Alive The Ghost Of Godhra
By Farzana Versey
17 October, 2006
is back in the news.
The Gujarat High court has
dismissed the very existence of the union government setting up the
U.C.Banerjee committee and its findings into the death of 59 people
who were burnt in the train on February 27, 2002.
The state government's 'every
action has a reaction' theory – an uncivilised way of justifying
the riots that followed, to begin with – had been turned to smithereens
when the Banerjee interim report pronounced, "With the elimination
of the 'petrol theory', 'miscreant activity theory' as well as the ruling
out of any possibility of 'electrical fire', the fire in S-6 coach of
Sabarmati Express can at this stage be ascribed as an 'accidental fire'.''
On Friday, October 13, 2006,
Justice D N Patel repeated what Narendra Modi and the saffron parties
have been saying. It is an endorsement of their insecurities. The arguments
do not work.
They say: The committee's
interim report was released just before the Bihar assembly polls with
mala fide intentions.
What were the intentions
of the Gujarat government when it distributed pictures of the damaged
Godhra train during the polls? How bona fide were its intentions when
leaflets in Gujarati were asking people to boycott the minority community
and do worse?
Where was it when in Bihar
the BJP's Shahnawaz Hussein was asking voters, "Ai Mussalman, BJP
se nahi, Khuda se dar. Aur Khuda se darega to zaalim ka saath nahin
How did the BJP get away
with such pressure tactics and insulting the Muslims by referring to
them as the "rakhails" (mistresses) of Laloo Prasad Yadav?
And then they accuse Yadav of politicising.
They say: Since the Nanavati
Shah Commission constituted by the state government was probing the
incident and subsequent carnage, there could not be another commission
probing along the same lines.
Why should we wait and trust
the yet-to-be-tabled Nanavati Report when the Committee was set up by
the then ruling party whose state government was an active participant
in the riots? When did the Gujarat government ever observe "Constitutional
They say: The railways had
no authority to appoint such a committee; it was a gross violation of
the Indian Railways Act and also the Commission of Inquiries Act.
The incident happened in
a train. All evidence of that bogey was destroyed. It was the business
of the then railway minister to have instituted an enquiry; instead,
the ruling party whose hoodlums created the reactionary mayhem set up
a committee. The railway ministry has every reason to get involved because
the railway tribunal paid compensation.
According to one account
less than a year after the incident, "The immediate kin of 25 victims
were given away cheques amounting to Rs 1 crore as compensation. The
tribunal had ordered the Railways to pay a compensation of Rs 4 lakh
to the relatives of each victim. The amount has been given away along
with the interest at the rate of nine per cent, payable from the date
of application to the date of disbursement. Calculating the interest,
the amount comes to around Rs 4.5 lakh which is in addition to the sum
of Rs 15,000. This was paid as ex-gratia by the Railways, immediately
after the massacre."
Narendra Modi justified the
alacrity of the move because "it was a terrorist-related incident".
78 Muslims were arrested
after the incident under POTA. The police made up false cases against
them. And why did the government not bother about the 104 relief camps
in Gujarat that gave refuge to 1,11,176 people all due to what happened
with the connivance of the State?
They say: The matter went
up to the Supreme Court but it refused to interfere and asked the Gujarat
high court to resolve the matter.
It is time the Supreme Court
realised when it has to interfere.
What do we know about the
dead kar sevaks? While it is clear who was behind the riots that followed
in Gujarat, there has always been ambiguity about the Godhra deaths
of 59 people. It is important to look into this.
These sevaks were shouting
religious slogans and were obviously motivated. Has the possibility
of them being a suicide squad not occurred to anyone? Could they not
have been militants out to create trouble?
If it is conclusively proved
that Godhra was a rail accident, then who do we hold responsible? The
Gujarat government cannot be trusted to deal with this.
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