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The seven unravelled mysteries of Godhra carnage
By Syed Shahabuddin
|At long last on 18 August, 2002, the Ministry of Railway has released the reservation list of the ill-fated S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express with a self-indicting analysis. According to the Railways, of the 59 passengers booked, three had cancelled the booking and four have not been traced (presumably because of some defect in, or loss of, reservation slip) and 32 had actually travelled and reached their destination. This makes 39 and leaves 20. The break up of the 20 is given as 4 killed, 9 injured and 7 missing. Presuming those missing to be dead, we have 11 killed and 9 injured.
The first mystery is: why have the authorities attempted to conceal a basic document?
The reservation list of the ill-fated coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express has been available since 27 February; photocopies were floating around. Yet the Railway ministry has taken just a little less than 6 months to make it public and that too under media and parliament's pressure. The total number of persons killed has been reported to be 58 of which 39 have been identified. Who are the rest of those killed? Were they all the ticketless/unauthorized travellers? By any law of statistical probability, if 52 passengers give rise to 11 fatal casualties, for 54 remaining fatal casualties we need 265 unauthorized passengers! This would be an impossible proposition, because the coach had a capacity of 72 and if it was invaded by the ticketless karsevaks, they would not have exceeded another 72! Does it mean that the fire made a distinction between the bonafide passengers and the ticketless Karsevaks? Obviously, there is something fishy in the statement of the Ministry of Railways. May be Mamata Banerjee is right after all when she accused Nitish Kumar of buying his continuance as Minister for concealing the truth and then fudging the figures! So, it has been subsequently attributed to an official as an afterthought that the 32 passengers who survived had travelled not in S-6 but in 'other coaches', as they could not enter their coach or were forced out by the Karsevaks. But this does not solve the riddle completely. If only 9 who were injured, 11 who were killed, or are missing, travelled in coach S-6, i.e., a total of 20 produced 11 fatal casualties. To account for other 54 casualties, statistics demand 98 ticketless travellers making a total of 118 passengers.
This appears to be more reasonable. A better analysis can be made if the total number of those rescued, though injured were known. Unfortunately, we do not have this figure. All that can be said is that the statement of the Railways ministry has further confounded the confusion. The Railways need to do a more thorough job of analysing the actual travellers and casualties both. This is the second mystery.
A case has been made out that a Muslim mob from the Muslim locality near the Godhra railway station first stoned the passengers in retaliation for the harassment of Muslim vendors at the Godhra station by the Karsevaks and then poured petroleum into the coach from outside and set it on fire. In the absence of an alternative scenario this was taken by the entire world as the gospel truth, notwithstanding the denial of the Muslims of the locality, though they admit to stone-throwing. No evidence has been marshalled so far to prove that the ISI was operating through local Muslims. So the first reactions of Modi and Advani alleging ISI's hand have been proved to be false. What is important is to realise that if the conspirators intended to set the coach on fire, why should they attract attention first by stoning it?
On 27 February, 2002, the train stopped at Godhra station only for 5 minutes, 7.42 to 7.47 AM. The train was stopped at 7.48 AM just outside the station and there was stone-throwing between 7.48 to 8.00 AM. At 8.05 AM the train was stopped again and then between 8.05 - 8.17 AM the coach was set on fire. It passes imagination how a mob made the necessary preparations to perform its devilish design and executed its plan in just 12 minutes!
The third mystery in any case lies in why the mob targetted only one coach and not the other coaches which were chockful with Karsevaks. There is yet no explanation.
The fourth mystery arises from the Forensic Science Laboratory, Ahmedabad's report (filed by the police with the charge-sheet) that the coach was set on fire not from outside but from within. The report has absolved the stone-throwing mob, whatever their number or intent. In any case, the window grills were not broken. There was no attempt by the mob to break into the coach. The doors of the coach were locked from inside. There is no doubt that the coach had a large number of unauthorized ticketless travellers, nearly all Karsevaks. As shown above, many of those killed must have been bonafide passengers. Some of those killed were women and children. Surely they were not Karsevaks and the Karsevaks were not travelling with their families. Some of the passengers were Muslims. Surely they were not Karsevaks either. So it is by no means definite that the 59 killed are all Karsevaks. Even the VHP which called the Karsevaks to Ayodhya has not come out with a list of missing Karsevaks. Not only Prime Minister Vajpayee and Chief Minister Modi but the entire leadership of the Sangh Parivar including VHP have claimed that the ill-fated bogie was torched because the passengers were all Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya after performing their religious duty. The Sangh Parivar and Modi used this claim to set entire Gujarat on fire, leading to a carnage of genocidal dimension which took nearly 2500 lives. Indeed Modi and Co. have tried to justify the carnage as a natural reaction to the gruesome and horrifying burning of '58 Karsevaks' in the train at Godhra, which was universally condemned.
In any case, the major plank of the Sangh/VHP propaganda that all those who perished in the burning of ill-fated coach were Karsevaks, falls to pieces. So how many of them killed were 'Karsevaks', the holy knights of Hindutva returning from the Ayodhya front? This is the fifth mystery. The FSL Report postulates that 60 litres of inflammable liquid (presumably petrol or kerosene) had been poured into the coach from one of the side-doors by one or more determined persons who formed the killer squad. Was a liquid used by the killer squad? One cannot imagine a killer squad carrying canisters or buckets of petrol into the coach and emptying them without let or hindrance, or without exciting suspicion and without resistance by the passengers. The question is: Was it petrol? This is the sixth mystery.
It has been suggested that the material used was not a fluid but a solid - an incendiary powder once ignited, reaches very high temperature in no time. It is said that the same powder was subsequently used in Ahmedabad and other places to torch buildings, and melt iron railings and windows grills and collapsible gates. A possible scenario is the sprinkling of this chemical at the two ends of the coach igniting it from both the ends. This would explain what Saeed Naqvi noted on his visit - passengers seemed to have rushed towards the middle of the coach till they were engulfed by fire. The killers could have easily made a get-away into the adjoining coaches. The final question: who set the coach on fire? Who planned and organized this ruthless massacre? Gujarat Congress President Shankersinh Vaghela, a former acolyte of the RSS and the BJP, has publicly accused the Sangh Parivar. He says that he knows them well; they ruthlessly planned and executed this horror, stage-managed it in order to justify the Gujarat carnage for which all preparations had already been made which incidentally explains the dimensions of the mass violence which began within hours of the Godhra incident and which went on unchecked for the next 3 days in major cities of Ahmedabad and Baroda. This is the ultimate and the seventh mystery. The investigation should be turned over to the CBI to establish the identity of the killer squad because the Godhra mystery has to be unravelled in the national interest. If Vaghela's suspicion is confirmed that the Sangh Parivar itself lit the fire to incite Hindu fury against Muslims and thus set the stage for the genocidal violence it had already planned, Godhra fire will go down in history as another "Reichtag fire'!
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