach were broken in the stone pelting," he said.
"The bogie had not burnt equally or identically throughout. This itself indicates that a flashover or backdraft had not occurred'', Shah said.
"If a flash over had occurred, all passengers would have been burnt to death. But here, many managed to come out unscathed and several others escaped with minor injuries," he argued.
"Hence it was a normal fire which spread rapidly after coming in contact with the fuel," Shah said adding samples examined by Forensic Science Laboratory experts had confirmed the presence of petrol.
The advocate also cited the FSL report which had examined the 38 samples collected on February 27, 2002, the day of the incident.
"The presence of petroleum hydrocarbons was detected in 27 samples while petrol was found in two," Shah said.
"Two samples had presence of Hydrocholoric Acid (HCL)," he added.
Shah contended that the plastic carboys (containers) in which 140 litres of petrol was brought could have melted at high temperatures inside the S-6 coach.
"Traces of carboys were not detected because they could have melted and evaporated at such high temperatures," he said.
"The carboys might have been taken back by the culprits after emptying the contents into the train compartment," Shah remarked.
He also presented an animated reconstruction of the train carnage as per the 'conspiracy theory' of Gujarat government.
Did Godhra save Pakistan? @ http://www.rediff.com/news/2005/mar/03spec1.htm      
Part I :  We were ready to punish Pakistan( http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/mar/02spec1.htm )
'Rumours of an attack on a temple spread like wildfire. Ahmedabad city was put under curfew. Yet the violence did not stop. The local police were accused of showing anti-Muslim bias and were ineffective. After two days of unsuccessful attempts at stopping the violence, the city of Ahmedabad was handed over to the army.'
'Two trains were stopped, Muslims were pulled out and killed. The rioting had spread to Mehsana, Surat, Anand and Jamnagar and Rajkot, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Even the Sabarmati ashram, established by Mahatma Gandhi, was not spared and was attacked by a rampaging mob. It was only after 10 days that the situation was finally brought under control. It was estimated that over 1,500 people were killed while thousands left their homes in panic and sought refuge in temporary camps.'
-- A report on the Gujarat riots, not in 2002, but in September 1969.
'We had begun to get reports of scattered violence shortly after we had watched on television the barbaric video tape of motorists being ripped out of their cars, hammered, pounded and chased by rock-throwing men on the ground. The image of a man being pulled from his truck by thugs still burned in my mind. My memory was seared by the vivid imprint of the motionless, beaten man lying on the ground, being kicked and brutalised.
'I was still filled with rage at the sight of one of the assailants picking up a large piece of cinder-block and throwing it at his apparently lifeless body, smashing him in the head. Then, after the savage beating, the attacker appeared to do a dance, raise his hands towards the helicopter overhead and flashed a victory sign.'
'As our helicopter circled over the city, we could see that fires were breaking out over a widespread area. The dark plumes of smoke were ominously spreading to different spots of the city. Firemen could not respond to many of these early fires because snipers were shooting at them. Later police escorts went in with the fire fighters to protect them from the snipers.'
-- Los Angeles, early evening of April 29, 1992. The riots, provoked by a video clipping of police brutality, lasted over a week.
The Gujarat riots of 1969 were far more serious than the 2002 riots. The death toll, as a proportion of population was far higher and the violence had spread to many parts of the state.
What the synopsis of two events shows is:
  • Police brutality and prejudice are not uncommon during riots.
  • People show great brutality during riots.
  • In a tinder box-like situation, like the one in Ahmedabad in 1969 and in Los Angeles in 1992, all that is required to start violence is a trigger event.
  • Serious riots have always needed Army/National Guard intervention to bring them under control.
  • The Gujarat riots of 2002 were important as well as unique in a sense.
The country was at that time on the brink of war with Pakistan. On the earlier two occasions, 1965 as well as 1971, remarkable internal peace had prevailed.
In 1971, despite the well known fact that the Pakistan army had killed close to 300,000, mainly Hindus, in Bangladesh (a figure accepted by the official Hamidur Rehman commission as well -- Pakistan General Gul Hasan who was chief of the army at the time claims that over 600,000 were killed), there was no internal strife as all parties (including the much reviled RSS) were co-opted in keeping this secret.
Ninety percent of the nearly 1 crore (10 million) refugees that poured into India were also Hindus. But even this was successfully hidden from the public.
The Godhra incident and the Gujarat riots were the first instance when internal conflict erupted even during an external threat.
There have been many claimants to credit for avoiding war in the subcontinent in 2002, the year when for ten long months the Indian armed forces were poised on the Indo-Pak border.
Colin Powell, then the American secretary of state, has gone on record to claim that it was the efforts and influence of the United States that averted war in the sub-continent.
If the US is so influential with the Indian government, one is tempted to ask, then why did it not succeed in preventing the nuclear tests at Pokhran in May 1998?
American multinationals who outsource their work to the Bangalore-based IT industry claimed it was their threat to withdraw which forced Indian companies like Infosys and Wipro to lobby with the government in favour of peace and restraint.
While there is some truth in these assertions, it is likely it was the Godhra incident and the riots that followed in March 2002 that really saved Pakistan from being attacked by India.
Complete coverage: The Gujarat riots
Godhra (and its twin city of Dahod) is famous in the subcontinent as the birthplace of Aurangzeb, the fanatical Mughal emperor. It is also a well known trouble spot that has seen violent riots between Hindus and Muslims for over a hundred years. A large number of people of Godhra have links with people in violence-prone Karachi in Pakistan.
On February 27, 2002, when the Sabarmati Express arrived at Godhra railway station early in the morning, it carried the usual load of Hindus returning from Ayodhya, a Hindu pilgrimage centre.
These pilgrims travel in large groups. They often act rowdily and altercations with vendors is a common occurrence. In fact, most vendors are known to shut shop when such trains approach.
But February 27, 2002 was unusual.
No sooner had the train left the station, it was stopped by pulling the emergency chain, just a little distance away from the station. Here the train was surrounded by a mob of thousands that pelted stones at the passengers.
Apparently some people then entered bogie S-6, which had mainly women and children, by cutting the cloth partition between two bogies. They then poured petrol into the carriage and set it afire. 59 people, including women and children, were burnt alive.
The incident had all the hallmarks of a pre-planned attack. The movement of Hindu pilgrims by this train was a regular, routine affair, not a sudden provocation. Also, it is not easy to suddenly garner a mob of several thousand without warning. A fire engine that tried to reach the spot was denied access, indicating a certain degree of leadership and planning.
The question that remains is, why?
Gujarat then and now was ruled by a Hindu hardliner who faced a difficult election in a few months time. That he would make capital of this incident was a foregone conclusion.
In less than two days, the city of Ahmedabad erupted in an orgy of violence. The local police either played a partisan role or were woefully inadequate to deal with the rioters. The only option was to call in the army.
But where was the army? Unlike the earlier occasions when the army stationed in Ahmedabad could move in at an hour's notice, this time it took more than two days. The troops earmarked for internal riot control duties were more than 600 km away, deployed on the border and ready for war.
To re-adjust the defences took time. The troops flown into Ahmedabad did not have transport and were unfamiliar with the geography of the city. It took them nearly three days to bring the situation under control.
Most of the killings and violence took place before the army was deployed. Sporadic arson and violence did continue, but the worst was over within a week.
In normal times, the army could have been deployed in a day.
For instance, army units in Delhi and Meerut (40 km away) were ready to move in within hours of the riots sparked off by the assassination of Indira Gandhi on December 31, 1984. But the then government deliberately delayed deploying it.
This was certainly not the case in 2002, when the delay was caused due to the logistical difficulties involved in redeploying troops from the border.
The brain behind the Godhra incident knew it would trigger riots, which in turn would force such a redeployment. In fact, an entire division (40,000 soldiers) had to be moved, while another division was kept on alert to move into other areas if necessary.
The effect on Operation Parakram
On an average, a division covers close to 50 to 75 km of border. The loss of close to two divisions obviously weakened the Indian threat of action against Pakistan.
'Indian forces were ready for raids into Pakistan' 
Let us look at the sequence again.
  • 59 people are burnt to death in a well-planned attack at Godhra.
  • The 'secular' media and some political parties try to minimise the tragedy, with some going to the extent of blaming the victims.
  • The Gujarat government brings the charred bodies to Ahmedabad and makes every attempt to inflame religious passions. This combination of 'secular' apathy and government exploitation creates a fertile atmosphere for mass hysteria and revenge killings.
  • With its 200-year-old history of animosities, the city of Ahmedabad erupts in an orgy of violence. The local police are either biased in favour of the rioters or woefully inadequate to deal with the situation.
  • Almost two army divisions are withdrawn from border, creating a gaping hole in the defences, weakening the threat of armed action against Pakistan.
It was only towards early May 2002 that the troops rejoined their comrades on the border. By then, the window of opportunity was shut, as the snows in Himalayas would melt, and a Chinese threat had to be factored into the planning.
On May 14, 2002, terrorists struck at Kaluchak in Jammu area. The gruesome attack targeted the wives and children of the soldiers. The sheer audacity of the act was to show to the world India's 'impotence'. The terrorists achieved their aim as thanks to the Gujarat riots, the army was not in a position to react.
In an interview to rediff.com, Major General Ashok Mehta (retd) said: 'Then Kaluchak happened in May and a new D-Day was selected- June 15. On US prodding, General Musharraf made his May 27 speech reaffirming compliance (of Indian demands of curbing terrorist activities).'
The cost of a war that wasn't
It seems clear that the attack on Parliament as well as the Kaluchak massacre were the handiwork of 'freelance' terrorists, nurtured by Pakistan but nor necessarily under its direct control. The aim of terrorists was very clear, provoke a war between India and Pakistan by hook or crook.
But the Godhra incident was a calculated act, organised and executed by Pakistan to save itself from an imminent Indian attack.
As an act sponsored by a State, with all its resources in forensic help, legal expertise and police inputs, it falls in the category of a perfect crime.
No enquiry commission will ever be able to trace the true culprits and solve the mystery of Godhra.
This analysis is based on military logic and understanding of a military mind and not on any insider information. To those who consider this presumptuous, I would cite just one example.
During the First Gulf War of 1991, there was intense speculation over how and from where the Americans launch their ground offensive.
I used to write a daily column for Loksatta during the first Gulf war.
Based on a simple map, knowledge of military history and reading of military mind, I had predicted a week before the actual event the exact pattern of attack.
The prediction was that the 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions would take Al Kurna and Al Nasariya with the Third Army launching an armoured thrust from the west to link up. The Americans would thus cut off the Republican Guard located to the east and south and be poised to drive into Baghdad should Saddam not surrender. I even published a map showing this plan.
In the event I was spot on.                        
'We were ready to punish Pakistan' http://in.rediff.com/news/2005/mar/02spec1.htm 


"Lead me from the unreal to the Real;
Lead me from darkness to Light;
Lead me from death to Immortality. "


"Asato ma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrtyor ma amritam gamaya."

-- Brhadaranyaka Upanishad





http://sabrang.com/cc/archive/2002/marapril/Godhra.htm

Godhra

On February 27, late by over four hours, the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express pulled into Godhra station. After a 25-minute halt, against the scheduled 5-minute stoppage, the train pulled out of the platform. Even before it could gather speed, the pulling of the alarm chain brought the train to a halt near the Muslim-inhabited Signal Falia locality, less than a km. from the station. Twenty minutes later, compartment S-6 was on fire, as a result of which 58 passengers, including 26 women and 12 children were either choked or burnt to death.
Nothing, absolutely nothing can justify the killing of innocent people, whatever the provocation. But for Gujarat’s chief minister, Narendra Modi, and many leading lights of the sangh parivar, this heinous crime became the justification for the ‘natural reaction’ against Muslims across the state.
Even 50 days later, it is evident that only a full-fledged inquiry will be able to finally settle the issue of who was, and the motive behind, the torching of a few compartments of the Sabarmati Express. That such an inquiry must be conducted and the guilty punished is without question. Meanwhile, taken together, the comments of Ahmedabad’s former commissioner of police, MM Singh ("Godhra has a history of communal riots. It was known that kar sevaks were coming by that route. This fact necessitated preventive deployment. That was, apparently, not done;") and those of Major General (retired) Eustace De’Souza, who on more then one occasion has been involved in dousing the fire in communally-sensitive Godhra ("I see a fiendish plan;") demand immediate attention. (See box, page 14.)
In a report published on February 25, the Jan Morcha, a Hindi daily published from Faizabad, detailed instances of provocative behaviour by kar sevaks, who allegedly beat and threatened Muslim passengers, insisting that they chant ‘Jai Shree Ram’. They even unveiled Muslim women. (See box, page 12).
The Jan Morcha report published two days before the incident at Godhra, reports the conduct of kar sevaks from Gujarat headed for Ayodhya. But by several accounts, the conduct ofkar sevaks returning to Ahmedabad by the ill-fated Sabarmati Express on February 27 was no better:

