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Published in the 1-15 Apr 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Will Godhra fire mystery ever be unravelled? 

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

The Milli Gazette Online 

Ahmedabad: Three years after 59 persons were burnt alive in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra railway station, throwing Gujarat into weeks of violent convulsions, the investigators do not appear anywhere close to solving the case. In fact three different probes over three years since the carnage, have only deepened the mystery around the fire.

The UPA government appointed Justice (retd.) UC Banerjee committee’s findings that the fire may have been ‘accidental’ obviously made the Modi-appointed special investigating team (SIT) and the Nanavati Shah Commission, uncomfortable, because it debunked the conspiracy theory.

Godhra based lawyer AA Hasan says, 52 persons have been languishing in jail for three years, without any hope of release in sight. The SIT which has been working on the conspiracy theory for two years, has yet to come out with facts. There is little evidence to back the confessions, and lots of unanswered questions.

Fears that the three investigations would ‘overlap’ turned out to be unfounded, since the investigations were of starkly different witnesses like income-tax inspector Hari Prasad Joshi: and the then Divisional Railway Manager (DRM) BB Modgil of Vadodara Division, who was severely indicted by Banerjee committee for his report on the incident, and who have not been examined by the other two investigating agencies.

The special investigation team, headed by IG Rakesh Asthana is still collecting evidence to back its theory that Godhra was the result of a conspiracy, with a terrorist angle. The SIT has arrested over 100 persons under Pota of which 13 are out on bail and a dozen released for lack of evidence to back its conspiracy theory. This too back fired, after accused Jabbir Bin Yamin Behera retracted his earlier “confession” before the magistrate about how Maulana Umraji and others had “plotted” (on February 26, 2002 at the town’s Aman Guest House) the burning of S-6.

Godhra-based lawyer AA Hasan says, 52 persons have been languishing in jail for three years, without any hope of release in sight. The SIT which has been working on the conspiracy theory for two years, has yet to come out with facts. There is little evidence to back the confessions, and lots of unanswered questions. 

A section of lawyers point at serious lapses in the initial investigations like no pictures were taken of the bodies lying in a heap inside the S-6 coach; the post-mortem on the bodies was done in a haphazard manner and that several persons including VIPs were allowed to enter the burnt coach even before the panchnama (in guest report), thus leading to suspicions of tampering with evidence.

In fact, Deputy SP KC Bawa, former investigator of the carnage told the Nanavati-Shah Commission that they had found no evidence of a conspiracy. He also told the commission that no trace of hydrocarbon was found in the articles collected from the burnt coach and that no forensic examination of the bodies was conducted.

Deputy SP Noel Parmar, who is investigating the case now told the Nanavati-Shah Commission a few moths ago that terrorists were involved in the crime but he did not identify them.

So which terrorist outfit may be behind the crime? Who is the leader of that group? What is the link between this outfit and the core group? What was its objective in attacking the train? 

Meanwhile, human rights groups have called upon the PM, the UPA government and the Supreme Court to make known the truth about the Godhra train burning incident and release all innocent persons booked under Pota.

In its list of demands put before them director of human rights organisation Prashant, Fr. Cedric Prakash stated that on the third anniversary of the Godhra carnage, the centre should expedite all the cases related to the Gujarat violence with appropriate action against the guilty, justice and relief and rehabilitation be ensured to all the victims, ensure communal peace and harmony with the possibility of persons from minority communities living in areas of their choice and to ensure that every citizen enjoys the freedom enshrined in the Constitution.
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