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New evidence that Gujarat pogroms were preplanned

More evidence has emerged to show that the Gujarat anti-Muslim pogrom was preplanned. Indian daily Asian Age on October 15 published, quoting leading social activist Shabnam Hashmi, that strikingly similar combustible chemicals, both heavy-to-medium petroleum distillates, were used to burn the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra and later during the Naroda Patiya massacre. 

The train tragedy on February 27 this year was used by Hindu extremists to burn hundreds of Muslims alive, loot and burn their houses, shops and factories and drive over a hundred thousand refugees to relief camps where some of them still live. 

The "riots" which continued unabated for the next two months with official support have still not fully died down. Every now and then there are fresh incidents of stabbing and burning of houses. Many refugees are still prevented from going back to their villages which now have been proclaimed "Muslim-free."

Ms Hashmi, secretary of Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust (Sahmat), made findings of California-based testing laboratory, Technical Support Services, public in Ahmedabad. All ignitable liquids were confirmed by gas chromatography and mass spectroscopy, according to the report. 

Ms Hashmi demanded a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into the Godhra train incident and post-Godhra riots, saying, "there is a striking similarity between the analysis of the sample taken from S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express and Naroda Patiya."

"Both the samples tested showed trace levels of a heavy petroleum distillate consistent with diesel fuel or a fuel oil," she emphasised.

Ms Hashmi said she had collected samples from the two places and sent them to California-based forensic agency, which in its report said "petroleum distillates" were used in both the incidents. "The findings definitely raise some questions," she added.

Ms Hashmi stressed that perhaps the "official" version that the S-6 coach had been set on fire as a pre-planned conspiracy by Muslim fundamentalists was cooked up. She added that the fact was further corroborated by reports in some national dailies that most of the karsevaks (Hindu volunteers) had safely reached their homes. 

Serious doubts were raised about the "Muslim conspiracy" when an official report by Gujarat state's Forensic Science Laboratory indicated that the fire was ignited from within the coach using 60 litres of petrol stored inside.

Ms Hashmi said she would courier a copy of the report from Technical Support Services’ chemical laboratory manager David J. Brien to the judicial commission probing the Godhra mayhem.

She added that despite the Modi government’s claim that normalcy had returned to Gujarat, hundreds of Muslims had not returned to their homes as yet. 

Citing examples, she said that only 40 families have been able to return to Ode village of Anand district where 27 people were burnt alive on March 1 and 270 houses were looted and demolished. 

"The house in which 23 people were burnt alive is a heap of rubble. While those 23 people were declared missing, and are missing till date, the villagers do not know whether their bodies have been removed or are still trapped under the rubble," Ms Hashmi said.

She also said that 64 families of Mogri village in Anand district had not been able to return home, adding, "some people who tried to repair their houses met with strong resistance and their houses were demolished again."

It has been reported that 74 families from Delol village of Panchmahal district have not been able to return to the village due to threat to their lives.

Ms Hashmi said that she along with some local residents visited Ode village and found out on her return that the windscreen of her car had been smashed, all the shops in the area were shut and the lanes wore a deserted look. "All this happened within 10 minutes. How can anyone expect Muslim residents to return to the village ever?" she asked.

"The certificate of normalcy in the state given by the Modi government and the Centre is merely to facilitate early elections in Gujarat," she said. Ms Hashmi demanded that the Modi government be removed and exhorted the people of Gujarat to vote it out of power.

Meanwhile, Hindu-Muslim communal clashes occurred on October 15 in Zalod town of Dahod district of Gujarat in which one person was injured. According to the police, twenty seven people have been arrested in connection with the clash. 

Gujarat Muslims observed a strike against the American Christian preacher Jerry Falwell's outpourings against the Prophet of Islam (PBUH). The strike call was given by a relatively unknown Mustafa Raza Academy.

Stray incidents of violence were reported from Bharuch district after a mob tried to force shop-owners to shut. Police dispersed the mob with baton-charge and lobbed a tear-gas shell.

In Ahmedabad, police chased groups that had tried to down shutters in the Karanj and Shahpur areas. While most minority-dominated areas of the city remained closed, Bharuch witnessed a total strike.

Minority-dominated areas of Mehsana, Kheda, Anand, Sabarkantha, Junagadh, Nadiad and Patan also remained closed. 

According to intelligence reports, the strike was near-total in the Vijapur, Kasba and Haideri chowk areas of Mehsana. In Junagadh, the Prabhas Patan area was completely closed, while Nadiad and Kheda towns along with the Khambhat and Mahudha areas heeded the call. The strike was total in Anand’s Petlad town. 

The Sarkhej area of Ahmedabad observed a complete strike, while there was a partial response in the other minority-dominated areas of the city with shops remaining closed. Trade in the Walled City areas of Ahmedabad came to a standstill.

¯ Zafarul-Islam Khan

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