Fresh inquiry needed in burning of S-6 Coach near Godhra

The burning of S-6 Coach of Sabarmati Express near Godhra on February 27, 2002 needs to be investigated afresh. The Hon’ble judges who had constituted the Commission of Inquiry had done the most dishonest job, by ignoring even the discrepancies that exist in the official records. It was the burning of the Coach S-6 with its occupants that was used by the Gujarat government, with Narendra Modi at its head, to organise the massacre of Muslims.

The first report that reached Delhi after the burning of the Coach S-6 was that the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had created the trouble. The news of setting on fire a coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra station was given in detail in Dopahar Samachar of Akashvani (2-15 pm to 2-30 pm) on February 27, 2002. There was a voice cast of then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee in which he had specifically appealed to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad to desist from violence as nothing could be gained by resorting to violence. By night the colour of the incident had changed and the VHP activists were gradually transformed into the victims.

The train was supposed to carry Kar Sevaks from Ayodhya, where they had gone to take part in a yagya organised by the VHP for the construction of Ram temple in place of where once Babri Masjid had stood. As the train reached Godhra station in the morning of February 27, the Kar Sevaks got down on the platform and created ruckus with tea and snacks vendors, most of them were Muslims and lived in a locality called Signal Falia, about a kilometre or so away from the railway station. After the train started, someone pulled the emergency chain and it stopped. There was said to be heavy stone pelting at the train and the passengers hurriedly closed the widows of their coaches. The train started and it was again stopped after a few minutes near Signal Falia. There was also stone pelting. Then suddenly there was a fire in Coach S-6.

The police swiftly ‘discovered’ that some people near Signal Falia were already standing with cans full of petrol; they poured the petrol into Coach S-6 through windows and set the coach afire. This was, more or less, the ‘finding’ of the Nanavati-Mehta Commission of Inquiry which had concluded that burning of the S-6 Coach of Sabarmati Express near Godhra railway station was a ‘planned conspiracy’.

Now the discrepancies which the Commission ignored: The train driver’s complaint, which is also the First Information Report, timed the incident as happening between 7.47 am and 8.20 am. The offence was registered at 9.35 am with the railway police. But documents filed by the police before the courts said that the event had taken place on the night of February 27. The driver’s complaint mentioned that some persons had been arrested on the spot. In the remand application of the first 30 people to be arrested for the crime, accused numbers 1 to 15 were said to have been arrested on the spot. But the time of their arrests had been given as 21.30 hours (9.30 pm), February 27. This is one of the the most glaring of contradictions.

Trinamool Congress was then part of the Centre’s NDA government headed by Vajpayee and Mamata Banerjee was herself an MP; Nitish Kumar was the Railway Minister. Mamata demanded that the Railway Ministry should release a list of those who travelled and perished in Coach S-6 of the ill-fated train at Godhra. As the government and the Railway Ministry continued to ignore her demand, she threatened to sit on dharna inside Parliament if the list was not released. Then on August 21, the Railway Ministry issued a statement and it appeared in newspapers on August 22.

The statement said that in Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on that day a total of 59 passengers had made reservations, most of these were made from Lucknow and Kanpur. Three of them had cancelled their bookings. The Railway Ministry had ‘after comprehensive investigation’ found that out of the 56 persons who had their reservations in the Coach, four were killed, nine were injured and seven were still missing’. The Railway Ministry further said that its investigation found that ’32 of them were alive and safe’ and that the remaining passengers who had perished in the burning coach ‘appear to have boarded the Coach without reservation’.

Very comprehensive statement. Now, how did Chief Minister Narendra Modi promptly identify the 59 Kar Sevaks claimed by him to have been charred to death in the Coach, arranged their ceremonial but hurried cremations and announced compensation of Rs 2 lakh each to their survivours? No conspiracy! Spontaneous message from Almighty God to hurriedly identify the passengers who did not even have reservations in the Coach!

Now the theory about throwing petrol from outside in Coach S-6 and setting fire to it. It was examined by Government Forensic Science Laboratory, State of Gujarat. A team of forensic experts visited the place on May 3, 2002. In order to recreate the real picture of how the offence was committed on the day of the incident, one coach was kept on the same spot. With the help of different types of containers experimental demonstrations were also carried out by using liquids inside the coach. The following is the gist of conclusions arrived at by the team and released by the Laboratory:

The height of the window of the coach was around 7 ft. from the ground of the place. As such, it was not possible to throw any inflammable fluid inside from outside the coach from any bucket or carboy because by doing this, most of the fluid was getting thrown outside;  There also appears to be no possibility that any inflammable liquid was thrown through the door of the coach;  Conclusion can be drawn that 60 litres of inflammable liquid was poured by using a wide mouthed container by standing on the passage (of the coach) near the seat No. 72 and the coach was set on fire immediately thereafter.

N D Sharma

is a senior journalist, and Patron of eNewsroom India.

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