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Published in the 16-30 June 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Godhra: how the spark was lit

The Milli Gazette Online 

New Delhi: An altercation between kar sevaks and Muslim tea vendors and an alleged attempt to abduct a Muslim girl at Godhra railway station were among the couple of incidents which were referred to by the central review committee on Pota in its report released on May 31. The committee, which has recommended that charges against all 131 accused under Pota in the Godhra train blaze case be dropped, had studied different chargsheets filed in the case by the special investigating team which mentioned that it was basically these incidents which led the mob to collect in response to the "panic cry" and retaliate by pelting stones.

It is mentioned in the supplementary chargesheet that the kar sevaks had an altercation with the tea vendors and other hawkers at the Godhra railway station. It is further mentioned that in the meantime one kar sevak had tried to tease a Muslim girl, who along with her mother and sister ran away to the booking office situated nearby. The report of the committee, while discounting the "conspiracy theory," has also given a detailed account of the incident, after considering the arguments forwarded on behalf of the accused persons and the prosecution. The committee, headed by Justice S.C. Jain (Retd), had submitted its report to the Union home ministry on May 17.

Observations made by the central review committee on Pota will go a long way in unravelling the mystery behind the Godhra train blaze incident, in which 59 people were killed while travelling in the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002. The report says: "The cause of the incident was a quarrel of one of the kar sevaks with the tea vendor/hawker of the Muslim community at the platform itself when the train (Sabarmati Express) halted. Had there been any conspiracy in existence, the passengers travelling in Coach S/6 would not have been allowed to disembark from the compartment for taking tea and breakfast."

"The recovery of common weapons like rods, dharias, etc from members of the mob and also that no attempt was made by the members to use these weapons for attempting to kill passengers indicates that the mob was not part of the alleged conspiracy to set on fire Coach S/6 and to kill passengers," it says. According to the 30-page report, it is not the case of the prosecution that Coach S/6 was reserved exclusively for kar sevaks. Moreover, it is also mentioned in the chargesheets that in the first instance an attempt was made to set ablaze the S/2 coach and not the S/6 coach. It also supports the view that the mob was not part of the alleged conspiracy to burn Coach S/6.

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