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Published in the 16-30 Jun 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Laloo Yadav examining Godhra files 

New Delhi: Officers of railway ministry at last retrieved the Godhra train fire file. Railway Board chairman, RK Singh and director general of Railway Security Force, AK Pande, spent sleepless nights searching the file and making notes. AK Pande reportedly worked for a whole night to prepare notes on the Godhra train fire for submission to the minister next morning. 

The railway minister, Laloo Yadav is seeking legal advice on this matter. He is keen to discover the mysteries behind the Godhra episode in order to use them against the BJP in the current Parliament session which started on June 2. A meeting of Railway Board was also held to discuss as to how Godhra incident should be viewed and how coach No. S-6 of Sabarmati Express had caught fire. This matter was subject of an enquiry by the Railway Security Force (RSF), in addition to other agencies. RSF had expressed several doubts about the reasons of this fire. These reports were kept under wraps by the previous government in order to shield the Gujarat state government also headed by the BJP. The train incident was used as an excuse to unleash a pre-planned pogrom of Muslims in vast areas of Gujarat in early 2002.

Minister Laloo wants to emphasise some points of the railways enquiry. In this process, the Intelligence Bureau (IB) report will also be reviewed in which reportedly an accusing finger is raised over the role of Gujarat police during the riots. This report too was kept secret by the previous government.
The IB had raised this point in its enquiry about the gallantry award given to SN Pande, commandant of Railway Security Force. Pande had ordered several rounds of firing in order to disperse the violent crowd which had collected at Godhra railway station at the time of train fire. His argument in justification of police firing was that at the time of attack by the crowd, police had fled the scene.

At first the veracity of Commandant Pande’s action was doubted but later on his wisdom and farsightedness were appreciated because after dispersing the violent mob as a result of firing he had switched off the overhead electric connection. This was commendable because if the high voltage wires running above the train had burnt and fallen on the compartment, the entire train would have been reduced to ashes. 

Reports of IB and RSF saying that the role of Gujarat police was highly objectionable were not made public by the previous government because of political expediency. Minister Laloo said that only after properly studying the Godhra train fire file he will take any action. Perhaps this is the reason why Laloo Prasad is today the target number one for the BJP under the guise of attacking "tainted" ministers against whom there are cases pending in courts. The previous government led by the BJP too had many such ministers including Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani himself who is an accused in the Babri demolition case. 

Read more: Laloo goes full-steam ahead

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