Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tehelka's take on the Godhra Train burning

It was the fire that supposedly started all the fires - the burning of coach S-6 of the Sabarmati express near Godhra station in 2002. The

Following my recent posts on Tehekla's sting operation on the rioters, many have asked the same question:

"Why doesn't Tehekla do a sting operation to find out what happened when the train coach burned?"

Well, Varun's comment told me that they did one on that too, and a little bit of googling brought up some interesting articles.

1. An article from 2005: A massacre that wasn’t? - The Banerjee Committee’s interim report reveals many holes in the police’s claims.

2. The more recent one [long article], including interviews done by the same reported who did the other sting operations:

I strongly encourage all, those who agree with my PoVs, and those who do not, to go through the entire article. Some excerpts.

The Provocation[s]: Testimonies by onlookers stating how there was a fight between a tea vendor and kar-sevaks, and that they also tried to abduct a muslim girl.

Tehelka's sting reporter meets a witness:
What exactly transpired between ASM Meena and the mob?

[Assistant Station Master (ASM) Harimohan Meena who was manning the cabin] is silent on the issue in his statement to the police. TEHELKA’s undercover reporter decided to meet him posing as a research scholar. Meena — not aware that he was talking to a journalist or being recorded — said that when he came down and asked the mob why they were chasing the train, a few people from the mob replied that one of their people had been abducted by the karsevaks on the train. Meena also said that he heard a few in the mob suggesting that the coach be set on fire to drive people out of the coach so they could recover their person. But he saw no swords, any other sharp weapon or inflammable material being carried by the mob. On the contrary, according to him, the mob mainly consisted of women and children carrying sticks and pelting stones.

Pre-meditated fire-setting, or mob gone out of control?
EMERGING CONTRADICTIONS: Was the mob carrying petrol and kerosene? Among survivors of coach S-6, only the karsevaks claim so

Neither Meena — the only official who witnessed the mob from close quarters — nor any of the survivors who were not karsevaks in S-6, like army man Pande and Rajendrasingh Rajput, saw any inflammable material like petrol, kerosene or diesel being carried by the mob. Nor did they see coach S-6 being set on fire. Satish Misra, a businessman in Vadodara who was travelling back with his family from Sultanpur in Uttar Pradesh on S-6, and who lost his wife in the blaze, says, “Upon hearing that there was stone pelting on the coach, we had closed the windows and doors... As there were fumes of smoke on account of the fire I could not see any people pelting stones or who set the coach on fire.”

Four among the surviving karsevaks of coach S-6, — Amrutbhai Patel, Dineshbhai Patel, Rambhai Patel and Nitinbhai Patel, all residents of Mehsana, all of whom had gone to give ahuti at the Ramjap Yagna at Ayodhya — too have stated in their first statements, recorded on March 8, 2002, that they had not seen anybody carrying inflammable material or setting the coach on fire. They said that they fell unconscious because of the smoke inside the coach.
The only people who claim to have seen the mob carrying inflammable material are some of the karsevaks in S-6 who survived and karsevaks in other coaches. Interestingly, all these karsevaks admit that they had shut the doors and windows of their coaches because of the heavy stone pelting, yet in the same breath they claim they saw the mob armed with all kinds of inflammable material.

Please note that Tehelka chose to report on impartial witnesses also, though they could have easily not reported on that. They do not say that the mob did not start the fire, but there are valid questions about the use of fuels like kerosene.

AN IMPARTIAL EYE: Was there any neutral survivor, not a karsevak but an ordinary passenger, from coach S-6 who saw any possible source of fire?

The answer is yes. A family of four — Lallan Prasad Chaurasiya, his wife Jankiben, their 13- year-old son Gyan Prakash, and a toddler Rushabh — were aboard coach S-6. The Chaurasiyas were travelling back from their native town of Allahabad and had two reserved seats in coach S-6 — seats number 8 and 72.

However, karsevaks had occupied seat number 72, so the entire family travelled on seat number 8. Later they all shifted to seat number 6. This is what 13-year-old Gyan Prakash said in his statement recorded on March 4, 2002: “Because of the stone pelting, people in the coach had closed the windows and doors of the coach. However, the stone pelting continued on our coach and as a result the windowpanes were broken. Before the iron window could be closed, some burning substance had come inside and immediately there was black smoke inside the coach. Seeing this, I immediately told my mother to get out of the train along with my sister’s son, Rushabh.
Gyan Prakash’s parents, both Lallan Prasad and Jankiben, corroborated that some burning substance had fallen in through a window and after that black smoke had filled the coach. None of the Chaurasiyas however said that they saw the mob carrying petrol or kerosene or containers filled with inflammable liquid.

There is much more detail in the article, and I once again recommend you all to read it for yourself. A final link to the section about the truth about some key witnesses is in order though.

So, what is the conclusion of this investigation of Tehelka into the train burning incident itself?

THE MOOT QUESTION: A pre-planned conspiracy or a spontaneous riot?

A detailed study of statements and eye-witness accounts, like the one above, clearly suggests that the burning of coach S-6 was an instance of spontaneous vandalism that snowballed out of control. Provoked by the attempted abduction and the karsevaks’ fight with Muslim hawkers at the station, the hawkers began to pelt stones at the train, and then, as the mob gathered strength and force, someone in the mob eventually threw burning rags into the coach that started the fire.

Before my detractors say, "Aha! Now you call the burning of the train a spontaneous mob act, but refuse to acknowledge that the following riots were the same too.", I would like to make one thing clear -- the killing of innocent people is a crime, no matter what the justification, and I would like the real culprits in that train-burning mob brought to justice as much as I would like to see those baby-burning Hindu fanatic b*stards hanged.

Also, there is a lot of evidence [unless you didn't see the videos] that the riots were incited by the state govt itself, which had been given the task of protecting its populace; and that is what I have the biggest problem with. Feel free to post your questions of my choice of focus in the comments, and I will be happy to answer them.


  1. Anonymous11:29 PM

    God Bless you for your impartiality

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Thanks buddy for the hard work. I also thank Tehelka for their impartial investigation.