The Hindu reported on February 28: "Eyewitnesses said that about 1,200 ‘Ram sevaks’ were travelling in the train. The local people in the Muslim-dominated Godhra town had been ‘irritated’ by the ‘abusive language’ used by the ‘Ram sevaks’ while they were going to Ayodhya by the same train a few days ago. They had reportedly raised slogans as the train approached Godhra on the return journey this morning."
A report in The Times of India, on February 28 stated: "Officials said a mob, enraged by the provocative slogan shouting by the VHP activists, attacked the train just after it left Godhra railway station at 6.30 a.m.… Officials said it was possible that some passengers from Godhra travelling by the train had been harassed along the way by the VHP activists returning from Ayodhya and they had incited the mob to attack the passengers after getting off the train… However, other accounts say that the mob was waiting to pounce on the train because they knew the VHP and Bajrang Dal activists were returning from Ayodhya."
And on March 7, Akbarbaig Sirajuddin Shah, a Muslim passenger who was returning to Ahmedabad with his family, in an interview with the Gujarati daily, Gujarat Today, recounted the misbehaviour of the kar sevaks throughout the journey. (See box.)
As stated earlier, no provocation whatsoever can justify a heinous crime like burning people to death. But the misconduct of kar sevaks is nonetheless important to record for two reasons: One, given such persistent hooliganism, where was the intelligence machinery of the law enforcement authorities? Why was no preventive measure taken by the police? Two, if the attack on kar sevaks was pre-planned, as chief minister Modi and Union home minister LK Advani have maintained, was the outrageous conduct of kar sevaks a part of the pre-planning?
The former Ahmedabad CP, MM Singh’s has observed:
"Burning nearly 60 passengers alive at a district headquarters railway station is unprecedented. Godhra has a history of communal riots. It was known that kar sevaks were coming by that route. This fact necessitated preventive deployment. That was, apparently, not done. With modern means of communication it should be unlikely that the multifarious safety and security installations at Godhra itself were not informed on the first sign of trouble, Even one determined man in khaki firing a few effective shots could have checked the worst, as witnessed in Parliament.
"Godhra railway station has RPF. Godhra has a railway police station, too. A district headquarters with police HQ, armed police, control room, town police station with eight chowkies, all equipped with telephones and a taluka police station. It is the HQ of SRP Bn, too and has a municipal Fire Brigade. These are the points one has to ponder instead of a routine probe, whose report gathers dust". (Letter to the editor, The Times of India, 1 March 2002.)
Godhra is a small town with a roughly equal population of Muslims and Hindus and a long and bloody history of communal tension and violence. The Muslims living at the Signal Falia area near the railway station, who allegedly attacked the Sabarmati Express with tragic consequences, are ‘Ghanchis,’ a largely uneducated and poor community, reportedly conservative and prone to react quickly; records and accounts also say that they have been quick to assemble and participate in earlier rounds of communal violence. Godhra has had tensions (that were incidentally quickly controlled by a quick recall of the army in 1948, in 1953-55, and again in 1985). This time this did not happen.
Local accounts say that stories of the behaviour of kar sevaks (believed to be as many as 1,200 or so on board) had preceded the train’s arrival. Dahod, an-hour-and-a-half before Godhra, had seen the eruption of tension and the news had already travelled. As the train pulled in and stopped at Godhra railway station, locals who live just outside the station recounted (see box on testimonies of witnesses) that they heard abusive shouts and sounds of stone throwing from the station. Vendors near the station recounted that tea stall owners at the station (who incidentally hail from the same Ghanchi Muslim community) had an altercation with the kar sevaks who refused to pay. One elderly vendor on the platform was threatened by thekar sevaks and asked to shout slogans; they pulled his beard and assaulted him when he refused.
At this point, according to some locals who spoke to this writer on March 22, a local Muslim woman, Jaitunbibi was waiting for the train to Vadodara scheduled to arrive at around 8 a.m., with her two young daughters, Sophiya and Shahidi. On observing the altercations, they tried to flee the station. Suddenly, a kar sevak obstructed their departure, grabbed Sophiya and tried to drag her inside the compartment. He did not succeed in doing so.
(By the time this writer reached Godhra, on March 22, e-mails were in circulation, claiming that she had been dragged inside and the attempt to rescue her was the trigger that culminated in the torching of bogey S-6. Later, this family left for Vadodara. When this reporter spoke to Sophiya’s kin in Godhra, where she had come with her family for Id, she confirmed that Sophia did not get dragged into the train.) The train was stationed at the Godhra railway station for 20-23 minutes before it began to move away.
By now tempers ran high and stone pelting had begun from both sides. As the train began to pull out, the emergency chain was pulled in one of the three general compartments in the front of the 16-bogey train, (bogeys S5 and S6 were eleventh and twelfth respectively in this chain). The train halted briefly. In a few minutes, the train reached Signal Falia, about a kilometre away from the station. Here, it was stopped again when the emergency chain was pulled. Who pulled the chain? In which compartment was the chain pulled?
Reports of misbehaviour, repeated provocation, the rumour of abduction of a young Muslim girl, allegedly incited a 2,000 strong mob of Ghanchi Muslims from Signal Falia to attack the train with stones and fire bombs. The kar sevaks also resorted to stone throwing. The main target of the Ghanchi mob appears to have been coach S6, which was badly burnt. It was in this coach that 58 passengers, including 26 women and 12 children were killed. In comparison, the adjoining coach, S5 was not badly damaged, with only a few windows broken.
That day, there were only 3 SRP men on duty; of the 111 GRP (Government Railway Police) officers stationed at Godhra, only 2 or 3 were on duty; though the Fire Brigade station is only 5 minutes away from the railway station, it took a while for the fire brigade to reach the torched coach. Two GRP jawans reached the spot within minutes; it is a matter of serious conjecture why they did not fire shots to disperse the mob. The arrival of fire-fighters was delayed allegedly by Bilal, a local leader according to one version; a second version says he was helping the victims.
Was the attack pre-planned? A senior police official in charge of investigating the Godhra incident, while requesting anonymity, gave the gist of his findings as follows:
Ø Chaiwallas in the train come from the same community (Ghanchis). On the Dahod-Godhra sector there was an altercation between the kar sevaks and the chaiwallahs on the train. They reached Godhra.
Ø Tea Vendors at Godhra station collected, as again there was an exchange of words about payments. The vendors from the station got on to the train and at Signal Falia they were the ones who pulled the chain. Other Muslims collected from the basti. Many local Muslims got into the train.
Ø They procured diesel from the garages near the tracks. That diesel was thrown, using cloth balls dipped in diesel. Stones were also pelted.
Criminologically speaking, in the assessment of this officer, the fire was not intended. It ‘caught more than they expected.’ ‘There was no pre-planning.’
Interestingly, the following report published by The Times of India March 29, quotes the inspector general of police, PP Agja as stating that there is no evidence at all that the attack was pre-planned:
"The case is still being investigated and if there was some deep conspiracy, then we are yet to find it,’’ said inspector-general of police (railways) PP Agja. Agja, who for the better part of the last one month has been camping at Godhra, spoke with The Times of India standing in front of the railway police station on the platform where trouble began.
"According to the sequence of events as found by the police, all was not well in coach S-6 of the Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express on that day. A group of unruly Ram sevaks had boarded the train at Lucknow without reservations and had put to discomfort the 66 genuine passengers of the coach. Some of the ticket-paying passengers had to sleep on the floor, so overcrowded had the compartment become that the ticket collector who came aboard the train at Ratlam (two stations before Godhra) was not allowed to enter the coach.
"At Godhra station, the hawkers on the platform started stoning the train after an unsavoury incident, especially targeting coach S-6, because some occupants of the coach had given offence. At any point of time, there are some 250 hawkers on the station. Some of them carry stoves with kerosene in them. All of them live in the slum called Signal Falia next to the station," said Agja.
He added: "This means it is not surprising that a crowd could collect at the station so fast. The people who live cheek by jowl in the slums next to the station include a fair share of criminals indulging in railway crimes like looting, pick-pocketing and stealing of goods of passengers and also railway property. All of them are Ghanchi Muslims and they are uneducated, without any jobs and poor.’’
From 8.30 a.m. when the Godhra attack on the Sabarmati Express took place until 7.30 p.m. that evening, repeated statements by the Godhra district collector, Jayanthi Ravi relayed on Doordarshan and Akashwani (radio) stated that "the incident was not pre-planned, it was an accident." It was only after 7-7.30 p.m., when CM Narendra Modi spoke and called it a ‘pre-planned, violent act of terrorism’ that the official version changed.
As we have seen above, investigating officials have yet to find any proof of the Godhra atrocity being pre-planned. Nonetheless, Modi, Union home minister LK Advani and others continue to reiterate the distorted version of the motive behind the incident at Godhra. When and why the government’s version changed needs serious investigation because it is widely believed that it is the ‘pre-planned, violent act of terrorism’ theory, pronounced by politicians and given a huge splash by much of the Gujarati press, which provided the lethal charge to the ‘backlash’.
Signal Falia, where the Godhra Railway Station is located, is home to auto-repair workers, rickshaw-pullers, auto-rickshaw drivers, small time wagon-breakers and criminal elements reportedly living in the slum. As such, the gathering of a large mob at a short notice and the availability of improvised petrol bombs and other weapons and implements, do not by themselves support the theory of any deep-rooted conspiracy, with or without the support of the foreign agencies.
(This reporter has been told about a confidential meeting between the top brass of the BJP cabinet, the VHP, the RSS and the Bajrang Dal on the evening of February 27, allegedly to plan details of the carnage that was to follow. (See ‘Police’ section.) If true, this might offer some clue as to why the official version underwent a dramatic shift).
News of the deaths enraged the kar sevaks who then tried to attack a nearby mosque at Signal Falia. The police fired 30 tear gas shells and fourteen rounds of live bullets to disperse them. The damaged coaches S5 and S6 were detached, and the train departed with the rest of the passengers at 12.40 p.m. On the way to Ahmedabad, some kar sevaks reportedly stabbed 2-3 people at the Vadodara railway station, giving a clear warning of things to come. The inquest and post-mortem of all the recovered bodies was undertaken by 4.30 p.m. Under instructions from the administration in Ahmedabad, all the bodies, excluding those of the five passengers from the Godhra region, were dispatched to the Civil Hospital, at Sola, Ahmedabad.
By the evening of February 27, a well-hatched scheme to make maximum political capital out of Godhra had been launched. As part of this scheme, around 2.30 a.m., bodies of the kar sevaks were brought to Ahmedabad. Around 500 people were waiting outside Sola Civil Hospital in Ahmedabad for the charred bodies to arrive from Godhra. By 3.35 a.m., a convoy of five trucks led by a pilot Gypsy entered the hospital compound.
Sloganeering started: ‘Kar sevak, amar raho!’ and ‘Hindu ekta zindabad’ as small bundles carrying the victims’ remains were off-loaded on to waiting stretchers. The mood was morose but tears were few. Anger welled in the eyes of bereaved relatives as each bundle – the remains of the Godhra massacre victims – was placed on ice slabs. Vows for vengeance and shouts of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ resounded throughout the hospital compound as a martyrs’ honour was accorded to the Godhra victims.
"For the nine from Amraiwadi who laid their lives for the country, there will be 90 more to replace. We had gone there for ‘Yagna’ only, yet the kafirs (read Muslims) butchered the devotees. This time we will go and construct the Ram temple," says a waiting VHP man outside the hospital. The corpses of the unfortunate victims of the Godhra arson were used to launch a statewide pogrom of decimation that has not entirely stopped to date.
Gujarat and the whole country were on a red alert due to the aggressive mobilisation by the VHP for rebuilding the Ayodhya movement. In Mumbai, the police made as many as 8,000 preventive arrests in the first week of March, to keep the situation under strict control; In contrast, even after Godhra happened, the Gujarat police arrested only two persons in Ahmedabad. And both were Muslims.
On February 27, after the Godhra tragedy, though the RAF was called in, no adequate powers were given to the forces. Though curfew was declared in Godhra, the RAF men were made to sit in the officers’ mess, helpless, unable to do anything.
On the afternoon of February 28, while Godhra was entirely under curfew, 200-300 cabins (shops) that line the railway station selling their wares and belong to Muslims, were demolished, using a bulldozer belonging to the Godhra municipality, under police protection. The economic loss of this destruction is Rs. 3-4 crores. The Muslim owners of these shops see nothing but a "teach them a lesson" motive behind this act.
An investigation into the background of Godhra shows that when disturbances erupted in 1965, the then collector promptly arrested both Muslims and Hindus whose names appeared in FIRs and within a couple of days, the disturbance was curbed. Even after the October 1980 disturbances, the then collector Smt. SK Verma, had immediately put the miscreants behind bars.
If a similar, no-nonsense and non-partisan approach had followed the Godhra incident on February 27, by promptly apprehending the suspected criminalstension would have been contained. And the chances of a vengeful and a highly-organised spree of retaliatory killings that demonstrate every element of ethnic cleansing and genocide, would have been pre-empted. That this did not happen suggests a lack of intent on the part of those in government to take prompt preventive measures in order to de-escalate the situation.
Though all accounts suggest that there was provocation enough by the kar sevaks, little can justify the crime that burned 58 persons alive. The guilty need to be brought to book and punished. The tragedy and crime simply need to be placed in the charged and venomous atmosphere that our country and our polity has been held victim to, where sane, rational impulses are being overwhelmed by rage, revenge and violence.
The immediate uproar that this ghastly attack led to, the subsequent police action and political manipulation of the motives has caused many witnesses to simply dither from giving evidence. The day I visited Godhra, the area around the station and Signal Falia was eerily quiet. It was also the day the NHRC was visiting. Twice, the vehicle we were moving around in was attacked. Curfew was imposed and even as we were driving through the city, tense as it was, two persons were shot at in police firing.
Among those arrested for the Godhra tragedy (first under POTA; later charges under this law were removed) are municipal councillors, Abdul Dhantiya and Salim Shaikh. Shaikh Abdul Hamid Gaffar who was also arrested, is a brother of Salim Shaikh. Godhra nagarpalika president Mohhamad Hussain Kalota and another councillor Haji Bilal, who have also been accused of violence, are absconding.
Some locals point out the local politics of the Godhra municipality which, in their opinion, has also contributed to the schisms. In April 2001, the BJP party was ruling the municipality but failed in a ‘no confidence motion’ through which a Muslim was elected president. For the first time in its history, Muslims dominated the Godhra municipality.
While one section of those interviewed clearly blames Bilal for attempting to disrupt the fire department workers, another version says that Bilal and Abdul Rehman were actually getting ready to go for a hearing (scheduled at Gandhinagar that day) on the disqualification case. Suddenly, they got a call from workers of the municipality informing them that the train had caught fire. At that stage, according to the second version, Bilal rushed there and actually helped control the angry Muslims and assisted in putting out the fire. The persons who gave this information said that the DSP of Panchmahal district, Raju Bhargava, knows these facts about Bilal’s conduct but is quiet because of pressure from the government.

Epilogue

After the Godhra tragedy the Gujarat police arrested 62 persons including at least seven boys, all said to be under the age of 16. They were booked under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance by the government railway police (GRP) for the February 27 attack on the Sabarmati Express in Godhra. Following a report in The Indian Express on the biased manner in which POTO was used, the government withdrew the ordinance against the 62, all Muslims, in mid-March. But the accused, including the seven boys, still face charges of murder, attempt to murder, criminal conspiracy, arson, rioting and damaging public property. All are in the GRP lockup here since February 27.
In violation of the orders of the Supreme Court in the Joginder Singh case, which held that family members of arrested persons should be informed within 24 hours, the parents of these boys were never informed, say their lawyers. The boys are: Haroon Iqbal, Farooq Kharadi, Firozkhan Pathan (residents of Signal Falia); Asif Kader, Altaf Diwan and Naseer Pathan (residents of Vejalpur Road); and Hasankhan Pathan of Dahod.
The inspector of Godhra Town police station K Trivedi said it was not possible to check their age at the time of arrest. "They were seen near the site of the incident, so we arrested them. The rest will be taken care of by the judiciary," he said. Hasankhan Pathan, who is a Class IX student in Dahod in the Panchmahals district, 150 km. away, had come to Godhra to meet his aunt and uncle on February 26. His date of birth according to school records is October 31, 1986.
His relative Hussain Khan Pathan said: ‘‘In the morning, he was playing with some other local boys, including Firoz and Mustaq, when they heard of something going on near the railway track. They got scared and came inside their houses. After a few hours, the police came and picked Hasan near Ali masjid on charges of mass murder.’’
Under the Juvenile Justice Act, minors below 16 have to be sent to a juvenile home, not to a police lock-up. ‘‘But they have been kept in police custody along with other accused in this case. We showed the age-proof documents of these minors to police, but they did not listen to us,’’ said Soukat I Samor, a senior advocate, who represents some of the accused.
Here is one more instance of police misconduct in the context of the Godhra tragedy and the genocide that followed.

Bajrang Dal activists on Sabarmati Express beat up Muslims, force them to shout, ‘Jai Shree Ram!’

(Jan Morcha, edited by Sheetla Prasad, is a Hindi daily published from Ayodhya. The paper carried the following story on 25 Feb. 2002. This is an English translation of the text)
Bhelsar (Faizabad), 24 February: Trishuldhari Bajrang Dal workers, travelling to Ayodhya on board the Sabarmati Express this morning, let loose a reign of terror upon dozens of helpless Muslim passengers, burqa clad women and innocent children. They also targeted the people waiting at the platform, forcing them to shout the slogan, ‘Jai Shree Ram!’ A few even declared themselves to be Hindus in order to escape their wrath.
According to eyewitnesses, close to 2000 trishul carrying Bajrang Dal workers, on board the Sabarmati Express coming from the direction of Lucknow, began indulging in these activities from the Daryabad Station. Anyone identified as a Muslim on the train was mercilessly attacked with trishuls and beaten with iron rods. Even women and innocent children were not spared. Burqas were pulled off, women were beaten with iron rods and dragged, people waiting at the platform were also similarly targetted.
This continued between the Daryabad and Rudauli Stations. According to an eyewitness, a youth who protested against this barbarism was thrown off the train between the Patranga and Rojagaon stations. Several women, badly wounded and covered in blood, jumped off the train as it pulled into Rudauli around 8 a.m. The Bajrang Dal activists also got off the train and started attacking those whom they identified as Muslims from among those present on the platform.
Ata Mohammad, from Takia Khairanpur, waiting to catch a train to Allahabad, was badly beaten, some others were forced to shout, ‘Jai Shree Ram!’ Some escaped by declaring that they were Hindus. 50-year-old Mohd. Absar who lives near the station was grabbed as he stepped out of his house. His long beard was rudely pulled before he was repeatedly stabbed withtrishuls. Another man from the Rudauli police station area who happened to be at the station was badly beaten with iron rods. Local residents rang up the police.
By the time the police chowki-in-charge, Bhelsar, arrived at the station, the train had left and the injured were being rushed to the hospital. No report was registered at the police station since the officer-in-charge was unavailable. The injured have no idea why they were attacked. Rumours are rife. The people are petrified; respected Hindus and Muslims of the area have condemned the shameful attack, Muslim religious leaders have appealed for peace and requested that there be no retaliation.

‘Sir, we are in great trouble’

‘Sir, we are in great trouble. We started from Faizabad and from there to here we had a lot of problems. We have come in fear and we are afraid here also. Please get us to Ahmedabad, we want to go to Ahmedabad," pleads Akbarbaig Sirajuddin Shah.
A witness to the harassment and bullying kar sevaks from Faizabad to Godhra, 18- year-old Shah was travelling on the Sabarmati Express train on the night of February 26 with his father-in-law, Fateh Mohammed and his wife. They are originally from Kadhra village in Basti zilla of Uttar Pradesh. All three of them live in Gulamnabi Sheth’s Chawl, which is in Shah Alam, Ahmedabad. They earn their living by making and selling brooms.
Akbarbaig related the story of his trip to Gandhi, a correspondent of Gujarat Today. He related the bullying ways of the kar sevaks, saying that from the time these people got in the train, they were brazenly bullying and shouting slogans against Muslims.
"They were hitting them, not paying for tea and snacks and hurling filthy abuses and raising obscene slogans. Every time the kar sevaks saw any Muslim on the train or on any station, they would force him to put a red tilak on his forehead and shout, ‘Jai Shree Ram!’
The injustice shown to a Muslim family has been narrated by this 18-year-old married lad, Akbarbaig. He stated that at night, while the train was moving, the kar sevaks tried to force a Muslim woman to say ‘Jai Shree Ram!’ The woman fearlessly refused and her husband also joined her in protesting against the acts of the kar sevaks. On this they mercilessly beat up the couple. Not only that, in the middle of the night they pulled the chain and pushed the family, including children, out of the train.
"In the darkness we could not find out which station or town it was and we did not even try to find out. The kar sevaks were wreaking such terror that we could only see our deaths before us.’ But one TT was kind enough to put the Muslim family in the last coach. This is only one incident — there were innumerable such incidents. While this family (mentioned above) was pushed out after stopping the train, one or two Muslims were pushed out of the moving train.
"Even at night, at every station, the kar sevaks would chant hymns to Ram and start dancing on the platform. But they behaved like Ravana, which would not only shame a true Hindu and hurt his feelings but also shame Lord Ram."
(Interviewed by Gujarat Today correspondent, Yunus Gandhi, in Godhra on March 7).

The fallout in Godhra

(In Godhra, among others, CC spoke to two women whose homes are situated just outside the Godhra railway station)
Khairunnisa
When I rushed out of my house on hearing the shouting and screaming, I could not make out what was happening. I saw stones coming from the train and stones being thrown back. Later, we heard that Muslims had set fire to the bogey. Still later, we heard that the kar sevaks had ordered chai, puri from the vendors and refused to pay. At that time there were only 5-10 Muslims on the platform.
We also heard later that the kar sevaks tried to pull a Muslim girl from Baroda, who was waiting to catch the 8 a.m. mail train, inside their compartment. It was then that Muslims came out in large numbers. But I want to ask you, what were the RPF and the station master doing?
Since then, our whole basti has had to suffer for the tragedy that took place on the train. Every night there is combing and our young men are threatened and arrested.
Sahiliya
When the shouting and stone throwing started, we women also came out. We were shocked at what we saw. About 20-30 kar sevaks in bhagwa dress were making obscene gestures at us. Some of them stripped and started showing their private parts while the police were standing and laughing. For 20-25 minutes this went on. What was the police doing at this time? I saw with my own eyes that the police were passing stones to the kar sevaks to throw on us. Their behaviour was one-sided.
It is now nearly 25 days (interviewed on March 23) since the train tragedy but the whole basti continues to be treated as if we are all criminals. Every night the police come, force open our cupboards, threaten us, and behave badly. We feel terrorised. "Ham Muslimon ki sunwai na pardes mein hai, na des mai." ("We Muslims have no justice, in India or abroad.")
For 12 hours every day our electric connection is put off. When we call up the Vidyut Board to complain, we are told, "Kya aap log light ke layak ho kya?" "Do you people deserve to be provided with electricity?") Our water supply has been reduced to one hour a day; it is clear that we are being harassed. The irony is that the sarkari godown for grains is located in our area. Government servants come here happily and there is no danger to them. Only we are being harassed. We know that Muslims won’t ever be employed in the Home Guards.

