Who lit the fire?
With the outing of the report
of the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL), Ahmedabad, the question of
who lit the fire in coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra on
February 27 has now assumed critical importance. This incident was the
immediate cause of the firestorms that engulfed Gujarat and that frenzy
now is the bedrock of the supposed BJP resurgence and its aggressive
espousal of a virulent Hindutva. The report of MS Dahiya, Assistant
Director of the FSL, which is now part of the charge sheet completely
debunks the theories about the coach being set afire by an angry mob,
which had mysteriously collected outside the Godhra railway station.
The report emphatically concludes that the coach was set afire by someone
"standing in the passage of the compartment near seat number 72,
using a container with a wide opening about 60 liters of inflammable
liquid has been poured and then a fire has been started in the bogie."
The FSL has also conclusively
demonstrated by experiments that it was virtually impossible to throw
inflammable liquids into the train through the open windows that are
at a height of seven feet. The report also shows that there was a three
feet high mound running parallel to the track at a distance of 14 feet
and if the fire bombers were standing on this mound and sloshing the
fuel at the compartment only about 10-15% of the fuel would have got
inside. Since the rest of the fuel would then have fallen outside there
would have been burn damage on and near the track. This was not so.
File photographs of the burning coach very clearly show the flames raging
from within and without even the external paintwork being touched. The
pictures also show rescuers trying to hose down the flames standing
right alongside the burning coach. Very obviously the coach was set
afire from within and whosoever claims that it was set afire by the
collected mob is lying through their teeth. And that might very well
include the Deputy Prime Minister of India.
The train was chock-a-block
full of kar sevaks and whosoever was carrying "a container with
a wide opening holding about 60 liters of inflammable liquid" should
have been able to mingle freely with the inflamed kar sevaks. If this
whosoever it was, was carrying such a container with a wide opening
quite openly he, she or they would have been known to the other passengers
to be able to do so without arousing apprehensions. Remember the country
was in a state of heightened military alert after the December 13 attack
on the Parliament and it would just not be possible for a stranger to
walk into a crowded coach of true believers with a large container with
liquid sloshing about. The train was almost a Rambhakt special and each
compartment was concentrated with people from a particular area or belonging
to a particular group within the Sangh Parivar, all of who would have
been known to each other. It is therefore extremely implausible that
a perfect stranger or strangers would have been able to splash the petrol
and set it alight and then escape. The killer/killers would have had
to been in the adjoining compartment or be able to alight quickly from
the burning compartment without arousing suspicion. Consequently the
theory that it was an ISI cell that carried out the carnage becomes
extremely difficult to sustain.
The exact identification
of the inflammable liquid, including the brand of the petrol, would
be very easily obtained by spectroscopic examination, that is, if the
police had collected samples of the charred material. If the quality
of preliminary investigations was through even the exact type and material
of the burned container, if it was left behind, could have been obtained,
providing a vital step towards identifying the murderers. But that would
be possibly asking too much of the Indian Police Service? However in
such a high profile case, one would have thought that the highest standards
of professionalism would have been strived for, especially when there
were two Sardars in the picture. Then in all probability this is exactly
what the persons behind the outrage would not have wanted?
It would now seem that the
harassment and intimidation of the mostly Muslim hawkers at Godhra railway
station was deliberate and aimed at provoking an agitated response.
If this was so, the torching of coach S-6 could have been intended to
provoke a furious backlash. This seems like a classic agent provocateur
operation that went out of hand.
The use of an agent provocateur
to create a crisis is not at all uncommon. We see much of it all around.
Sometime it is a pig's head that is thrown in a mosque, another time
it is a cow's head that is thrown into a temple. Cadre based political
parties for who the end justifies all means are especially adept at
this. Joseph Stalin, who was a small time thug working on the fringe
of the underground Communist movement in pre-revolutionary Russia, caught
the eye of his mentors by his ability to precipitate crises to mobilize
the masses. I recall watching the live telecast on a local channel of
a demonstration in Hyderabad against the increase in power tariffs and
was struck by the extremely deliberate provocations of a very small
group that changed a peaceful gathering into a furious mob causing the
police to open fire at it. The demolition of the Babri Masjid was very
clearly perpetrated by just a handful of persons who came prepared to
do the job. The gathered crowd just joined with Sadhvi Rithambara exhorting
from the dais "ek aur dhakha." The record shows that while
Uma Bharati and Murli Manohar Joshi were hugging each other in ecstatic
joy, LK Advani looked on helplessly.
Its not only cadre based
political parties that do this. Countries with active intelligence services
routinely do this. Intelligence agencies like the American CIA, British
SIS, French SDECE, Israeli Mossad, Russian FSB, Chinese GRI, Pakistani
ISI and even the Indian RAW carry out such operations quite routinely.
Even now Pakistan insists that the January 30, 1971 hijacking of "Ganga",
an Indian Airlines Fokker Friendship aircraft, to Lahore by Hashim and
Ashraf Qureshi was an Indian intelligence operation meant to precipitate
the termination of over flights to Dhaka making the link between the
two Pakistani halves even more tenuous. The two Qureshi's were sentenced
by a Pakistani court to 19 years but were exonerated by the Pakistan
Supreme Court in 1984.
In 1991 a unit of the Peoples
War Group attacked the Kakatiya Fast Passenger train at Charlapalli
near Hyderabad killing 47 passengers in the blaze set off by them. It
took only a small quantity of incendiary material to set off the blaze.
One of the attackers was apprehended. Later the PWG issued a statement
that the death of 47 passengers was inadvertent and expressed regret
In another incident at 4.30
am on March 8, 1993 in AP's Guntur district two dalit youths Satuluri
Chalapathi Rao (24) and Gantela Vijayvardhana Rao (22) inspired by the
plot a popular Telugu movie held up an APRTC express bus from Hyderabad
to Chilkaluripet under the threat of torching it. They wanted money
to start a business. Things didn't happen as they did in the movie.
The passengers panicked and in the ensuing melee the can of petrol dropped
in the bus, which in turn had a leaky fuel tank and resulted in an explosive
fire. 22 passengers including two children were killed. In both cases
while there was intent to commit a crime, what resulted was not intended.
In the case of the two youths the intention was not even to set fire
to the bus, but it happened and 22 sleeping passengers were burnt to
death. The Supreme Court sentenced them to death in 1995, but the President
considering all the circumstances commuted their sentence to life imprisonment
and they are now incarcerated in Rajamundry jail.
But it is difficult to imagine
that a container with a wide mouth carrying at least 60 liters of petrol
was meant to cause just an innocuous incident on the Sabarmati Express.
Clearly there are many questions to be answered, particularly in light
of the subsequent events for which even the National Human Rights Commission,
headed by as widely respected jurist as the former Chief Justice of
India, Justice AN Verma, found the Gujarat government complicit. The
chota Sardar in Gujarat is plowing on remorselessly with his campaign
of igniting communal passions, and the bada Sardar in New Delhi just
sits there wringing his hands. As he did when the Babri Masjid was demolished.
As he did when Hindus were killed in Doda. As he did when Sikhs were
killed in Anantnag. As he did when Christians were killed in the Dangs.
As he did when the Red Fort was attacked. As he did when Parliament
was attacked on December 13. Shakespeare's wrote about Lady Macbeth:
"It is an accustom'd action with her, to seem thus washing her
July 5, 2002