The first part of the Godhra Commission report which was tabled in the Gujarat Assembly today has once again fanned the smouldering fire by concluding that the incident of burning of S-6 coach of Sabarmati express on February 27, 2002, was a pre-planned conspiracy and not an accident.
Fifty eight people, including 25 women and 15 children, were burnt alive inside the train when a violent mob set ablaze four coaches of the Sabarmati Express.
The Nanavati report says the vestibule between two coaches was cut by Shaukat Lala and Mohd Latika to gain access to the S-6 coach to pour 140 lites of petrol. Hassan Lala, another accused then threw burning rags into the coach to set it on fire. For about 20 minutes the coach was stoned from outside to prevent passengers from coming out.
The conspiracy was hatched at the house of Moulvi Umerji and was executed by Raza Kurjur and Salim Panwala. The petrol for the episode was obtained from a petrol pump in Godhra a day before the incident, the report further says.
"The conspiracy hatched by these persons further appears to be a part of a larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the administration," the report said.
The Nanavati commission has also accepted that there was no prior intelligence on the return of kar sevaks and that's the reason why the police department was caught unaware. As part of the conspiracy rumours were spread that a muslim girl has been abducted so that a large number of Muslims could gather at the spot.
The report says that its conclusion was based on various grounds including the statements of the passengers of the train that stone pelting continued for 10-20 minutes to prevent the passengers from coming out of the coach.
"There is absolutely no evidence to show that either the Chief Minister or any of the ministers in his council or police officers had played any role in the Godhra incident," said the report of Justice G T Nanavati, a former Supreme Court judge, that went into the train burning incident.
Giving a clean chit to Modi in the post-Godhra events, the Nanavati Commission said there was no evidence to show there was lapse in the role of the chief minister or his ministers in providing protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims of communal riots or in the matter of not not complying with the recommendations and direction given by the National Human Rights Commission.
Predictably, BJP is thrilled and says the Nanavati Commission has brought out the "truth" that Gordhra train fire was a plot and "it will prove to be a milestone in convicting the culprits. We will request that the matter proceed according to the Nanavati Commission report in the courts also," BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said.
This finding of the two-member Commission goes contrary to a probe headed by another former Supreme Court judge U C Banerjee set up by the Lalu Prasad-headed railway ministry that the coach burning was purely an accident. Retired justice Akshay Mehta was the other member of the Nanavati Commission
It is significant, as former IPS officer R B Sreekumar, who is now a social activist, pointed out, "the Supreme Court has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to re-investigate the train burning incident along with other riot cases. Then why was the hurry to table the report, that too in part?" Sreekumar asked. "The Commission should have waited for the report of the SIT and taken into consideration their findings. Also, there is no point in submitting the report in parts," he added. "This whole exercise is politically motivated, only a proper police investigation can bring out evidences that could lead to conviction of the accused," the retired police officer said.
He is not the only one to have termed the report as "premature, incomprehensive, prejudicial and politically motivated". Mukul Sinha, an advocate representing the victims of the post-Godhra riots, said the report cannot be relied upon. "The evidence used while preparing the report was collected by deputy superintendent of police, Godhra, Noel Parmar during his investigation," he said. The Supreme Court had earlier termed the investigation done by Parmar as inconclusive and had ordered formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to re-investigate the train burning incident and other riot cases, Sinha also pointed out, adding, "But the Commission has used the same evidence to prepare this report, so according to us it is unreliable."