Godhra’s communal history

(Godhra has had a long history of inter-community tensions. But over the past 60 years or so, the conflicts have been quickly contained because of sensible and responsible governance. CC spoke to retired major general Eustace De’Souza of the Indian army who thrice during his military career was called upon to quell riots in Godhra and who succeeded in controlling the situation within hours each time. The first time was in 1948 when he was a captain with the Maratha regiment (Adjunct One). Excerpt from his conversation with CC:
"We had just returned after seven years from Italy and Japan. Our first peace station was at Ahmedabad, in 1948, when the tensions in Godhra first broke out. Two flying columns of the (Hindu) Marattha regiment were immediately sent out. We were given full powers and within hours we did our job to the joy of the locals. Why did this happen? Simply because the authorities could anticipate that the police may not/or could not control the tensions that had erupted and we were called in.
‘The next time was in 1953-55. Again, it was the Marattha Regiment, the Fourth Battalion located at Baroda. We were called out because the situation became tense and we did the same thing.
"And in 1985, when I was general of the 5th Battalion of the Marattha Regiment, we were summoned to Godhra and within hours peace reigned.
"Why were a few columns of the army not kept on alert, summoned back from the border where there are tensions and kept on standby and given full powers to intervene in a critical situation?
"I see a fiendish plan concocted at the beginning of 2002, knowing that all troops had been pulled to the border. The government did not keep even a few columns on alert that could have done the job effectively. It functioned on the assumption that even after violence was unleashed, it would take the columns of the army stationed at the border at least 72 hours before they could arrive. Even then they were not given full powers."
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Deconstructing Godhra

The alleged torching alive of 59 persons in coach number S-6 of the Sabarmati Express returning from
Faizabad (Ayodhya) to Ahmedabad at the Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002, became the sordid
justification for unleashing the post-Godhra carnage across Gujarat. The incident was first described by
the district collector, Jayanti Ravi, to be an accident. But from 7.30 p.m. onwards the same evening, Narendra Modi, the chief minister of the state, started portraying it as a conspiracy inspired by Pakistan’s ISI.

On the afternoon of February 27, in parliament, the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee described the incident as an accident. Weeks later, at the BJP’s national meet in Goa, he too fell in line, justifying the post-Godhra carnage with his famous "agar Godhra na hota to Gujarat na hota" (If Godhra had not happened Gujarat, too, would not have happened). The sangh parivar’s Goebbelian propaganda machine relayed this message of "Muslim aggression" and "Hindu retaliation" throughout the country and abroad. Riding high on the carnage, Modi called a snap poll and romped back to power in 2002.

The report of a three member fact-finding team from Delhi, brought out by Sahmat, New Delhi (March 18, 2002), CC’s special issue, "Gujarat – Genocide 2002" (March-April 2002), and most importantly, the report of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, Crime Against Humanity, authored by a panel headed by former judges of the supreme court, justices VR Krishna Iyer and PB Sawant (November 2002), were the first efforts at deconstructing the Godhra lie. The mainstream national media, which is often faulted for its failure to do a systematic follow-up on tragedies, kept a keen watch post-Godhra. Two reports in The Times of India, the first based on statements of policemen on the spot, the second on the findings of the Ahmedabad based Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), also confirmed the attempts to manipulate Godhra to political advantage.

Since 2002, two significant legal efforts have taken this exercise further. One is the voluminous evidence placed on record before the Nanavati-Shah Commission by advocate Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangharsh Manch (JSM). Building on the evidence available, the JSM has systematically deconstructed the Godhra lie. The other is the petition by Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP) in the Supreme Court, documenting the rank injustice meted out to the accused. CJP has filed a transfer petition urging that the Godhra trial also be reinvestigated by an independent agency and transferred out of Gujarat. The petition is supported by five families of Hindu victims of the coach burning. It was the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) that had originally recommended this action in its first report on Gujarat. Thereafter, it also filed a transfer petition in the apex court. Over five years after the carnage, 84 accused in the Godhra arson case remain in jail. Repeated pleas to at least grant bail to the accused have yet to be given a proper hearing by the highest court in the land.

On November 21, 2003 the Supreme Court stayed 14 trials in Gujarat, including the one related to the Godhra burning. This has not deterred the Gujarat police from continuing a politically motivated investigation into the incident. But no such further investigations have been made by the same police into the post-Godhra massacres, Naroda Gaon and Patiya, Gulberg Society, Ode and Sardarpura.

Here we bring to CC’s readers the deconstruction of the Godhra lie, relying on the sources of information mentioned above.


Background

In 1933, a young arsonist named Marinus van der Lubbe from Holland had been wandering around Berlin for a week, attempting to burn government buildings. The exact sequence of events will never be known but Nazi storm troopers, under Nazi leader, Hermann Göring’s direction, befriended the arsonist and helped him to burn the Reichstag (German parliament) that night.

