Thursday, September 25, 2008

Godhra Sabarmati train fire: 1000 muslims shouted...

Godhra Sabarmati train fire: 1,000 Muslims shouted “set the train on fire and kill the Hindus”

Posted by jagoindia on September 26, 2008

Muslim mob attacked train: Nanavati Commission

Manas Dasgupta

GANDHINAGAR: The Nanavati-Mehta judicial inquiry commission has based its conclusion that the Godhra train carnage was a “pre-planned conspiracy” on the recorded evidence of over 100 witnesses, who claimed to having heard a crowd of about a 1,000 Muslims shouting “set the train on fire and kill the Hindus.” The report said “instigating slogans” were also made over loudspeakers from a nearby mosque to attack Hindus.

The evidence recorded by the commission also claimed that a mob of Muslims attacked the train and stoned the coaches so heavily that the passengers could not come out. This was to ensure maximum casualties when the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was “set afire.”

The commission, in its 168-page report, said the “conspiracy” was hatched by some local Muslims at the Aman guest house in Godhra the previous night. The conspirators immediately made arrangements for collecting about 140 litres of petrol from a nearby pump on the night of February 26, 2002, the next day when the train arrived in Godhra, Hasan Lala, after forcibly opening the vestibule between coaches S-6 and S-7, entered S-6 and threw burning rags setting it on fire.

The report named Moulvi Umerji of the local mosque as the “mastermind” of the conspiracy. It said Rajak Kurkure, Salim Panwala, Saukatlal, Imran Sheri, Rafiq Batuk, Salim Jarda, Jabbir, and Siraj Lala were among those who participated in the conspiracy to “cause harm to the kar sevaks travelling in that coach.”

According to the report, setting fire to the train was part of a “larger conspiracy” to “instil a sense of fear” in the administration and create “anarchy” in the state. It, however, has not named the architects of the “larger conspiracy.”

The commission disagreed with the contentions of the Banerjee committee and the Jan Sangharsha Manch, which represented the riot victims before the commission, that alarm chains could not be operated from outside under the modified system introduced by the Railways in 1995. Quoting a railway officer of the carriage and wagon department, Ahmedabad, it said the alarm chain could still be pulled from outside. Quoting a number of surviving passengers, the commission said they had seen the mob outside the coach throwing stones and also some “burning rags” and some “inflammable liquid materials” through the windows. “The passengers had informed DSP Raju Bhargava at about 8.30 a.m. that the train was attacked by a mob and many passengers were injured and killed. Where was the time or reason for the passengers to concoct a false story,” it asked. “Considering the situation prevailing then, it is highly unlikely that the passengers had any discussion amongst themselves and they had decided to give a false version about the attack on the train,” it said. The report said the passengers immediately after getting down from the coach gave the same version of the mob attack and throwing of inflammable materials inside the coach to the District Collector.

Godhra station superintendent Katija, who was also present with the Collector, gave the same evidence, corroborated by assistant station master Rajendraprasad Meena, who was present at “A” cabin, near which the incident took place, and the railway protection force commandants.

The commission said the passengers of the train were attacked the second time some three hours after the stone throwing and burning incident when the train was being shunted to detach the two affected coaches. Two Muslim mobs of about 700 people started pelting stones on the passengers waiting on the yard for the train to reassemble and resume their onward journey to Ahmedabad. The police had to open fire, killing two persons and injuring one to disperse the violent mobs. This refutes the theory that the fire was accidental, it claimed.

The commission claimed that there was no evidence to justify the contention that the kar sevaks had been fighting with Muslim vendors at stations before Godhra as alleged earlier, though there were some minor scuffles with three Muslim vendors on the Godhra platform. But though there was no “reliable evidence” to show that any attempt was made by the kar sevaks to abduct Sofiabanu, Salim Panwala spread a “false rumour” to that effect to collect a mob that started pelting stones on the passengers.

The commission dismissed as “not worthy of any credence” the Manch theory that there was no crowd, except a small group of curious on-lookers, no stone-throwing and no conspiratorial setting of fire.

Without mentioning the Banerjee report, the Nanavati commission rejected the “accidental fire” theory stating that the reasoning that a fire was caused by the overturning of a burning stove used for cooking by some kar sevaks in the compartment or that it was set off by an electric short circuit was baseless. There was no space for anyone to light the stove in the over-crowded coach carrying more than 200 passengers and any spillover of kerosene from the stove, though out of the question, could not have caused such heavy fire and damage. Dismissing the short circuit theory, the commission said in such an event the passengers would not have climbed up to the upper berths to protect themselves as electric lines were going through the top of the coaches, and rather they would have climbed down on the floor. In such an event, the windows on the platform side of the coach would not have been closed or the windowpanes broken by stone throwing.

“The smoke before fire” did not necessarily mean electric short circuit as propounded by the Manch but because the fire was caused by some inflammable materials thrown on the floor from outside, it concluded.

It said the Centre or the Railways had not appeared before the commission to claim the fire to be accidental and on the contrary the railway officials and the government railway protection force personnel present on the spot had stated that the attack was by the Muslim mob and that the coach was set ablaze by petrol.

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