The storm troopers, led by SA leader, Karl Ernst, used the underground tunnel that connected Göring’s residence with the cellar in the Reichstag. They entered the building, scattered gasoline and hurried back through the tunnel to safety. The Reichstag was set on fire on February 27, 1933.
Following the arrest of the Dutch arsonist, Adolf Hitler became enraged: "The German people have been soft too long. Every Communist official must be shot. All Communist deputies must be hanged this very night. All friends of the Communists must be locked up."
Leaving the scene of the fire, Hitler went straight to the office of his newspaper, the Völkischer Beobachter, to personally oversee news coverage of the fire. He stayed up all night with Goebbels to put together a paper full of tales of an alleged communist plot to violently seize power in Berlin. Over 4,000 communists were killed thereafter.
VHP’s ‘Chalo Ayodhya
It all began with the VHP’s mobilisation for a programme in Ayodhya, which they called ‘Purnahuti Maha Yagna’.
Three groups from Gujarat, consisting of about 2,000 Ram bhakts (devotees) each, were to go to Ayodhya forkar seva. The first group of about 2,200 Ram sevaks was to leave Ahmedabad on February 22, 2002.
They left for Ayodhya, as planned, on February 22 and began their return journey to Ahmedabad by the Sabarmati Express on February 25, 2002.
There is no clear evidence that any person in Gujarat (except, perhaps, members of the VHP) knew of the specific date on which kar sevaks would travel from Ayodhya to Gujarat i.e. on February 25. Central, state and local intelligence agencies have in fact deposed before the Nanavati-Shah Commission stating that they did not have any information about the kar sevaks’ travel plans.
CJP and CC have studied the detailed intelligence records submitted before the commission. While the State Intelligence Bureau (SIB), Gujarat, had sent several missives warning of communal mobilisation by kar sevaks, especially regarding their travel to Ayodhya from different locations in Gujarat, the absence of adequate reports from central or Uttar Pradesh intelligence departments regarding their return journey, and their belligerent and aggressive behaviour on the return journey, is significant. The only letter that arrived from central intelligence about the kar sevaks return was received by the Gujarat SIB a day after the Godhra tragedy i.e. on February 28, 2002. In the absence of specific information about the kar sevaks’ return journey, there could have been no conspiracy hatched by any person to burn coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27.
Chief minister sets the agenda
Yet on February 27, the chief minister made the following press statement which was widely publicised all over Gujarat: "The abominable event that has occurred in Godhra does not befit any civilised society...it is not a communal event but is a one-sided collective terrorist attack by one community…" He further said that this was not a simple incident of violence or a communal event but a "pre-planned incident".
Who could fit the "international terrorist" label?
They found a maulana – Maulana Umerji – and booked him a whole year after the incident had occurred. Who was this "terrorist"? An old, semi-invalid, respected Muslim leader from the Ghanchi Community in Godhra who ran a riot relief camp at the Iqbal Primary School from March 2002 until August 2002. The maulana was a senior and respected member of his community who had consistently galvanised resources for national tragedies, including the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, from Godhra’s citizenry.
Arrival of Sabarmati Express at Godhra
At 7.43 a.m. on February 27 the Sabarmati Express from Ayodhya arrived on platform No 1 at Godhra railway station. The train was nearly five hours late. In their statements – nearly identical in content – before the police and later, before the commission, Sheelaben Virpal, Punamkumari Tiwari, Satishkumar Ravidutt Mishra, Sadhwiji Minakshi Deviji, a kar sevak, and Savitaben Tribhovandas Sadhu, an activist of the VHP, stated that there had been a quarrel on the platform with some tea vendors.
There was also a reported incident involving the attempted abduction of a Muslim girl by kar sevaks. In statements dated February 28 and recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, Sophia Bano M. Shaikh, a minor, her mother and her sister all stated that some kar sevaks had tried to molest Sophia and pull her into the train. While the FSL report was filed along with the first charge sheet, the statements by Sophia Shaikh and her family were initially kept out it.
Sophia Shaikh also deposed before the commission where she stated: "The persons wearing saffron bands came down on the platform for tea and snacks. They took their tea and snacks and at that time one bearded person was there whom the persons wearing the saffron bands started beating for some reason. Seeing this, we got scared and we went away a little far. In the meantime one person wearing saffron band came and he covered my mouth and started dragging me towards the station.
"As I started shouting, he released me. As this incident happened, I went inside the platform, near the ticket counter. Along with me, my mother and sister also went inside. We people had become very scared because of which we postponed the idea of going to Vadodara and decided to go back to my auntie."
There are many similar evidences to establish that there was indeed a scuffle between some kar sevaks and the tea vendor on the platform of Godhra station, and that the kar sevaks had prevented a Muslim tea vendor from serving tea inside coach S-6 and even pushed him out of the train.
A railway guard, Pachuram Verma, has deposed before the commission stating that the chain was pulled soon after the train had left Godhra station and was only a short distance from it, and that the driver had informed him of this fact.
His statement says: "At 8.00 a.m., the train had started and at this time persons wearing saffron head and neck bands came running and boarded the train. I came to know that the chain pulling had happened because these kar sevaks had not been able to get up. I did not take any action since there was a big crowd of kar sevaks and I could not know who had specifically pulled the chain."
It is therefore quite clear that the chain was first pulled from within the train itself. Some of the kar sevaks who had got off the train were left behind on the platform when the train started at 7.48 a.m. In all probability, therefore, these were the kar sevaks involved in the scuffle with the tea vendor, because of which they did not notice that the train had started.
The conflict after the first chain pulling
After the chain was first pulled, the engine stopped just beyond the platform with coach S-6 coming to a halt near the parcel office. By this time, due to the altercation at the station and especially as news had spread that a Muslim girl had been abducted by kar sevaks, a crowd of local Muslims had gathered behind the parcel office.
Another eyewitness, a Railway Protection Force (RPF) constable named Mohan Jagdish Yadav has deposed before the commission: "We saw stone throwing between the train passengers and the outside people. Some passengers were shouting slogans of Jai Shri Ram. We told those passengers to go and sit in the train and raising our sticks we told the outsiders to go away and chased them away. The passengers who were shouting and throwing stones were passengers of two coaches. The people who were throwing stones from Signal Falia were doing so from behind the wall and some of them were trying to jump across the wall to enter the station."
The train then started moving but stopped again, coming to a halt near the ‘A’ cabin.
How did the train stop near the ‘A’ cabin?
Six months after the incident, the Gujarat government extracted two confessions, from Anwar Kalandar and another Muslim boy. They ‘confessed’ that they had stopped the train by boarding the running train and rotating the ‘alarm chain disc’ from outside.
Kalandar subsequently withdrew his confession, claiming it was extracted under torture. However, what is even more significant is the information that since 1995 the railways have modified the design of the alarm chain pulling system (ACP) to curb its misuse. (To escape a check, ticketless passengers jumped off/on the train by rotating the disc from outside to stop the train beyond platform limits.) This fact obviously escaped the Gujarat police’s attention while they were extracting a confession from Kalandar.
On an enquiry made of the railway authorities by the JSM during commission proceedings it was learnt that all 18 coaches of the Sabarmati Express possessed the modified alarm chain system. Therefore the train’s vacuum brakes could not have been activated by turning the alarm disc from outside. The ACP can only be operated from inside the coaches and corrected from outside.
From categorical statements made by both the guard and the assistant driver of the train it is clear that on that day they had corrected the ACPs in four coaches of the Sabarmati Express. Railway Guard Verma has deposed that he along with assistant driver, Mukesh Pachhori, had corrected the chain pulling of four coaches (Nos. 83101, 5343, 91263 and 88238) when the kar sevaks first pulled the chain. From this view of the matter, the ACP of a fifth coach (No. 90238), noticed by another railway official, Harimohan Mina, whose statement has been recorded, was not corrected.
To correct a chain pulling, railway employees have to physically rotate the alarm disc to reset the clappet valve. In this case, while the first chain pulling was done from five coaches, the ACP was only put right in four coaches thereby leaving one clappet valve uncorrected. This was the reason why the driver dragged the train up to the ‘A’ cabin but could not go further.
In his deposition, Rajendraprasad Misrilal Mina, the assistant stationmaster (ASM), an eyewitness, stated: "On February 27, 2002 I was on duty as assistant stationmaster at `A’ cabin of Godhra railway station from 12 at night to morning up to 8.00 a.m. Sabarmati Express train arrived at Godhra railway station at 7.43 a.m. Since the line was clear, departure signal was given at 7.45 a.m. The train started at 7.48 a.m. After some time the train stopped by blowing the whistle. I could see from the cabin that the train had stopped. At that time no crowd was seen between ‘A’ cabin and the train.
"When the train started again I looked at the clock in the cabin and the time was 7.55 a.m. When the train reached near the cabin I was standing near window of the cabin for showing ‘alright’ signal. When the train arrived at ‘A’ cabin, the engine was blowing the whistle indicating chain pulling. The period between the restarting of the train and its arrival at ‘A’ cabin would have been around five to six minutes. I did not see any crowd at that time. It was about 8 o’clock when the train had stopped.
"When the train was moving with slow speed I had seen a crowd running towards and along with the train. When I got down from the cabin, at that time some people from the crowd had come near the cabin. Few persons from the mob were throwing stones on the train...
"The mob did not arrive together but 10 to 15 persons were coming and gathering... There were women and children also in the mob. I did not see personally as to who set the fire and how."
What did the district superintendent of police, Raju Bishankumar Bhargav, see inside coach S-6?
Bhargav’s deposition before the commission is very important so as to comprehend the severity of the fire and the speed with which it spread. He said that he had reached the burning coach at about 8.30 a.m. i.e. barely 15-17 minutes after the fire began.
Bhargav said he saw people with blackened faces and with some burn injuries to the head, coming out of the coach. He saw 10 or 12 passengers coming out of the coach; they were coming out of the coach door on the Godhra town side. The injuries that he noticed were on the upper part of passengers’ bodies. He did not notice any injuries below the waist area.
Bhargav said that he did not see any flames rising in the part of the coach that he could see from the doorway. "I had seen only smoke in that area... I had not noticed any flames on the floor of the area between the two doors. I had also not smelt any inflammable fuel like petrol, kerosene, diesel, etc."
The Gujarat government’s version of the cause of the fire
It is in the second charge sheet filed on September 20, 2002, that (i) the burning from inside story evolves into a conspiracy carried out by a core group; (ii) the spontaneous collection of a mob on hearing that a girl was pulled into the train is alleged; (iii) Chain pulling is said to have been done by Anwar Kalandar who is not made an accused because it is tacitly accepted that he did this to protect the girl. The first charge sheet, which details the altercations between the kar sevaks and the vendors, has no mention of any conspiracy.
The fourth charge sheet added the terrorist conspiracy angle. Thereafter, up to the present 16th supplementary charge sheet, the police version has not changed qualitatively. The case made out in the second and third charge sheets was "refined" by adding a "conspiracy" story. According to the police, the conspiracy was hatched by Razak Kurkure, Salim Panwala, Haji Bilal and a few others in room No. 8 of the Aman Guest House (owned by Razak Kurkure) at around 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002.
The alleged conspiracy included the plan to set fire to the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. For that purpose, 140 litres of petrol was allegedly bought from Kalabhai’s petrol pump the previous night and kept in Kurkure’s house. It is alleged that at around 9.30-10 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Maulana Umerji had directed that coach S-6 should be set on fire.
The entire charge by the prosecution (Gujarat government) that coach S-6 was burnt down in pursuance of a pre-planned conspiracy rests on an FSL report which mentions that some residual hydrocarbons were found in samples collected from the site and that petrol was found in two carboys.
The reliability of the FSL report on samples collected from the site is highly doubtful. Hundreds of onlookers and visitors, including the chief minister and other ministers, had visited the site and also entered coach S-6 before the samples were collected. Suspect material could easily have been removed from inside the coach. Equally, what the FSL found inside the coach could well have been planted from outside.
The FSL report dated March 20, 2002 was accessible to the investigation officer (IO), KC Bawa, before he filed the first charge sheet on May 5, 2002. Yet the charge sheet made no specific allegation about the use of petrol in torching coach S-6. Bawa’s first charge sheet was quite vague: "At that time the accused armed with deadly weapons and highly inflammable fluids filled in cans and shouting slogans, ‘Pakistan Zindabad’, ‘HindustanMurdabad’, burnt down the coach S-6".
The big question is why did the IO refuse to specify the fluid that was allegedly used by the "conspirators"?
It appears therefore that initially the investigation began in right earnest. The two petrol pumps near Godhra station were sealed off by the police on February 27, 2002. The first petrol pump, on Vejalpur road, was owned by MH & A. Patel while the other was owned by Asgarali Qurban Hussein (Kalabhai).
On April 9, 2002, seven samples of petrol and diesel were collected from these petrol pumps andpanchnamas were made. These samples, four samples of diesel marked A, B, E and F, and three samples of petrol marked C, D (from Kalabhai’s pump) and H (from MH & A. Patel’s pump), were sent for forensic examination to find out whether the petrol or diesel from these pumps had been used to burn coach S-6.
In his report dated April 26, 2002, DB Talati, assistant director, FSL, said that samples A, B, E and F contained diesel while C, D and H contained petrol. He added however that he could not give a clear opinion on whether the petrol detected in some samples in and around coach S-6 as per the FSL report dated March 20, 2002 and the petrol detected in samples C, D and H came from the same source.
The fatal blow to the prosecution’s "petrol theory" was delivered by two employees of Kalabhai’s petrol pump, Prabhatsinh G. Patel and Ranjitsinh J. Patel. In their statements recorded on April 10, 2002, the two men flatly denied having sold any loose petrol to anybody, adding that they did not sell loose petrol from their pump. Thus the police had no source whence they could allege the accused had procured the petrol. Strangely, the police did not question any employees of the petrol pump owned by MH & A. Patel; they only questioned its owners.
The charge sheet filed by KC Bawa on May 22, 2002 therefore "created" evidence to establish that coach S-6 was burnt from outside using some inflammable liquid. Bawa "recorded" the statements of nine important eyewitnesses between February 27 and March 15, 2002, namely, Janaklal K. Dave, Rajeshbhai V. Darji, Nitinkumar Harprasad Pathak, Dilipbhai U. Dasariya, Muralidhar R. Mulchandani (reportedly, the current vice-president of Godhra Nagarpalika), Dipakbhai M. Soni, Harsukhlal T. Advani, Chandrashekhar N. Sonaiya and Manoj H. Advani.
All nine of these eyewitnesses, who declared themselves to be active members of the VHP, made identical statements to the effect that they had gone to Godhra station on the morning of February 27 to meet the kar sevaks who were returning from Ayodhya and offer them tea and breakfast.
They gave the following identical statements: "…the train was standing near ‘A’ cabin; at that time, men, women and children numbering around 900-1,000 persons from Signal Falia started running towards the stationary train while howling and shouting; because of this me and other local activists ran towards where the train was standing and reached ‘A’ cabin and saw that people from Signal Falia came running there with weapons like dhariya, sword, iron pipes and sticks. Others started heavily stoning the train. These people were shouting slogans like "Sale Hinduonko kaat daalo, Mandir banane jaate hai, kaat daalo" (Cut up the Hindus; cut up those who have gone to construct a temple), etc. Five-six persons with carboys in their hands were sprinkling the fluid on one coach and they set it on fire and we kept standing at the side of ‘A’ cabin.
"In this mob, I saw from the village of Godhra, R. Amin Hussein Hathila..." In their respective statements the nine eyewitnesses named around four Muslims each. The 36 Muslims thus named by these eyewitnesses were arrested for burning down the coach from outside. Those arrested included Haji Bilal and Mohammad Hussein Kalota (the then president of the Godhra Nagarpalika). Not one of these nine eyewitnesses, who claimed to be standing beside the ‘A’ cabin, said a word about Jabir Binyamin Behra and others arriving in a tempo with seven or eight carboys of petrol, climbing into coach S-6 by cutting through the vestibule and so on.
After making out a case that coach S-6 was burnt from outside, Bawa started discovering any number of carboys containing traces of kerosene from around the ‘A’ cabin. All this to build up the case that the fluid used to burn coach S-6 was kerosene. Between March 29 and April 5 three carboys were allegedly recovered from three of the accused, Haji Bilal, Abdul Majid Dhantiya and Kasim Biryani.
Since Bilal was considered to be the main conspirator at the time, along with Kalota, the kerosene theory was accepted. In his report dated April 26, 2002, DB Talati said he had found traces of kerosene in the three carboys that were sent to him for examination! The kerosene theory prevailed until the beginning of July 2002. From then on the new investigation officer, Noel Parmar, had more refined ideas and fuel in mind.
Even the prosecution’s star "eyewitness", Ajaykumar Kanubhai Bariya, who for the first time narrated the absurd story of the accused entering coach S-6 by cutting through the vestibule between coaches S-6 and S-7, did not allege that petrol was used to burn coach S-6 in his statement on July 9, 2002. This is what Bariya said, "…after some time I saw Rafique Bhatuk come with the carbo and give it to Irfan Bhopa and he told me, ‘Put this carbo in the rickshaw’. I kept that carbo in the rickshaw as I was very scared. The smell like kerosene was coming out from the carbo…"
Switch over
The primary motivation to introduce "petrol" as the ostensible fuel used by the alleged conspirators along with the theory that coach S-6 had been set alight from inside was the May 2002 report by Dr MS Dahiya, director of the FSL, Ahmedabad. Dahiya opined that coach S-6 could not have been burnt from outside. His report also said that it would take 60 litres of petrol poured inside the coach to burn the same. Dahiya’s report apparently did not reach Bawa in time for him to realise that his theory that the coach was burnt from outside using kerosene would contradict a report based on scientific analysis!
An enormous amount of material (370 kilos of burnt out remains) from inside coach S-6 was once again collected on May 1, 2002 and sent for forensic examination. The FSL report No. 2002/c/594 dated May 17, 2002 did not however find any trace of petrol in the residues from inside the coach. One yellow carboy showed some traces of petrol. But this carboy does not figure in the subsequent story.
The entire "petrol" theory hinges on Jabir Binyamin Behra’s "confession" dated February 5, 2003. According to this "confession", at about 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Razak Kurkure asked Behra to accompany him to fetch petrol from Kalabhai’s petrol pump. Behra and a few others, with seven 20-litre carboys, went there in a tempo. After the carboys were filled up, they were brought back and kept in Kurkure’s room located behind Aman Guest House. This petrol was then used to set fire to coach S-6 the next day.
Behra’s story is "corroborated" by the statements of two employees at Kalabhai’s petrol pump, Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel, who allegedly sold the petrol to Razak Kurkure. These were the same men who in April 2002 had already given a statement to the police categorically denying that any such sale of petrol had taken place. Further statements by both these men were recorded on February 23, March 11 and March 12, 2003.
In these statements, both of them alleged that at about 10 p.m. on February 26, 2002, Kurkure rode up on his M-80 (two-wheeler) alongside a popti (green) coloured tempo. After Salim Panwala had paid for 140 litres of petrol, Ranjitsinh filled up seven carboys with 140 litres of petrol.
The two Patels also stated that although they had given statements to the police earlier, on April 10, 2002, since the police had not asked them whether anybody had bought loose petrol from their pump on February 26, 2002, they had not disclosed these facts at the time. Since the police had only asked them about petrol being purchased by the accused on February 27, they had denied the same a year ago! This was why they were now disclosing the facts before the magistrate, a year later.
Shockingly, the April 10, 2002 statements by Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel were only produced with the supplementary charge sheet dated April 16, 2003. These were the statements that the two men had given the day after the police had collected petrol samples from Kalabhai’s petrol pump on April 9, 2002.
Prior to the charge sheet of April 16, 2003, the two statements recorded on April 10, 2002 were not produced before the court along with earlier charge sheets. In other words, they were suppressed for over a year.
Apart from Jabir Binyamin Behra and the two employees from Kalabhai’s petrol pump, another person, Salim Zarda, who had also allegedly accompanied Razak Kurkure to Kalabhai’s petrol pump on February 26, 2002, also ‘admitted’ that the tempo was carrying seven or eight black 20-litre carboys in the tempo and that these were filled up with petrol at Kalabhai’s pump, and so on. The very petrol pump which, in fact, the police had sealed off for a fairly long period of time after the train fire was suddenly brought in as the source of a core group plan a whole year later.
So one year after the incident, the kerosene theory was suddenly abandoned in favour of petrol as the inflammatory fuel used. But the problem lies precisely in this double switch over: from kerosene to petrol, and from the earlier claim that the coach was burnt from outside to the new theory that the coach was set fire to from inside. The contradictions are so glaring, they make the investigation a complete charade. Truth, of course, is the biggest victim.
It appears that when there was little evidence to support the prosecution’s case, a statement by Jabir Behra was recorded (which was also done in violation of the law) after which Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel were allegedly forcibly detained and their confessional statements recorded under confinement. Ahmed Kalota, the uncle of accused No. 42, Mohammad Hussein Kalota, submitted a written application to the additional sessions judge, Godhra, expressing his apprehensions about the "kidnapping" of Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel and their illegal confessions being recorded. At the time, the press and the electronic media had reported extensively on the matter.
Another significant point is that the carboys containing traces of petrol were not found near coach S-6 but some distance away. They were found at a distant location adjacent to a Muslim-owned garage that was burnt down by kar sevaks at around 11 a.m. on the same day (February 27, 2002) as a reaction to the burning of coach S-6.
Retractions
Jabir Binyamin Behra retracted his confession before the POTA court on July 28, 2003 and the retraction was recorded. He complained that the confession was extracted forcibly and that his relatives were threatened. He reiterated this before the Supreme Court as well. Behra also submitted an affidavit to the Nanavati-Shah Commission dated January 19, 2005, detailing the torture and coercion used to extract his confession. His confession should therefore be treated as wholly involuntary and cannot be relied upon.
Salim Zarda, too, submitted an application to the POTA court complaining about the torture and coercion used to extract his confession and retracted the same.
Similarly, Saukat Farouque Pataliya retracted his confessional statement before the POTA court, complaining that he was made to sign a blank confession sheet, that he had been lured and induced and that the police had even threatened to beat up his wife. Saukat Pataliya has also filed an affidavit before the commission.
Mohammad Sakir’s confession has not been produced before the court by the police, and apparently he too has retracted his statement. As for the statements made by persons who are not accused in the crime, such as Ajay Bariya, Prabhatsinh Patel or Ranjitsinh Patel, the commission cannot rely on such statements unless they are proved and the deponents are cross-examined in a rigorous manner before an appropriate forum.
As far as Anwar Kalandar is concerned, he has appeared before the commission to make a deposition. Although the police tried to prevent him from doing so, with the commission’s permission his affidavit was placed on record dated April 7, 2005.
Since the prosecution did not choose to cross-examine Kalandar it is presumed that the contents of his affidavit before the commission have been admitted by the prosecution. In his affidavit, Kalandar describes in detail the inhuman torture and the threats (of being killed in an encounter) that he was subjected to by the police in order to extract confessional statements from him. He has categorically denied the facts recorded in these statements.
Shockingly, Sikandar, a witness whose statement was produced as evidence by the police, is also listed as an absconding accused, right from the first charge sheet onwards.
The moot question now is whether the commission, which is merely a fact-finding and recommendatory body, will have the jurisdiction to decide whether the confessions and statements are voluntary or otherwise before they can be used or be considered reliable. As the matter stands, a competent court (trial court) has yet to decide on the issue and therefore the commission cannot, under law, rely upon these statements/confessions to arrive at any conclusions.
Whose conspiracy?
Modi had obviously decided on the motives and identity of those who had set coach S-6 on fire by the evening of February 27, 2002 itself. The investigators in the Godhra arson case are not investigating the case at all but doing everything they possibly can to prove the state’s chief executive right!
The conspiracy theory has been developed without the slightest application of mind. By using torture, coercion and the draconian provisions of the POTA law, absurd confessions have been extracted whereby a person ends up confessing to having done something that it was impossible to do. As pointed out earlier, it was impossible to stop the train by rotating the alarm disc from outside because of the modifications in design. Yet the investigators forced such a "confession" to support their claim that Salim Panwala had instigated Muslim hawkers to stop the train near the ‘A’ cabin as part of a "pre-planned conspiracy".
While extracting "confessions" from Anwar Kalandar and Iliyas Hussein Mulla, several other blunders were made. Kalandar is made to say that the first chain pulling was carried out to enable kar sevaks who were left behind on the platform to board the train. After the train restarted at 7.48 a.m. Salim came running up from the direction of the parcel office and urged Kalandar to stop the train because a Muslim girl was being abducted.
Kalandar also "confesses" that Iliyas Hussein Mulla and Hussein Suleman also came running up with Salim to the pani ni parab (water distribution outlet) where Kalandar was standing and due to Salim’s urging the three of them jumped onto three different compartments of the Sabarmati Express. Kalandar does not say that Salim had told him to stop the train at the ‘A’ cabin!
In his statement dated August 2, 2002, Iliyas Hussein Mulla states that he was selling his wares on coach S-9 of the Sabarmati Express when it first arrived at the station. He further stated that at that time, before the chain was first pulled, Salim Panwala was standing near the bookstall on platform No. 1. He states that it was Salim who told him to jump into the S-9 coach and pull the chain when the coach approached the parcel office (not at the ‘A’ cabin).
He adds that he did pull the chain when the train approached the parcel office and then ran out of the station, went to Signal Falia and waited near the Aman Guest House. He did not know where Saukat and Hussein got off the train.
Iliyas Mulla goes on to state that during the period when the train had stopped near the parcel office (i.e. between 7.48 a.m. and 7.55 a.m.), Razak Kurkure came and told him to once again go and pull the chain to stop the train near the ‘A’ cabin. Iliyas then came through a breach in the wall in front of Aman Guest House and jumped onto coach S-4 of the running train. This time around he only saw Salim from a distance. Thus Iliyas Hussein Mulla wholly contradicts Anwar Kalandar who said that Salim Panwala had told Anwar, Iliyas and Hussein together to stop the train.
Interestingly, Jabir Binyamin Behra states that while stone throwing was going on from behind the parcel office, he along with some others ran towards the Aman Guest House where he saw Razak Kurkure and Salim Panwala coming out though the back door of a room at the guest house!
He also said that he and some others had been told to bring the tempo carrying the carboys to a spot behind the ‘A’ cabin and as they were going towards the ‘A’ cabin he spotted Salim Panwala and Kurkure on a two-wheeler.
Thus whereas Kalandar and Iliyas Mulla say they saw Salim Panwala at the station even up to 7.55 a.m. i.e. until the train started after the chain pulling, Jabir places Salim inside the Aman Guest House during the stone throwing period and thereafter. The main executor of the conspiracy, Salim Panwala, appears to be omnipresent.
Iliyas, who boasts of his skills as an expert chain puller, states that on the second occasion he had jumped onto the footboard of coach S-4, towards the platform side. He then had to go through a tear in the canvas between the vestibule of coaches S-4 and S-5 to reach the northern side in order to reach and rotate the alarm disc, which, he claims, was located only on the northern side. This chain pulling expert seems unaware that there are two alarm discs on both sides at one end of every railway coach manufactured in India.
The most glaring omission in the prosecution’s tale is however its silence about what the conspirators’ original plan, was, had the train not been delayed by several hours. The VHP has alleged that if the train had arrived at the correct time, the plan was to set fire to the entire train at Chanchelav, a village about 12 to 14 km from Godhra (towards Dahod), around midnight. But the Sabarmati Express has no scheduled halt there. The VHP has so far not disclosed how in its view the conspirators planned to stop the train at midnight when its activists had not allowed anyone to even board the train from Lucknow onwards.
The fact is that if the kar sevaks had not pulled the chain to pick up their colleagues who had been left behind at Godhra station, the Sabarmati Express would have passed through Godhra without a hitch and saved the nation one of its greatest tragedies.
While the prosecution’s entire theory revolves around the allegation that several Muslims, including Jabir Binyamin Behra, had cut through the vestibule canvas of coach S-7 to get onto the train, there is absolutely no proof of such an absurd claim.
It is evident from their statements that the nine active members of the VHP who were standing next to the ‘A’ cabin right from the beginning did not see or make any allegations about anyone climbing onto coach S-7 and cutting through the vestibule canvas. The ASM, Rajendra Mina, who was in the ‘A’ cabin at the time, also does not make any such allegation. In fact, his deposition stated that he had not seen anyone climbing onto the train. If the slashed canvas was the most vital piece of evidence in their case, why didn’t the police collect and preserve it? Why was it allowed to be sold as scrap for a few meagre rupees?
How does the prosecution explain the statement it recorded from the parcel office clerk on March 1, 2002 to the effect that after the first chain pulling at the Godhra station passengers in the train were pelting stones at the people behind the parcel office?
Where are the black plastic 20-litre carboys that were supposedly filled with petrol and brought on a tempo to a spot behind the ‘A’ cabin and from which petrol was allegedly poured into the coach? The FSL has found three carboys containing traces of kerosene and three small carboys containing traces of petrol. Why didn’t the police find a single one of these 20-litre carboys? The FSL report clearly stated that the burnt residue of materials inside the coach did not contain any residue of a "plastic container".
How will the prosecution explain the fact that the two small plastic containers that were found to have petrol in them were found not near the coach but across the tracks near the Mallas Auto garage which was burnt down by passengers and kar sevaks on the Sabarmati Express around 11 a.m. on February 27, 2002? Two trucks outside the garage were burnt using petrol. From where did the passengers get the petrol?
Why did police inspector Barot from the police control room, Gandhinagar, inform the director general of police’s office at 9.35 a.m. on February 27, 2002 that kar sevaks had set fire to three coaches of the Sabarmati Express train at Godhra and that the number of injured was not yet known? Barot therefore asks the police to be vigilant.
The burning of coach S-6 – Evidence
This is a first-hand account by Hariprasad Joshi, a passenger allotted berth No. 43 on coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express: "...the smoke had reached the place where I was standing inside the coach and as I inhaled the smoke that reached there, I got suffocated and had fallen down on the floor but as the smoke was less in the lower side, my breathing was restored and I found relief… As there was a huge rush near berth No. 72 of the coach, to save my life, I travelled to the opposite side towards seat No. 1 by crawling on the floor and had reached to right hand side door. The behind of my jacket near the shoulder and jacket cap had got burnt due to flames of fire. I had burns on both the ears and on the face and I had jumped down off the coach from the door near seat No. 1.
"The moment I jumped out of the coach and fell on the ground my breathing was restored on getting the fresh air and it had then struck me that my wife was inside the coach. Therefore I had walked up to the side near the seat where myself and my wife were sitting near the window."
Flashover
"Marleau had become separated from his fellow firefighters when a room in an apartment building suddenly exploded into flames in what is commonly called a flashover or backdraught… Capt Marcel Marleau, 47, died battling a fire in a Montreal apartment building… when he was caught in a backdraught, or a sudden explosion of flames…" (Dene Moore, Maclean’s Magazine, January 26, 2006).
"A sudden and sustained transition of a growing compartment fire to a fully developed fire occurs when all of the combustible materials present reach their auto-ignition temperature. Flame-over or roll-over can be an indication that flashover is imminent. It is important to note that ventilation may initially cause the fire to burn more intensely and as a result more heat energy may be released into the compartment than can be lost through the ventilation opening.
"Flashover can occur when a developing compartment fire produces flames in the thermal layer near the ceiling. The flames in the thermal layer can roll or dance across the ceiling as the unburned products of combustion ignite and burn off more completely. Heat will increase and force firefighters to the floor. This lowering of the thermal layer is often accompanied by the sudden lowering of an existing layer of smoke."
Backdraught
"A ventilation induced ignition of the gases or combustible products accumulated in an under-ventilated compartment fire. With the introduction of ventilation, the accumulation of unburned particles suddenly ignites and can blast out of the opening used for ventilation.
Warning signs for backdraught
"Intact windows can show heavy smoke staining or glass crazing. There can be smoke issuing from the eaves or pulsing smoke movements in and out of cracks and openings. Upon opening a door or a window there may be a sudden inrush or draw of air that may create a ‘twister’ effect in the smoke. Blue flames may be visible in areas separate from the main fire and heavy smoke exiting a doorway or a window may roll back into tiny mushroom shapes."
(Excerpts from "Rapid Fire Progress" by Rob Aldcorn, February 22, 2006; http://www.firefloor.com/RapidFireProgress.htm.)
Conclusions by Jan Sangharsh Manch
The Gujarat government’s official version regarding the burning of coach S-6, developed through multiple charge sheets, does not inspire any confidence since it suffers from innumerable contradictions obvious from the record itself.
The official theory is as follows: At about 9 p.m. on February 26, 2002, in the Aman Guest House, Razak Kurkure, Salim Panwala and a few other Muslims from Signal Falia had conspired to burn down coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express. This was planned at the behest of Maulana Umerji. At about 10 p.m. that night, 140 litres of petrol was bought and hidden in Razak Kurkure’s house. After finding out that the train was running late, the burning of coach S-6 on February 27, 2002, at 8 a.m., was organised in two stages.
A mob of 1,000 was mobilised to stone the train. Under the cover provided by them, a few boys carrying 140 litres of petrol were sent into the coach by cutting through the vestibule canvas. Once inside, they poured out the petrol and set the coach on fire.
The above thesis suffers from the following obvious defects:
Ø Absolutely no indication as to what the original plan was if the train had arrived at the right time.
Ø Absolutely no evidence has been brought on record to show how the conspirators found out that kar sevakswere travelling by the Sabarmati Express that would reach Godhra on February 27, 2002. The police and the intelligence department have consistently claimed they had no such information! Besides, the train arrived way past its scheduled arrival time, four or five hours late.
Ø In the first three charge sheets prepared by two separate IOs, there are no allegations at all regarding the purchase of 140 litres of petrol from Kalabhai’s pump.
Ø On the contrary, in their statement before the police on April 10, 2002, the two employees at the petrol pump (Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel) had not mentioned any sale of large quantities of petrol on February 26, 2002. However, a year later, in March 2003, they were brought before a magistrate to make such allegations.
Ø There is evidence on record to show that it was kar sevaks who had pulled the chain and stopped the train at Godhra station, and not Muslims.
Ø The FSL has not found any petrol hydrocarbons among the 500 kilos or so of burnt materials found inside the coach. And no "black carboys" (in which 140 litres of petrol was ostensibly carried) were found anywhere near the compartment, either inside or outside.
Ø The FSL did not find any traces of any carboy (plastic) inside the coach. Where did the carboys in which the 140 litres of petrol was allegedly carried vanish?
Ø If 140 litres of petrol had actually been poured inside a coach and set on fire, this would have created a massive explosion, especially because of the confined space in which the ignition occurred.
Ø If such a fire had in fact occurred, would a single passenger have come out alive? Over 70 passengers of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express, with superficial injuries above the knee, survived the fire. Can such a pattern of burning of injured passengers be explained by fluid induced burning which would have a much greater impact?
Ø The burning of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002 was not the result of any pre-planned conspiracy by Muslims. It was not due to petrol or inflammable fluid that coach S-6 burnt down but due to the flash fire that followed the initial ignition. The luggage caught fire thereafter and burnt the coach at a slower rate.
Ø The commission should order a fresh investigation by a body of experts who have a special knowledge of fire in enclosed spaces.
Ø The investigation officer should be replaced immediately.

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A Plot For A Pogrom 

With a new probe ordered by the Supreme Court into 14 Gujarat riots cases, Tehelka puts forward evidence uncovered by a six-month-long sting operation last year that nailed the Gujarat Police’s lies. In the first part of a series, we point out the holes in the Gujarat government’s claim that a Muslim mob wilfully burnt the Sabarmati Express coach at Godhra
TEHELKA BUREAU
THE GODHRA train was indeed attacked by Muslims. I was the witness, I told the police what I saw. I stick to it. Not just the Special Investigation Team, even if the President of India comes to inquire, I will say what happened on the Sabarmati Express,” declares Kakul Pathak, a local BJP worker in Godhra, speaking to TEHELKA this week. This is the same Pathak who, in a TEHELKA sting operation published in November last year, had admitted that he never went to the Godhra railway station on the day the incident occurred. He confided that the police listed him as a witness without his knowledge, but he played along for Hindutva’s sake.
Kakul is not the only one, the sting has “witnesses” of the train fire on tapes and spycams saying how they were bribed and forced to parrot what the police told them to. The Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Supreme Court to re-investigate the Godhra incident and other high-profile cases of the ensuing anti-Muslim violence need not look far to find clues on where to startwww.tehelka.com has the culprits admitting to their crimes on camera. TEHELKA’s investigation has demolished every police theory by taping the truth behind the lies being thrown around and by exposing the glaring contradictions in the police claims on
the Godhra case. The tapes are in the public domain, so will the SIT look at them? Here are instances of what TEHELKA recorded and what the police claim as their
evidence:

FAKE WITNESSES 
Police version: The case rests chiefly on statements by nine BJP members, who claim to be eyewitnesses. Between them they have identified and accused 41 Godhra-based Muslims. Dileep Dasadiya, one of the nine BJP men, has since completely retracted his statement.
The truth : The nine BJP members, who the police claimed have identified 41 Muslims, were not even present at the station on the day. The TEHELKA undercover reporter caught two of them — Kakul Pathak and Murli Mulchandani — on camera, categorically admitting that they were not there that day, that the police had filed statements in their name without their knowledge, and that they had colluded to serve the cause of Hindutva.
FAKE PETROL SUPPLIERS
Police version: A year after the incident, the police produced two men — Ranjitsingh Patel and Prabhatsingh Patel — and said they had sold 140 litres of petrol to the accused on the eve of February 27, 2002, the date of the Godhra fire. Significantly, the two had initially said they had not sold any loose petrol to anybody on that day or the evening before. They now have 24-hour police protection.
The truth : The two men who are said to have sold the petrol used to burn the train coach were actually bribed by the chief investigating officer, Noel Parmar, to make this statement and falsely identify people. TEHELKA caught Ranjitsingh on camera admitting to this. The amount paid to each was Rs 50,000.

FAKE TRAIN STOPPERS
Police version: Two weeks after arresting Illias Hussain and Anwar Kalandar, the police produced them in court to say the two were the men who had got on the train and brought it to a halt at Godhra station’s Cabin A area. (Both have since retracted their statements through affidavits in the Supreme Court.)
The truth: Hussain and Kalandar were tortured in police custody by Noel Parmar and his team into making their statements. Illias told the TEHELKA reporter that while they were in custody, Parmar’s men would put a log on his leg and walk on it. Kalandar said the police put electric shocks on his genitals. A year after their statements to the police, the two returned from an enforced exile and retracted their statements through an affidavit in court.

DUBIOUS KEY WITNESS
Police version: Ajay Baria, a Hindu vendor, was produced in court a month and a half after the first chargesheet in the case, and he claimed that nine Muslim hawkers forcibly took him to Godhra station to haul petrol and set coach S- 6 of the Sabarmati Express on fire. Baria soon became the cornerstone of the police case.
The truth: Baria, whose statement stitched the police’s theory neatly into place, is no longer allowed to live in Godhra. He is shadowed by two policemen round the clock. When TEHELKA contacted his mother, as the reporter could not speak to Baria directly, she said that Baria had become a police witness out of fear.

FORCED CONFESSIONS
Police version: Jabir Binyamin Bahera, one of the accused, confessed he was part of the group of hawkers that poured the petrol along the floor of the S-6 coach. He also said two Muslim corporators — Bilal Haji and Farooq Bhana — had told him that coach S-6 was to be burnt because Maulvi Umarji had ordered so. The police also used confessions from six other Muslim hawkers who admitted to being part of the burning at the behest of Maulvi Umarji and the Muslim corporators.
The truth: Bahera and all the six Muslim hawkers have retracted their statements through affidavits in the court. Maulvi Umarji, whose alleged role in the conspiracy is crucial to uphold the police’s theory, was not present at the site during the incident. The allegations against him rest on two statements, one by Jabir Bin Bahera and the other by Sikandar Siddiq. Siddiq has already proved himself unreliable. He had named Maulvi Yakub Punjabi along with Umarji, and it turned out that Punjabi wasn’t even in India on the day of the incident.

BESIDES THE falsehoods that TEHELKA exposed, the SIT would want to look at how the police version of the incident changed with the facts contained in the reports of the Gujarat government’s own Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL). The reports have put a huge question mark on the police claim of how the fire broke out in the train to kill 59 people. The forensic report has effectively demolished the police contention on the cause of the fire. The police had claimed the mob on the platform was throwing petrol, kerosene, acid and petrol bulbs, and burning torches into the coach through broken windows and sprinkling inflammable liquid on the coach’s floor. The FSL report ruled this out completely.

In its next report, the FSL said that some 60 litres of inflammable material might have been poured onto the coach from inside. The police version, again, changed conveniently to suit the FSL’s new findings. The Gujarat Police began to claim that several people climbed on the coach, cut the rubber vestibule, poured 60 litres of petrol and set it on fire. In another significant finding, Additional Director of the FSL, DB Talati, in his report dated April 26, 2002, stated that he could not say whether the petrol traces in the 25 samples matched the petrol sample from Kalabhai’s petrol pump (from where the conspirators allegedly bought their petrol). Further, a huge sample —370 kg — taken from S-6 on May 1, 2002, yielded no trace of petrol. If the SIT can unravel the exact cause of the fire, it will be able to reveal whether the torching of the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was a terrorist conspiracy or an accident. Meanwhile, TEHELKA has the answers. 
From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 14, Dated April 12, 2008

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The Godhra Verdict: The Conspiracy Theory
By Ashish Khetan
27 February, 2011
Tehelka
If there was a “conspiracy” in Godhra, it was not by the Muslims. Ashish Khetan picks apart Judge Patel’s verdict and shows how a devious lie was constructed

The horrific burning of 59 Hindus in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on 27 February 2002 and the deadly Muslim pogrom that followed is one of the worst ruptures in recent Indian history. It is imperative, therefore, to understand the flawed nature of the verdict on the Godhra carnage that was handed out by Judge PR Patel on 22 February 2011.
This verdict has far-reaching implications. Over the past few days, the media has been reporting how the verdict upholds the idea that the carnage at Godhra was a premeditated conspiracy. But the facts are much more complicated. And darker. There was indeed a conspiracy: but of an entirely different kind. This is the story of how it played out.
On February 22, Judge PR Patel walked into a packed courtroom inside Sabarmati Jail in Ahmedabad. After nine years in jail, 63 people — two-thirds of the accused — had been acquitted, 31 had been deemed guilty.

Set aside for a moment the pathos of those wasted years in jail. Consider this instead. Of the acquitted, there are two men who were most crucial from the prosecution’s point of view: Maulvi Umarji and Mohammad Hussain Kalota. Both Umarji and Kalota had been charged as the masterminds of the carnage. Umarji was one of the most respected Muslim clerics in Godhra. Kalota was the chief political opponent of the BJP in the communally sensitive town and was president of the Godhra Municipal Council at the time of his arrest.
According to the prosecution, Umarji had instructed his co-accused to burn coach S-6 and it was at his behest that the entire conspiracy was hatched. Kalota, who did not figure in the core group of conspirators, was accused by the police of inciting the violent mob once it was assembled.
On the day of carnage, the Gujarat government had issued a press release calling the Godhra incident an act of “terror”.
Two days later, Modi had made an offensively sweeping statement. Instead of condemning those who had been part of the terrible arson, he generically accused the Muslims of Godhra of possessing “criminal tendencies”. In an interview to Zee TV, asked about the Muslims who had been massacred in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning, he added ‘Kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai. Hum chahte hain ki na kriya ho aur na pratikriya (This is a chain of action and reaction. We want both the action and reaction to stop)’ — justifying the post-Godhra pogrom as a sequel to the train carnage.
Modi had thus pronounced his verdict on the nature of the Godhra incident even before the investigation had begun. Accordingly, on 3 March 2002, the stringent anti-terror law POTAwas invoked and the Godhra case morphed into an act of terrorism. But since mob fury could not pass muster as terrorism without introducing the element of conspiracy, six days after POTA was invoked, on 9 March, the police invoked section 120(b) of the Indian Penal Code, which pertains to criminal conspiracy.
In the course of the next few weeks, in addition to Kalota and Umarji, six other respectable members of the Muslim community in Godhra were charged with terrorism. Four were corporators of the municipal council — Bilal Haji, Farooq Mohammad Bhana, Salim Shaikh and Abdul Rahman Dhantiya. Two were advocates — Rol Amin Hussain Hathila and Habib Karim Shaikh.
To establish the culpability of Muslims cutting across social and economic strata, the police also booked 134 Muslims of varying descriptions. Of these, only 94 were tried (17 went absconding, 13 were released for lack of evidence, 5 died during trial, 5 were juveniles and not tried). The trial was eventually conducted in a regular court, after a central review committee revoked the application of POTA from the case.
Of the eight influential political figures, the court has convicted just two — Bilal Haji and Abdul Rahman Dhantiya. At the time of writing, it’s not known what exactly the court has found them guilty of. The court will deliver its full judgment on February 25.
In truth, Maulvi Umarji and Kalota’s acquittal, combined with the large number of other acquittals, has knocked the bottom out of the prosecution’s argument that the conspiracy was hatched by the political and religious leaders of the Muslim community in Godhra.
In a significant and shaming move, the judge has also discarded the testimonies of nine BJP men, who had falsely accused 41 innocent Muslims, as being extremely unreliable. Among the 41 accused by them were Kalota, four Muslim corporators — Haji, Bhana, Shaikh and Dhantiya — and two advocates — Hathila and Karim Shaikh.
It’s important to recall that, in its 2007 sting investigation (The Truth about Gujarat 2002), TEHELKA had exposed that these nine BJP men who were cited as eyewitnesses were, in fact, not even present at the scene of crime. They had been asked to give false testimonies by the police to further the Modi government’s communal and political agenda, and they had gone along to “serve the cause of Hindutva”.
THE TRUTH ABOUT THE LIES OF GODHRA
The prosecution’s conspiracy theory against Godhra Muslims rested primarily on five sets of witnesses
1. Nine BJPmen who claimed to be eyewitnesses to the carnage
These men accused 41 Muslims who spent nine years in jail. A TEHELKA sting caught two of these BJP men admitting on camera they were actually at home that day and the police fabricated their statements. They went along to “serve the cause of Hindutva”. The judge has now discarded all nine testimonies
2. Ajay Baria, a Hindu vendor, forced into the plot; saw it all
Judge Patel has relied hugely on Baria’s account. But why would Muslim conspirators pick a Hindu man at the last minute to help load the petrol and burn the train? TEHELKA tried to track him but failed. His mother said he had been coerced into becoming a police witness and lived under constant police surveillance.
3. Two petrol pump attendants who claim they sold 140 litres of fuel to some Muslims on 26 Feb
Ranjitsinh and Pratapsinh Patel had first told the police that they had not sold any loose petrol that crucial night. In a shocking turnaround, six months later, they changed their version. However, TEHELKA caught Ranjitsinh admitting on camera that he and Pratap had been bribed Rs. 50,000 by police officer Noel Parmar to do that. He also tutored them to identify particular Muslims in court as being the buyers
4. Jabir Bahera, a petty criminal, who first named Maulvi Umarji as a mastermind
Bahera claimed it was Umarji who picked coach S-6 as the target, but also said Umarji was not at any conspiracy meetings. He later retracted everything
5. Sikandar Siddique, another petty criminal, said he had pulled the chain the second time
Siddique is an obvious unreliable witness. Besides Umarji, he had said Maulvi Punjabi had incited the mob. But Punjabi was not even in the country that day
Two of these — Murli Mulchandani and Kakul Pathak — were caught on camera telling the TEHELKA reporter that both of them were actually sleeping at home when the incident occurred. Shockingly, they said not only them but the other seven BJP ‘eyewitnesses’ had also not been present at Godhra station (see boxes on pages 36 and 40). Pathak also confessed that though all nine were from the BJP, the police had passed them off as VHP members to justify their presence at the railway station. (The call for the Ayodhya karseva had been given by the VHP). TEHELKA had also laid out in great detail the pre-existing political and business rivalries that had guided the testimonies of these nine BJP men.
These nine witnesses were a critical link in the prosecution’s theory. Forty-one Muslims had stayed behind bars for the last nine years as previous judges had denied bail based on these testimonies. By calling them unreliable now, Judge Patel has validated both TEHELKA’s findings and the assertions of the Muslim accused that the Gujarat police had manufactured evidence and tutored witnesses.
But more importantly, the discrediting of these nine BJP men is proof that there was a deliberate conspiracy by the Modi dispensation to implicate innocent Muslims.
Not only were they asked to put up false testimonies, the police then deliberately failed to produce their call data — something that could have easily nailed their exact location at the time of the incident. Kakul Pathak, in fact, had told this reporter that the police had drafted his testimony in advance. All he did was give his consent and sign.
Stop for a moment and let the full implication of all this sink in. Now combine it with Judge Patel’s own findings.
There were other crucial pieces in the prosecution’s case that the judge has discarded. For one, the police had claimed that 15 of the accused were arrested from the scene of crime immediately after the incident and made to squat near Cabin A, guarded by armed police personnel. According to them, a Muslim mob which included Kalota and a few other local Muslim leaders had then descended upon Cabin A and attacked the police personnel to free their arrested co-conspirators. The judge set this assertion aside as baseless.
He also told the public prosecutor that he did not believe the police claim that another 15 accused had been arrested during the course of the day on 27 February 2002. Instead, the judge said the evidence before the court established that they had been arrested during combing operations by the police on the night of 27-28 February. These conclusions by the judge, coupled with TEHELKA’s exhaustive 2007 sting, raise disturbing questions India can ill-ignore.
WHAT WAS the motive behind these nine false testimonies by BJP members? Were there instructions from the top? Why did the police write out pre-fabricated testimonies? Why were they passed off as eyewitnesses?
The Modi establishment is not the only official entity that has answers to give. The large number of acquittals by Judge Patel, including that of Umarji and Kalota, and the discredited BJP witnesses also cast a shadow on the credibility of the Supreme Court-constituted Special Investigation Team (SIT).
The SIT had been set up by the apex court on 26 March 2008. Nine major riot cases, including the Godhra train carnage, was handed over to it for re-investigation. Though the court picked retired CBI director RK Raghavan, a Tamil Nadu cadre officer, as chairman, the three crucial members of the probe team — IGs Ashish Bhatia, Geeta Johri and Shivanand Jha — were all from the Gujarat police. It was these three officers who were entrusted with the direct supervision of the investigations. The entire supporting team of policemen was also picked from the Gujarat police. But the most shocking appointment to the SITwas Noel Parmar, a deputy SP with the Gujarat police.
Parmar was the chief investigating officer of the Godhra carnage. It was he who had constructed the premeditated conspiracy theory which was supposedly under independent review by the SIT. When the SIT was formed, Parmar was serving his fourth post-retirement extension given by the Gujarat police. How could a probe officer be inducted into the SIT to review his own investigation, petitioners protested. Under pressure, the SIT reluctantly dropped him from the probe team. But, in another malicious move, it inducted Parmar’s aide Ramesh Patel instead. The logic? Patel was familiar with the case so his presence would help the investigators.
The idea behind the SIT was to have an independent review of the Gujarat police investigation by neutral officers. That purpose was defeated when the probe in effect was handed back to the Gujarat police, under the cloak of the SIT.
Raghavan visited Gujarat only for three days in a month. For all practical purposes, the investigation was carried out by the Gujarat police. In less than 10 months, IGP Jha claimed he had concluded his scrutiny of the Godhra carnage investigation carried out by the Gujarat state police. He claimed to have re-examined all the crucial police witnesses. But dismayingly, when Murli Mulchandani and Kakul Pathak were examined by the SIT, they were not quizzed about their damning confessions made before this TEHELKA reporter. Even the basic question of whether they were caught on camera by TEHELKA was not put before them.
Even more dismayingly, though this reporter’s statement was recorded by the SIT, his testimony — about Pathak and Mulchandani admitting on camera that they had fudged their statements — and the supporting sting footage were not produced before the court. When you consider the fact that both testimony and evidence produced by this same reporter has been cited as an important piece of evidence by the SIT in three other riot cases — Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society — the inconsistency becomes even more glaring. Why did the SIT not want to nail Pathak and Mulchandani? Why did Jha accept the sanctity of the Gujarat police investigation in toto?
In a report submitted to the Supreme Court on 11 February 2009, Raghavan said the SIT had “thoroughly reviewed” the Gujarat police investigation and found it to be “on correct lines”. He said IGP Shivanand Jha had re-examined all the key police witnesses. Satisfied, Raghavan said, the SIT had accepted the Gujarat police investigation and therefore not filed any additional chargesheet.
But now, with Judge Patel completely discarding the testimonies of the nine BJP members, the SIT’s claim that it thoroughly re-examined all important police witnesses stands exposed. Also the 63 acquittals stand testimony to the prejudiced and malicious nature of the investigation first done by the Gujarat CID and later validated by the SIT. Clearly, the SIT investigation has failed to stand scrutiny at the lowest level of the judiciary. The question is, was this mere incompetence or ill-intent?
AFTER THE initial years of outrage against the Godhra carnage and the bloody riots that followed, both the national media and opposition political parties have become less and less vigilant about unearthing the facts of what really happened or seeking accountability for it.
TEHELKA is often asked why it pursues the Gujarat story so aggressively. In the face of the stark and overwhelming evidence of foul play by the State, it is difficult to do otherwise.
For instance, the terrible miscarriages of justice just in this case alone don’t end with the nine BJP men and their perjuries. In a surprise move, despite all his own astute conclusions which contravenes the position, Judge Patel still upheld the police theory that the Godhra carnage was the result of a premeditated conspiracy.
The question is why? And how can he justify this?
Have a look at the malevolent case put up by the prosecution. The entire conspiracy theory spun by the prosecution was based on two primary claims: One, that on the night of 26 February 2002, two secret meetings were held at Aman Guest House near Godhra railway station. It was decided there that petrol should be bought and used the next morning to set coach S-6 of the passing Sabarmati train on fire.
According to the police, five Muslim vendors were present at the first meeting. At the second meeting, which happened after the buying of the petrol, two vendors and two Muslim corporators — Bilal Haji and Farooq Bhana — were present.
According to the police again, though Maulvi Umarji himself was not present at any of these meetings, it was he who had chosen coach S-6 as a target and it was at his behest that the meetings were held and 140 litres of petrol were bought from a nearby petrol pump called Kalabhai Petrol Pump. The police claimed that two attendants from Kalabhai Petrol Pump had told them that the accused had indeed bought 140 litres of petrol.
The police also claim that the next morning, taking advantage of an altercation between karsevaks on the train and Muslim vendors on the platform, the conspirators mobilised a violent Muslim mob and used the petrol bought the previous night to set the train on fire. According to the police, though Kalota was not part of the original conspiracy, he incited the rioters to burn the train once the mob had built up.
Bizarrely, the police also claim that the Muslim conspirators forced a Hindu tea vendor to help them burn the train. On 9 July 2002, five months after the actual incident, the police produced this new witness: Ajay Kanu Baria. Baria was unemployed at the time. He claimed that on the morning of 27 February 2002, just after the arrival of the Sabarmati Express, nine Muslim hawkers whom he knew since they all sold wares at Godhra station, forcibly took him to the house of Razzak Kurkur, the owner of Aman Guest House. Once there, the nine went inside Kurkur’s house and brought out carboys filled with ‘kerosene’ (he doesn’t specify the number of carboys and he specifically uses the word kerosene). One of the hawkers, he said, then forced him to load a carboy onto a rickshaw while the other hawkers loaded the rest.
This beggars belief. Why would alleged Muslim fundamentalists, gripped by hatred towards karsevaks, induct a Hindu tea vendor into their ‘plot’ at the last minute? Surely they would know that he would be the first to turn hostile? With an entire Muslim-dominated town to draw from, why would they risk involving a Hindu? If there were already nine hawkers to load the carboys, why did they need Baria to load just one?
Baria said the rickshaw was parrot-coloured but he could not see its registration number. Once the carboys were loaded, the hawkers forced him to go along. They drove up to Cabin A, where the train was standing. According to him, a few hawkers first tried to set coach S-2 on fire. When they failed, they cut the vestibule between coaches S-6 and S-7. Having done that, six hawkers went inside S-6 and poured ‘kerosene’ along the coach floor. Three others sprinkled kerosene through the windows into the coach. A vendor then threw a burning cloth inside.
Interestingly the police do not say that Baria was present in either of the conspiracy meetings or that his name was suggested by any of the conspirators as one who could provide help the next day. Yet, the introduction of Ajay Baria — ‘the Hindu tea vendor who saw everything’ — is integral to the prosecution’s case. In fact, apart from the nine lying BJP men, the police’s conspiracy theory, upheld by Judge Patel, primarily rests on five people: Baria, the two petrol pump attendants mentioned above, and two petty Muslim criminals, Jabir Yamin Bahera and Sikandar Siddique.
In its 2007 undercover investigation, TEHELKA had conclusively established that like the nine BJP men, the testimonies of these five ‘key’ police witnesses were completely bogus. But more on that later. First look at the inherently uneasy pieces in the story about these five men that everyone seems to be missing.
With Baria’s entry, the police propounded a new theory through a second chargesheet filed on 20 September 2002. These were some of its key propositions. And anomalies.
FIRST, THIS chargesheet claimed that the Muslim conspirators had cut open the rubber vestibule covering between coaches S-6 and S-7, then forcibly entered coach S-6 by sliding open the locked vestibule door. This theory about the cut vestibule and forced entry was first made in Ajay Baria’s statement to the police on 4 July 2002. By this time the forensic team had already examined the coach at least thrice on 1 May 2002; 3 May 2002 and 2 July 2002 and not found anything amiss with the vestibule. However, once Baria’s statement had been recorded before a magistrate on 9 July 2002, the police requisitioned the forensic team (FSL) again on 11 July 2002.
Strangely, on 11 July 2002, while re-examining the coach for the fourth time, the FSL concluded that the vestibule door had indeed been forcibly opened and, as a result, had got completely jammed into the toilet wall. ‘We have taken pictures of the sliding door (vestibule door) which shows it has got completely jammed in the north side toilet. That’s the reason we have not been able to take it out and examine it in the lab,’ the FSL reported.
It is important to note that all the windows and doors of coach S-6 were extricated by the FSL and taken for forensic examination in the lab. But when Judge Patel carried out a spot inspection on 30 May 2010, he found the vestibule door was not jammed as the FSL had claimed but instead stood in its original position. This clearly shows that either there was some post-facto tampering of evidence or the forensic team report was doctored.
Baria’s Section 164 CRPC statement itself suffers from many improbabilities. On his first appearance before the police on 4 July, Baria had given incomplete names of 17 accused with no addresses. A day later, on 5 July, when the police recorded his statement again, he miraculously gave full names with complete descriptions and addresses. But on 9 July, before the magistrate, Baria again forgot all the details he had so elaborately given only four days earlier. Clearly, the fumbling Baria was testifying under the influence of the police.
But this was not the only use Baria was put to. According to him, a Muslim man called Sikander Siddique was part of the group that burnt the train.
The story of Sikandar is even stranger than what has gone before and smacks of blatant engineering by the police. Once Sikandar was tracked down, he was made to give a statement before the magistrate. He duly endorsed the police case. In an interesting detail, the police claimed Sikandar had come from Surat to depose, but Sikandar told the judge he had been in Godhra the previous day. Clearly, either Sikandar or the police were lying. But that is a small detail compared to what happened afterwards. Once his statement had been secured, in an obvious quid pro quo arrangement, the police made Baria exonerate Sikandar through a test identification parade — an exercise unknown in law because it’s only the accused who are put through identification parades, not witnesses. At this parade, Baria claimed Sikandar was not the Sikandar he had first named and so the latter was let off.
Now, to stitch their improbable vestibule theory even more tightly, the police tracked down an accused named Jabir Bin Yamin Bahera on 22 January 2003. Produced before the magistrate on 4 February 2003, he parroted the entire police theory — the forced entry, the throwing of petrol — and claimed he was one of the accused who had entered through the vestibule. But he made one glaring mistake. He told the court that he had exited from the northern side — the same door through which karsevaks were exiting. None of the 150 survivors had seen Bahera or for that matter anybody entering the coach and pouring petrol inside.
Bahera later retracted his entire statement before the POTA court on 24 August 2003.
This brings one to the two final star witnesses: Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel, two salesmen employed at Kalabhai Petrol Pump at the time of the Godhra incident. On 10 April 2002, just a month after the incident, the two told the police that they had been at work from 6 pm on 26 February to 9 am on 27 February 2002, and had not sold any loose petrol during that period. But after Bahera’s statement before the magistrate, on 23 February 2003, the police approached the two salesmen again. In a shocking turnaround, both now claimed they had sold 140 litres of petrol to six Muslims, including Bahera, who had come in a parrotcoloured tempo to the pump.
It’s the improbable testimonies of these five — Baria, Bahera, Sikandar, Prabhatsinh and Ranjitsinh Patel — that the judge has relied on while upholding the conspiracy theory.
The nine BJP men were lying; the other five were coerced. That makes all 14 star witnesses suspect. If the SIT had acted in good faith and produced this TEHELKA reporter’s testimony and sting footage, this is what the judge would have known.
In 2007, this reporter had managed to track down pump attendant Ranjitsinh Patel. Caught on camera, in an incriminating admission, he had told TEHELKA he was bribed Rs. 50,000 by chief investigating officer Noel Parmar to change his testimony. He claimed his colleague Prabhatsinh Patel was bribed the same amount. This is why, in a sudden turnaround, they had both claimed to have sold petrol to the accused the night before the carnage. Ranjit also said the police had told him when the time came to identify the accused in court, they would tutor him secretly in advance so he could remember the faces of the accused and pin them in court.
This was a bombshell. Here was a star witness admitting he had been bribed by the police to lie. There should have been an uproar. Nothing happened.
EVEN TO a non-partisan eye, TEHELKA’s investigation should have added up to a clear indictment of the Modi establishment and its malevolent attempt to tar the Muslim community.
As if that were not enough, the proceedings of the court — available with TEHELKA — itself tells a big story. The defence had pointed many glaring inconsistencies in the testimonies recorded by the police. The prosecution and witnesses failed to provide convincing explanations for many of them.
The main questions raised by the defence were:
. There was no reason why the accused would specifically target coach S-6. There was no material to show Maulvi Umarji had any knowledge of who was travelling on this coach, or of having any enmity with them.
. The entire train was full of karsevaks drawn from VHP and Bajrang Dal. Why would Umarji and his co-conspirators target coach S-6 alone?
. There was nothing to show that on or before 26 February 2002, there was any friction between karsevaks and Godhra Muslims grave enough to provoke premeditated carnage.
. Nothing to show that any Godhra resident was even aware that karsevaks were travelling back on this train.
. Nothing to show the altercation between tea vendors and karsevaks on February 27 or the alleged molestation of a Muslim girl were ever an element of the conspiracy.
Still, curiously the judge upheld the conspiracy theory. From all credible evidence, the horrific events at Godhra seem the result of a criminal but spontaneous mob upsurge. Whoever was in that mob definitely deserves harsh punishment. But to call it a premeditated conspiracy is to blight Godhra Muslims with a canard that is perhaps not deserved.
Given the persistent desire to turn away from the truth, therefore, it is necessary to revisit the events on 27 February 2002, the suspect police investigation that followed and the untenable case that emerged, in greater detail. This might help readers draw their own conclusions.
The Arrival: Sabarmati Express Enters Godhra Station
7:43 am. 27 February 2002. The Sabarmati Express, carrying karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, arrives at platform No. 1 The train is five hours late. Scheduled arrival was 2:55 am.
First Provocation: Karsevaks Clash with Muslim Vendors
During the trial, several eyewitnesses told the court that there was a fight between karsevaks and Muslim tea vendors on the platform. Veer Chedi Pal, a survivor of the coach S- 6 inferno, told the court: ‘A few karsevaks beat up a Muslim vendor who had entered the coach to sell tea. Then they threw him out of the compartment.’
Another survivor Govindsinh Ratnasinh Panda, 54, an army man travelling from Lucknow to Ahmedabad, told the court: ‘I had a reservation for berth 9 in coach S-6, but a Bajrang Dal activist asked me to shift to berth 3. There were about 250 people in the coach. Most passengers were sitting unreserved and were members of the Bajrang Dal. At every station, they would get down and shout Jai Shri Ram. On 27 February 2002, between 7:30 am and 7:45 am, when the train reached Godhra, the karsevaks got down and raised slogans. I got up. Ten or 12 people from my coach had alighted. I felt Bajrang Dal members had also alighted from other coaches and were shouting slogans. There was loud noise on the platform. After three or four minutes, a few passengers came running inside the coach, closed the door and said a quarrel had taken place on the platform and stones were being pelted. They told everybody to shut the windows and doors.’
Second Provocation: Karsevaks Try to Abduct a Muslim Girl from the Platform
There was more than a tea-stall wrangle on the platform. Some karsevaks had allegedly tried to abduct a Muslim girl. Sophia Bano Shaikh, around 18, accompanied by mother and sister, was visiting relatives in Godhra and had come to the station to board a train for her hometown Vadodara.
Sophia testified before the court that she and her family were standing on platform No. 1 when the Sabarmati pulled in. Some men with saffron strips on their head got off for tea and snacks. They were shouting Jai Shri Ram. Some of them were beating a Muslim man with a stick and shouting “Kill Musalmans”. Frightened, Sophia and her family started moving away when one of the men grabbed her from behind, clamped her mouth and tried dragging her away. Her mother shouted loudly for help; the man let go. Sophia says she and her family stood in the booking clerk’s office for a while then gave up the idea of going to Vadodara, took a rickshaw and went back to her aunt’s house. According to Sophia, the karsevaks also tried to abduct another burqa-clad woman on the platform. However, the police have failed to identify the woman or record her statement till date.
Though the police recorded Sophia and her family’s statement on 28 March 2002 — a month after the Godhra incident — they neither mentioned the episode in the official narration of events nor included Sophia’s statement in the first chargesheet filed on 22 May 2002. These statements were only made part of the first supplementary chargesheet filed six months later.
It was this aborted abduction of Sophia that aggravated the situation. A rumour went through the station that karsevaks had abducted many Muslim girls. A mob gathered. Though Sophia had taken refuge in the booking clerk’s office, the rumour spread that the karsevaks had successfully abducted her and other girls in coach S-6. During the trial, Purshotbhai Govardhanbhai Patel, a coach S-6 karsevak, told the court that the mob had been shouting slogans for the women to be released from the coach.
The First Halt: Chain Is Pulled; Sabarmati Stops
After the altercation, both Muslims and karsevaks started pelting stones at each other on the platform. Many passengers have corroborated this in their testimonies during the trial. The railway police personnel, some tea vendors and a railway officer stationed at the parcel office on that day also testified to this. After a scheduled stop of five minutes, the Sabarmati Express started its onward journey at 7.47 am.
According to the train driver Rajendrarao Raghunathrao Jadhav, he got the signal to leave at about 7:45 am. “The train had just started moving,” Jadhav told the court, “when the chain was pulled at about 7:47 am. The train stopped. My assistant driver and guard found that the chain had been pulled from four coaches. We informed the station master.”
Plausibly, eyewitness accounts suggest it was the karsevaks who pulled the chain as some of their colleagues had got left behind. But the police say two Muslim vendors — Illyas Mullah and Anwar Kalandar — had pulled the chain from outside. Interestingly, the police do not claim that they were part of the Aman Guesthouse meetings or part of the conspiracy in any way. Then why would they pull the chain? The prosecution failed to answer this basic question. Importantly, both vendors retracted their statements before the trial began.
On the contrary, train guard Satyanarayan Verma told the court that many passengers were left behind at the station. When the train started pulling out, he saw many passengers running to catch it.
In this chaos, the chain-pulling was set right and the train began to move again. The time was now 7:55 am.
The Fateful Halt: Chain is Pulled Again, Sabarmati Halts Near Cabin A
At 8 am, after the train had moved a short distance, it again came to a halt near Cabin A. The time is recorded by Assistant Station Master (ASM) Rajindersingh Meena, manning the cabin.
It’s this second halting that is the most contentious fact in the chain of events leading to the carnage. The police claim the two Muslim vendors had pulled the chain with an intention to burn the train. But the evidence that emerged during the trial suggested this second halt was caused by the bursting of hose pipes, not chain-pulling.
Assistant train driver Mukesh Pachauri told the court that the heavy stone-pelting and ensuing carnage didn’t allow him to investigate the reason for the drop in vacuum pressure which had resulted in the second halt. But driver Jadhav told the court that he was informed by the lobby assistant in the Carriage Department at the Godhra Station that two hose pipes had burst and were replaced by him before the train finally left for Ahmedabad.
Ground Zero: The Fury of the Mob Intensifies
Before the assistant driver could find out why the train had halted a second time, the mob combusted. It had chased the train to Cabin A. Driver Jadhav says he saw a 1,000-strong mob pelting stones but he couldn’t see much more because he was separated from Cabin A by 8-10 coaches.
The heavy stone-pelting had begun to break the window panes. Survivors told the court that at this stage the passengers had downed all the iron shutters and locked the doors to save themselves.
The police had not yet reached. The two officials closest to Ground Zero were ASMMeena and his colleague AK Sharma, both manning Cabin A.
Meena told the court that about 10 coaches had already passed beyond Cabin A when the driver blew the chainpulling whistle. He got down from his cabin to set the chain right. That’s when he saw a mob of about 200-500 people running towards the train from the back. They were pelting stones.
When TEHELKA’s stung Meena in 2007, he had said that when he came down and asked the mob why they were chasing the train, a few of them had replied that one of their people had been abducted by the karsevaks on the train. Meena also said he heard some of them suggesting the coach be set on fire to drive people out of it so they could find the missing person. But he saw no sharp weapons or inflammable material with the mob.
Tinderbox: The Packed S-6 Coach was a Death Trap
By all accounts, coach S-6 was bursting at its seams. It was carrying over 200 passengers, at least three times its normal capacity. Its doors and windows were shut. Further, to stop the mob from forcing its way into the compartment, the passengers had blocked the doors with their luggage.
Outside, unable to dissuade the mob, the frightened Meena ran back to his cabin. His colleague Sharma had already informed their seniors about the situation.
Inside coach S-6, no one could quite make out what was happening as all the windows and doors were shut. This was more or less the case in every coach. During the trial, testimonies of passengers in other coaches established that the mob had pelted stones on the coaches S-2, S-5, S-4 and S-7 as well. Burning rags were also thrown at coaches S-4 and S-2. A witness testified that a burning rag had landed in coach S-4 which the passengers promptly threw out.
Smoke And Fire: Eyewitness Accounts By S-6 Passengers
Meena told the court that he first spotted smoke rising from coach S-6 at about 8:30 am. Passengers inside S-6 also first saw the smoke, then the fire. Many survivors told the court that after they spotted smoke in S-6, they opened the door on the northern side and started vacating the coach.
Manufacturing Truth: The Nine BJP Men
As mentioned earlier, the police claimed it had arrested 15 people from the spot and another 15 during the course of the day and the following night. Within a fortnight, over 40 people were arrested. (The court has now discredited this theory about spot arrests).
Apart from police and the fire brigade, the first independent witnesses to come forward and identify people from the mob were the nine BJP men whom both the judge and TEHELKA’s investigation has discredited. Between them they identified 41 Godhra Muslims. All nine claimed they had gone to the station to serve refreshments to the karsevaks. They claimed they saw everything — the assembling of the mob, the sharp-edged weapons and inflammable material they were carrying, and the actual starting of the fire. In nine identical statements they said, ‘Five to six people who had plastic containers of liquid in their hands had sprinkled the liquid from the said containers upon one compartment and set it ablaze. We all stayed under the cover of Cabin A.’
Fascinatingly, the only variation in the nine statements is the names of the culprits. Each BJP man identified different people from the mob. Interestingly, if they were indeed eyewitnesses, none of them talked of the accused as cutting the vestibule covering or forcibly entering the coach. How could they? First, they were not at Cabin A. Secondly, the police only came up with that theory much later.
Simmering Rivalries: Godhra’s Political Context
The testimonies of these nine BJP men have a complex political backdrop. Godhra is divided into 12 wards, each with three corporator seats. In the December 1999 municipal council elections, the BJPwon 11 seats, independent Muslim candidates 16, the Congress five, and four seats were bagged by pro-BJP independents.
Murli Mulchandani, one of the nine BJP men, had been the president of the municipal council. In 1999, he had contested but lost. To form the House in the council, a party needs 19 seats. The BJP had formed the House, supported by five Congress and three Muslim corporators. Raju Darji, a BJP corporator (who claims to be a witness to the fire) was elected president. Deepak Soni, another BJP corporator (also one of the nine witnesses), was appointed president of the education board formed under the council.
But a year after the elections, 24 corporators — 16 Muslim, five Congress and three Hindu independents — joined ranks against the BJP and moved a no-confidence motion. The BJP lost the House. These 24 now elected Kalota as president of the municipal council. During a no-confidence motion debate, Muslim corporator Bilal Haji had beaten up BJP corporator Raju Darji, and a criminal complaint had been lodged against him. In 2002, after the Sabarmati Express carnage, Raju Darji, Deepak Soni and Murli Mulchandani, along with six other BJP members, claimed they saw Kalota, Bilal Haji and three other Muslim corporators ‘attack the train’.
Ludicrously, these nine BJP men claimed they could identify the 41 Muslims they had named — including sundry pickpockets and truck drivers — because they were all Godhra residents. However, when cross-examined, they admitted to their pre-existing enmity with Kalota and others.
Science And Fiction: The Forensic Report
As the police were still banking on the theory that petrol or kerosene was sprinkled on the train from outside, as the nine BJP men had claimed, a FSL report came on 17 May 2002. Importantly, it drew the following conclusions:
>> Many marks caused by stones were observed on the southern outer side of the burnt coach S-6. The windows on the southern side were primarily broken by high intensity stone-pelting, while the ones on the northern side were broken due to the heat of the fire.
>> There was no sign of corrosive fluid in the fire.
>> The coach windows were closed at the time of the fire.
>> At the place where the train stopped, the windows of coach S-6 were 7 ft above the ground. So, it was not possible to throw inflammable fluid into the coach from a bucket or carboy. If this had happened, a major part of the fluid would have fallen back around the track outside. This would’ve caught fire too and damaged the outer, bottom part of the coach. The coach and tracks showed no such signs.
In effect, the state’s own forensic report ruled out the claims made by the nine BJP members and several karsevaks that inflammable liquid had been thrown from outside.
In a curious twist, the forensic team then decided to carry out an experiment with a bucket of water. And what conclusion does the report draw from this experiment?
In a dazzling leap of un-deductive logic, the report claims, ‘On the basis of the above experimental demonstration, a conclusion can be drawn that 60 litres of inflammable liquid was poured towards the western side of the coach by using a widemouthed container and by standing on the passage between the northern door of the eastern side of coach S-6 and the compartment… The coach was set on fire immediately thereafter.’
First Chargesheet: A Loose Conspiracy Theory is Hatched
In the first chargesheet filed on 22 May 2002, the police briefly mentioned the scuffle between the karsevaks and the platform vendors. However, no reference was made to the abduction attempt on Sophia Bano.
Instead, the chargesheet set up a conspiracy theory. It said, ‘The train reached Cabin A at about 8:05 am. At that time, in order to fulfill their intentional and illegal conspiracy (our emphasis), the accused persons pulled the chain of coach S-6, changed the disc of the train and got the train stopped.’ The police then claim that the accused, with a mob, set coach S-6 on fire by using ‘petrol-like inflammable liquids’ (sic).
But this theory left basic questions unanswered. Who were the main conspirators? When was the conspiracy hatched? What was the motive? Since the train was scheduled to arrive at 2:55 am, was the conspiracy hatched days in advance or only after they came to know the train was late?
The police had no evidence to prove the accused had pulled the chain. Or where the inflammable liquid had come from. The only conspirators the police had named till then was the mob and the 54 Godhra Muslims already arrested
In this first chargesheet, the only ‘evidence’ were statements from police, fire personnel, the nine BJP men, some karsevaks and the forensic report. The trouble is all of this contradicted itself. Further, the police’s claim that a few railway policemen had witnessed the arson was highly suspect as no survivor had mentioned police presence at that time.
Given this dogged obfuscation of the truth, perhaps it is necessary to revisit the events of February 27, the subsequent police investigation and the untenable case it built.
Noel Parmar, a New Investigating Officer, Takes Over
On 27 May 2002 — five days after the first chargesheet — a new investigating officer was appointed: Noel Parmar, ACP, Vadodara city control room, took over from KC Bawa, Western Railways Deputy Superintendent of Police.
Parmar was far from neutral: he was highly communal. These are snatches of what he told TEHELKA’s hidden camera in 2007. ‘During Partition, many Muslims of Godhra migrated to Pakistan… In fact, there is an area called Godhra Colony in Karachi… Every family in Godhra has a relative in Karachi… They are fundamentalists… This area, Signal Falia, was completely Hindu but gradually Muslims took over… In 1989 also there were riots… Eight Hindus were burnt alive… They all eat cow meat since it comes cheap… No family has less than ten children…’
Little wonder then that far from doing a fair job, Parmar bribed the pump attendants to change their testimonies.
The Hindu Hand: Ajay Baria
The first chargesheet was a mesh of conflicting claims. To bring method to the madness, on 9 July 2002, five months after the incident, the police produced their new star witness: Ajay Kanu Baria, the Hindu tea vendor who saw it all.
Baria’s ludicrous claims have already been detailed above. But he was the convenient tool through which the police tried to pull all its loose threads together. Dauntingly, it is on his testimony that Judge Patel has most relied.
During its investigation, TEHELKA tried to reach Baria, but failed. Kakul Pathak, one of the BJP men, told TEHELKA that Baria lived under close supervision of Parmar. Pathak said the last he had heard of him, Baria was selling tea near Parmar’s office in Vadodara. TEHELKA then decided to meet his mother who was a daily wage labourer in Godhra. Baria’s mother said her son had become a police witness out of fear. She said he was not an eyewitness, he was at home and fast asleep at the time of the incident. She also said Baria now lived under the constant vigil of the police. He could not visit her often and was always accompanied by two policemen.
The Chain-Pullers: Two Muslim Vendors Are Tortured and Tutored into Making a Statement
With Baria’s statement, several pieces fell into place for the police. They had found a witness to claim that ‘kerosene’ was brought to the spot, to explain how the accused gained entry, and how the ‘kerosene’ was poured into the coach and set on fire. But one hitch remained. The police still had to prove that it was the conspirators who had stopped the train near Cabin A. Surely they couldn’t have relied on Hindu karsevaks to stop the train exactly where they wanted so that Godhra Muslims could burn it.
To get around this, the police came up with two more witnesses — both Muslim — who now confessed it was they who had pulled the chain that brought the train to a halt near Cabin A. The statements of these witnesses — Illias Mullah Hussain and Anwar Sattar Kalandar, part-time hawkers and part-time truck drivers — were recorded on 9 July and 26 July 2002. Both said they were present at the station when the karsevaks beat up the tea vendors. After this fight, they said they were told by Salim Paanwala (a paan-seller at the station who has been absconding since the incident) and Razzak Kurkur that the karsevaks had abducted a Muslim girl from the platform and they had to stop the train. So, both along with another vendor called Hussain Suleman Gijju (who, according to the police, is still absconding) scaled different coaches, turned the discs and stopped the train. Both also named all the accused whom Baria had named in his statement. Both said they had seen the parrot-coloured rickshaw parked near the coach. However, they went a step ahead of Baria and provided the rickshaw’s registration number and its owner’s name. Both also claimed to have seen the nine vendors, who Baria alleged had set S-6 on fire, near the coach carrying carboys and later running toward Signal Falia. At this point, they said, they also heard the nine hawkers saying, ‘The train is properly set on fire from inside.’
After two weeks of confinement, the duo were produced in court and their statements recorded. Parmar then told them to leave Godhra and not keep contact with local Muslims. After about a year and a half, Hussain and Kalandar returned to Godhra and retracted their statements in affidavits filed before the Supreme Court.
In an interview with TEHELKA in 2007, the two narrated how they were illegally confined and tortured by Parmar and his team. “Every night, the cops would come and put a log of wood on my legs and then walk over it,” said Hussain. “I was given electric shocks on my genitals,” said Kalandar. They were made to memorise a statement handed to them by the police. “The cops would come and ask us how much we had memorised from the hand-written notes we were given,” both said.
The Plug in the Hole: Jabir Bin Yamin Bahera is Arrested. He Names Maulvi Umarji as the Mastermind
On 22 January 2003, the police arrested Jabir Bin Yamin Bahera, a hawker at Godhra railway station who had been absconding. Thirteen days after his arrest, the police produced him in court and had his confession recorded. This is what Bahera claimed.
On 26 February 2002, the eve of the Godhra incident, he was sitting at a tea stall when three hawkers, including Salim Paanwala, came up to him and said that Razzak Kurkur wanted to see him. When he reached Kurkur’s house, Kurkur instructed him to buy petrol. Along with a few other Muslim hawkers, Bahera then went to Kalabhai Pump and bought 140 litres of petrol in seven carboys, each holding 20 litres. This was stored at Kurkur’s house, located behind his shopcum- guesthouse at Signal Falia.
After that, at about 11:30 pm, Bahera says he was standing at Kurkur’s shop when two people — Bilal Haji and Farukh Bhana, both Godhra corporators — arrived. The corporators told him they had just met ‘Maulvi Sahab’ who had conveyed the message that the Sabarmati Express was coming and they were to burn coach S-6. After that, Salim Paanwala went to the station to enquire if the train was running late. When he came back with the information that the train was late by four hours, Bahera and the other hawkers went home and gathered again near Kurkur’s Aman Guesthouse at 6 am on 27 February 2002.
According to Bahera’s confession, after watching television for a while, he came out of the guesthouse at around 7:15 am, and saw a hawker named Mahboob Latika running from the direction of the station shouting, ‘Beating… beating.’ Bahera went near the Parcel Office and saw five other Muslim hawkers pelting stones at the train. After that, Baria, along with the nine Muslim hawkers, went to Kurkur’s house and loaded the petrol-filled carboys into a tempo. Kurkur then told them to take the tempo near Cabin A. Kurkur and Paanwala followed on an M-80 scooter, with Paanwala driving and Kurkur riding pillion, carrying a carboy. On reaching Cabin A, they first approached coach S-2. There, Bahera says, he saw a few hawkers armed with sticks, pipes and dhariyas trying to break down the train’s doors and windows. From coach S-2, they proceeded to S-6, where the hawkers had cut the vestibule with a pair of scissors. Bahera says he and a few other vendors then entered S-6 with five carboys and poured petrol along the floor of the coach. When the passengers started running helter-skelter, Bahera and a few others stole a gold ring from a passenger who had jumped out of the coach. He and his accomplices then ambushed an armyman and hit him with a rod. Later, one of them escorted the armyman to the road. Through all this, the mob had continued to pelt stones at the train. A stray stone came and hit Bahera on the forehead. He rushed to a clinic for first aid. The next day, he says, he came to know that after he had left the spot, a hawker named Hasan Lalu threw a burning mashaal inside the coach, which then caught fire.
According to Bahera, he visited Maulvi Hussain Umarji during the next few days. On his first visit, Umarji told him he was paying Rs. 1,500 to all those who had been arrested; he did not pay Bahera though. On his second visit, Umarji told him to escape. Having done so, Bahera says he sold the ring he had robbed a few months later to a jeweller in Anand for Rs. 2,000.
In August 2003, Bahera retracted his statement. But since he had also given the statement before a magistrate, the court has not factored in his retraction. The suspicious circumstances under which Bahera’s statement was recorded have already been detailed at the start.
Stitched Up: Conspiracy and Conspirators
Armed with Bahera’s confession, the police now claimed to know the main conspirators (Maulvi Umarji, Bilal Haji, Farukh Bhana, Razzak Kurkur and Salim Paanwala); where the conspirators had gathered on the eve of the incident (at Kurkur’s shop); where the petrol had been bought from (Kalabhai Pump); and where it was stored (at Kurkur’s house, behind his shop). But most importantly, the police had now linked the conspiracy to Godhra’s most significant Muslim religious figure — Maulvi Umarji.
With Kalota and others Muslim corporators in jail, Godhra’s Muslim political leadership was already in the dock. With Umarji named a prime conspirator, the entire Muslim community of Godhra was indicted. The police were now in a position to claim that the Sabarmati Express incident was not an act of spontaneous rioting but a cold-blooded, premeditated act of communal violence, with respectable Muslims from Godhra at the centre of the conspiracy
Fresh Fuel: Fake Witnesses Produced to Prove the Source of the Petrol
The story of Prabhatsinh Patel and Ranjitsinh Patel – the two salesmen employed at Kalabhai Pump – has already been detailed. How they first claimed they had not sold any loose petrol on 26 February. How this changed to the assertion that they had sold 140 litres of petrol to six Muslims, including Kurkur and Paanwala, Bahera, Siraj Lala, Salim Zarda and Shaukat Babu. How they later told TEHELKA they had been paid and tutored by investigating officer Noel Parmar to say all this.
The Seesaw Trail: Confessions, Chargesheets and Retractions
Later, the police obtained confessions from six other accused under section 32 of POTA in which a police confession is considered admissible in a court — Shaukat Bhano, Salim Zarda, Irfan Patalia, Mehboob Latika, Shaukat Bibina and Shakir Babu (all Muslim hawkers). All six hawkers have since retracted their confessions. Also on 16 May 2005, the POTA review committee revoked POTA from the case. As a result, all six POTA confessions became infructuous.
The police also took a statement from Sikandar Mohammad Siddique, a Muslim boy living with his family along the tracks at the time of the Godhra incident. Siddique has since migrated to Surat.
Siddique’s statement mirrored the names of the accused and the sequence of events as stated in Bahera’s confession. He also claimed Maulvi Umarji had told him he was paying Rs. 1,500 to all those who had set the train on fire. However, Siddique also named one more religious leader not mentioned by anyone. According to him, Maulvi Yakub Punjabi had been shouting provocative slogans from the rooftop of a masjid when the train halted near Cabin A. In an embarrassing disclosure which showed the cavalier way in which names were being added to the accused list, it was later revealed that Punjabi was not in the country at the time of Godhra incident. His passport and visa both proved that. The suspicious circumstances under which Sikandar’s statement was recorded before the magistrate has been detailed in the first half of the story.
While examining Sikandar, in what could qualify as a cover-up, the SIT inexplicably corrected the inaccuracy about Maulvi Punjabi and recorded a fresh statement from Sikander omitting Punjabi’s name but keeping Umarji’s. The SIT failed to ask Sikandar the basic question: why did he falsely name Punjabi and on whose instructions? If he had falsely implicated Punjabi, what was the genuineness of his claims about Umarji? It was clear the Gujarat police wanted to implicate Muslim clerics for the carnage.
What happened to the Sabarmati Express on 27 February 2002 will always be a blot on the nation’s conscience. It deserves fair but harsh retribution. There can be no arguing that. What is being argued is whether this was a horrific upsurge of mob anger or a premeditated conspiracy. That there was a conspiracy afoot in Gujarat those years is undoubtable. But as this story shows, it was a conspiracy of a different kind. It was a conspiracy designed to rent the fabric of this country: a conspiracy by State machinery to blacken one community’s name. And declare them the enemy.
TRANSCRIPT 1: Kakul Pathak, BJP’s media cell convenor in Godhra district (Click here to read transcript)
A key ‘witness’, Pathak blames police officers Noel Parmar, Rakesh Asthana and JK Bhatt for the ‘statement’ he signed. The TEHELKA sting caught him at a roadside dhaba in Godhra on 17 July 2007. Excerpts:
TEHELKA: When did you reach the station?
KP: At 8, 8.15...
T: People had left by then?
KP: There was no one there.
T: The Muslim mob? It had left?
KP: There were dead bodies all over the compartment. How many, even we didn’t know.
T: So you have not taken anybody’s name on your own accord?
KP: I did not write the statement on my own.
T: Along with you, there were six or seven more witnesses?
KP: Yes.
T: Who were they?
KP: The total number was 13...
T: Who were they? Was there someone with the surname Advani?
KP: No, I don’t know if there was any Advani... No, there was no Advani...
T: Some Sindhi?
KP: There were three Sindhis: Murli Mulchandani, Jiwat Bhai and Sonu.
T: The other 10-12 (witnesses) also did not see anything?
KP: Nobody was there....
T: So will you speak out?
KP: I can’t destroy my image... or that of the party (BJP).
T: But innocent people were named...
KP: Yes, innocent persons were named.
TRANSCRIPT 2: Murli Mirchandani, vice-chairman, Godhra Municipal Council (Click here to read transcript)
A key police witness in the train burning case, Mirchandani was caught in the TEHELKA sting on 23 July 2007. Excerpted transcript:
TEHELKA: Who are these people who have changed their version?
MURLI MIRCHANDANI: Raju Darji, Dileep Dasadia… they all have changed their version… They took money... They are in league with them (Godhra Muslims)...
T: I think Kakul Pathak has also given an affidavit?
MM: Yes. He turned hostile....
T: Then nothing is going to happen in the case?
MM: Nothing is going to happen... All these Muslims will come out (of Jail). Just mark my words.
T: When I met Kakul… He told me he wrote to KPS Gill…
MM: What did he write?
T: He wrote that we was not present there
MM: He was also not there, I was also not there... Those who became witness, were they ever at the spot? … Was I present at the Railway Station? I was sleeping at home when this happened… Do you know whose names I gave (in my statement)?
T: No, I don’t know.
MM: Kalota and Bilal, who are now accused in the case. I am not changing my version.
T: Half of the people (Muslims) would have been out of jail, had you not given your statement.
MM: If the statement is there, it is there... What can I do about it? …If the statement has been made... 
ashish.khetan@tehelka.com
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http://www.indianexpress.com/story-print/753488/

Not kar sevaks, victims were lured to Ayodhya: families

Ujjwala Nayudu Posted online: Wed Feb 23 2011, 23:18 hrs
Ahmedabad : For the families of those who died in the Sabarmati Express fire, a lingering regret is that they lost their relatives to a lure they could have avoided.
Some, like autorickshaw driver Bharat Panchal who lost his wife Jyoti, say the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had taken women to a religious programme but not allowed them to perform rituals, falsely described them as members of its Durga Vahini, and then ditched their families.
Others, like Khushboo whose grandmother Sudha died on the train and whose father (VHP leader Ashwin Rawal) was later killed in Naroda, blame the organisation’s ideologies. “My father died fighting for Hindutva and left us nothing except struggle,” says Khushboo, now married, an Anganwadi teacher rather than the doctor she had wished to become.
Panchal, who has named his autorickshaw Jyoti, says, “I was a local VHP member, my wife a member of Gayatri Mandal (a bhajan group) and not the Durga Vahini. I let her go to Ayodhya because she was keen on the religious event... With bhajans and kirtans the VHP lured women from Jantanagar, Odhav, Maninagar in Ahmedabad and Anand and Kheda. They paid Rs 100 but did not even get to perform rituals.”
When he sought help from the VHP, “they told us, ‘Our men are in jail and we have to hunt for advocates; should we think about them or run around for you?”
Kirit Shukla, whose mother was killed, says, “We trying to dissuade her but many women got carried away. They were not kar sevaks or VHP members.”
The VHP allegedly promised Rs 1,000 every month to victims’ families, who say the money stopped arriving after the first two months. The VHP has since denied having announced such a package.
Hariprasad Joshi, an officer now retired, had hidden under a train seat and jumped out of a window but his wife died. “The judicial system took a long time,” he says.
Panchal spares a thought for the accused too: “I feel pity for those in jail... Damage was done from both sides.”
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Godhra nails VHP ‘truth’
Ahmedabad, March 7: None of the nine Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) witnesses in the Godhra train-burning case was found reliable, embarrassing the outfit and fuelling allegations that it tried to derail the investigation.
The special court, which delivered the verdict last month, found the witnesses lying about the sequence of incidents at Godhra where 59 kar sevaks were burnt alive in a coach of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. Their evidence had to be eventually discarded because of the glaring inconsistencies in their accounts.
The holes in the testimonies led the court to acquit 63 people, including prime accused Maulvi Umarji. Eleven people, including a former councillor, were given the death sentence while the remaining 20 convicts were handed life terms. The train fire had triggered the anti-Muslim riots in Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat.
Special judge P.R. Patel had heard the case in the Sabarmati jail where the accused were lodged. In his 826-page verdict, the judge observed that the VHP functionaries did not “witness the truth” and the court “has no other option but to discard their evidence in totality with regard to their presence at the time of the incident”.
High court lawyer Girish Patel said the court’s remarks on the witnesses “certainly reflects on the organisation (VHP)”. But Rajendra Tiwari, a Godhra VHP activist and advocate, disagreed. “Although we welcome the verdict, we don’t agree with the judge on this particular observation (on the witnesses). We stick to our version.”
Some of the nine witnesses claimed that they had gone to Godhra station on the day of the incident to serve tea and snacks to the kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya by the train. The court found that implausible. “The normal arrival time of the train at Godhra was 2.55am — time for peaceful sleep, not a proper time for welcoming or offering tea and snacks to kar sevaks,” judge Patel said and pointed out other contradictions.
Five of the witnesses who claimed they were at the station to welcome the kar sevaksfailed to explain what they did after the express left Godhra, and knew nothing about a fight alleged to have occurred between the kar sevaks and some food vendors on the platform. Surprisingly, none of the witnesses suffered injuries of any kind in the reported brawl even though they claimed to be with the kar sevaks all along.
After the witnesses were cross-examined and the evidence scrutinised, the judge concluded that it could not rely on them. “It is clear that the facts narrated by them could never be accepted as gospel truth.”


Concerned Citizen's Tribunal -Gujarat 2002





Testimony on the burning of the Sabarmati Express
Kartik, scientist, trade unionist, lawyer and human rights activist testified before the panel. He has been following up the burning of the Sabarmati Express case hearings before the Shah and Nanavati Commission.
“In the entire Godhra town and district, everyone knows only one story – that there was a conspiracy to hold the train somewhere about 20 km before Godhra. But since the train was late by four hours they could not burn the whole train so they collected near “A” Cabin and had just about resources to burn and destroy only one coach, that is, S-6.
“The facts that I give based on the hearings of the Commission prove that there was no conspiracy from the Muslim community.”
“I have quoted only from the Commission. The hearing is continuing. The Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) has given the report and the Assistant director deposed before the Commission. The report made headlines saying that the fire was not started from outside the train. This is just a conjecture of the FSL director, nothing else. The FSL team threw water standing outside the train and tried to show that fire could not have been started from the outside. Then the FSL Assistant director comes to the conclusion in the second report that he gave, which is most dangerous, that fire was started by pouring 60 litres of petrol from inside the train. Before this report came, the Police had filed charge sheets against the accused on the assumption that the fire was started from the outside; but after the report came the Police had to change the entire charge sheet which is unheard of in Criminal Jurisprudence. Now they are in a worse position as the report itself is bogus, it has no basis. So now they would have to change the charge sheet once again. Now they have a witness, a boy who states that he carried the petrol, he went inside and poured the petrol. We all know how confessions can be extracted. But the evidence before the Nanavati Commission suggests that there was not a drop of petrol to burn the train.”
“There were three fights. First at the station there was a relatively minor fight. The train was stopped because there was chain pulling. The second fight started after the train stopped at 7:48 for 12 minutes. Hundreds of them participated in this fight. Stones and bricks were thrown from both the sides. Kar Sevaks also used bows and arrows in the fight. We have collected some of those. The kar sevaks had gone all the way up to Single Falia throwing stones, covering a distance of 50 yards from the train. They were outside the coach. Then the train starts. Kar sevaks run to catch the train and the Muslim mob follows them. Then the train stops. The train stops the second time near the cabin. There is no evidence why the train stopped the second time. A conclusion can be drawn that it was the driver, who stopped the train. The chain was pulled from four coaches. Three breaks got corrected. The fourth one did not get corrected. Due to the fight and stone throwing the driver must have decided to start the train. Then the train was stopped to correct the fourth break, which was of the compartment where the fight was taking place. The driver has given three different versions so far. The first time he says it was due to chain pulling. The second time he says the Muslim mob cut the hosepipe and the third time he says the disk was open.”
“The smoke was seen at 8:15 a.m. Everyone talks only about smoke and smoke and smoke. No one talks about fire. We have examined 9 kar sevaks from the passengers; we have examined the SP, and he says he did not see any fire. There was no fire at the ground level at all. The fire is found at two vestibule sides, one is on S6 and S7 and other at S5 and S6. There was fire there. There is no conscious decision to burn the coach or to burn people; otherwise the Muslim crowd could have blocked the door. There is not even a single complaint that Hindus were being stopped when they were coming out. We asked the kar sevaks who were inside if anybody had stopped them. They said no. They had come out. The people inside broke three windows, ninety people jumped out. An interesting factor is that all the people who got burnt, have burns above their waist and not below the waist. Every single person is burnt above the waist. The head, face and hands are burnt.”
“No fuel fire could do this. The FSL director messed it up by saying that petrol was poured in. If petrol had been poured in the train, would people’s bodies have been burnt only from above? Sixty litres of petrol could have blown up the coaches.”
“Those people who ran out faced fire all across the top. We talked to one lady who managed to escape. I asked her whether there was fire on the ground. She said no, there was no fire on the ground. She is confused but she categorically says there was fire on the top and on the side. Her feet did not burn even when she was bare foot, had no shoes on. People died of suffocation. The kar sevaks who were in the train were hanging on inside the train up to twenty minutes. When they came out they knew that they had left people behind. There was no fire for twenty minutes.”
“My assessment is that, it was the thick rubber of the vestibule that was set on fire, probably using cloth and grease from the wheels. At the bottom there are steel sleepers and on the side there is round big rubber for absorbing shocks. Those things burnt on both the sides and that gave rise to black pungent smoke. So the smoke was pouring in from both the sides. The side of the rubber also caught fire; I have got photographs of that fire from VHP people who were there. The flames are leaping from the rubber. Now there is a tunnelling effect. There is this closed compartment with fire at both ends. This is called flash over. The fire starts eating the steel of the compartment. It starts grazing along the compartment at both ends. It goes through the top surface. By chance if the door or window is opened, then fresh oxygen supply comes in. There is a spurt and it is called flash over fire, where temperature goes up to 600 degree centigrade. According to me that is what happened. And the flash over also was helped by the luggage. Cloth bags are very inflammable. The luggage caught fire. Most of the kar sevaks were sitting on the upper birth due to the stone throwing that was taking place. And they were sitting with their luggage. Those people who ran out faced fire all across from the top.”
“People did not die of burning but of suffocation. Police also knew that there were people inside. Police Superintendent Mr. Bhargava deposed before Commission that there was no fire at that time only smoke and he knew that there could be people inside.”
“After the kar sevaks came out of the train, they were very aggressive and burned all the Muslim shops and houses near that area.”
“Police can never give us the correct facts. They keep changing their version according to political requirements. They have always gone by the requirements of the Chief Minister. The criminal case is actually totally weak. They did not do panchnama of the coach up until the next day afternoon. The Chief Minister Narendra Modi was inside the coach before a panchnama was done. First the police accused the ISI, then Mr. Kalota and Haji Bhilal. Now a third person, Mr. Kukure is being named. But Mr. Kukure was selling milk at that time. Mr. Kalota was the president of the Municipal Corporation. He was called by the police to control the mob and then implicated. The DSP says that he had asked Kalota to go away and he had left. The police had even asked Haji Bhilal to go away because he had a beard and the kar sevaks were getting angry with him. He too had left.”
“The issue of molestation came out afterwards. There was a girl and her mother. There was also some minor incident of molestation. But it was brought up much later; even the Muslims did not know it then. We have also spoken to them.”
“So the fire was an unfortunate accident. The fire was a consequence of the brawl between two sides. There was no premeditation.”
Shri Rajendraprasad Misrilal Mina deposed as under:
On 27-2-2002 I was on duty as the Assistant Station Master at ‘A’ Cabin of Godhra railway station from 12 at night to morning up to 8 am.
The Sabarmati Express arrived at Godhra railway station at 7.43 am. Since the line was clear, the departure signal was given at 7.45 am. The train started at 7.48am. After some time the train was stopped after blowing the whistle. At that time there was no crowd between cabin ‘A’ and the train.
When the train started again I looked at the clock in the cabin and the time was 7.55 am. When the train reached near the cabin I was standing near the window of the cabin for showing the ‘alright’ signal. When the train arrived at ‘A’ cabin, the engine was blowing the whistle indicating that the chain had been pulled. The period between the restarting of the train and its arrival at ‘A’ cabin could have been around 5 to 6 minutes. I did not see any crowd at that time. It was about 8 o’clock when the train stopped.
When the train was moving with slow speed I had seen a crowd running towards and along with the train. When I got down from the cabin, some people from the crowd came near the cabin. Few persons from the mob were throwing stones on the train… The mob did not arrive all together but about ten to fifteen persons were coming and collecting together. There were also women and children in the mob.
I did not personally see as to who set the fire and how.
Shri Mohan Jagdish Yadav has deposed as under:
I am performing my duty as RPF Police Constable at Godhra. My duty was to do patrolling between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI from 8.00 pm on 26-2-2002 to 8.00 am of 27-2-2002
There is a culvert between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI office. I did not see any suspicious movement near and around the culvert before the arrival of the Sabarmati train at Godhra Station. I did not see any mob near ‘A’ cabin before the arrival of the train. I did not see any suspicious movement throughout the route between ‘A’ cabin and CPWI office before the arrival of the train.
On 27-2-2002 at about 7.45 am, when the Sabarmati express arrived at the platform, I was present in the front of CPWI office. We heard somebody shouting from platform no. 1. On hearing the noise, two of us went to platform no.1. We saw that stones were being hurled between the train passengers and outside people. Some passengers were shouting slogans of Jai Shree Ram. We told the passengers to go and sit in the train. We then raised our sticks and told the outsiders to go away and chased them away. I believe that the reason for the stone throwing was the quarrel that had taken place with the hawkers.
When the train started, we were still on the platform and while we were on the platform the train had moved about four coaches and had stopped. Once again we saw that people from both the sides were throwing stones. Once again we pushed the passengers to get into the train and chased the outsiders beyond the wall.
The passengers who were shouting and throwing stones were passengers of the two coaches. The people who were throwing stones from Singal Faliya, were doing so from behind the wall and some of them were trying to jump across the wall to enter the station. The passengers who were throwing stones, some of them were also going towards the wall and were shouting ‘Jai Shree Ram’. The people, who were throwing stones from outside were throwing pieces of bricks.
The depositions before Nanavati commission:
The Guard of the Sabarmati Express Shri Satyanarayan Punchuram Varma deposed as under:
I joined Sabarmati Express as the Guard on 27-2-2002.
There was chain pulling immediately after the train left Godhra station and I was informed about it by the Driver. Some passengers had been left behind at the station. The chain was pulled because the passengers were left behind. The train moved further after all the passengers had boarded the train. The train stopped once again after moving about one kilometre.
Shri Raju Bishankumar Bhargava, Police Superintendent of Godhra, deposed as under:
I had reached the burning coach at about 8.30 a.m.
I had seen people with black faces and with some burn injuries on the head coming out of the coach. I had seen ten to twelve passengers coming out of that coach… They were coming out of the door on the Godhra side…The injuries which I noticed on the passengers were on the upper part of their bodies…. I had not noticed any injury below their waist.
I had not seen any flames in the area of the coach, which I could see from the door. I had seen only smoke in that area… I had not noticed any flames on the floor of the area between the doors. I had also not smelt any inflammable fuel like petrol, kerosene, diesel etc.
Some persons were able to get down from the coach but according to my understanding others were not able to get out of that coach because they got suffocated…As I did not hear any cry for help from the passengers trapped inside that coach I presumed that they had become unconscious and therefore they were not raising any cries.
I had not seen any person from the Muslim community preventing the passengers in S-6 and S-7 from coming out of those coaches. No passenger had complained that they were stopped from coming out of those coaches.



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