Fresh evidence has surfaced to confirm that the Gujarat government covered up the pre-planned Gujarat riots after the Godhra train fire to describe these as spontaneous. BJP supporters may draw comfort from the equally brazen cover-up by the Congress government after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. It is not the intention of this writer to dwell on an aspect that is widely acknowledged by the public except for die hard partisan supporters of both parties.
The latest Gujarat exposure arose from the government making available to anti-riot petitioner Mrs. Zakia Jafri the voluminous record of police wireless messages that had been denied to lawyer Ms. Teesta Setelvad in another case on the plea that these records had been destroyed. Thereby the lies committed by the Special Investigative Team (SIT) have been exposed. Ms. Jafri shared the damaging police wireless recorded messages with the Headlines Today news channel to confirm that the riots were pre-planned and the administration did not heed police warnings to act.
This may excite the public. It is old hat to this writer who three months after the 2002 riots had written this on the basis of available evidence. My intention in recalling this episode is different. There is an altogether different aspect regarding that tragic event which has gone unnoticed.
On May 27, 2002 I wrote:
“Media coverage of the subsequent (to Godhra train fire) riots suggests that they are pre-planned. Diverse teams visiting Gujarat confirmed this. Most notably, Human Right Watch of America released a well documented, 70-page report written by an American of Indian origin, Smita Narula, stating that the riots were planned prior to the Godhra carnage. This view was reinforced by a reported briefing of KPS Gill by Gujarat’s IPS officers. They said that a meeting of top officials was held on the night of the Godhra incident. Officials were told to go soft on Bajrang Dal and VHP activists. Ignoring bureaucratic advice Chief Minister Narendra Modi insisted on transporting 17 bodies of Godhra victims to Ahmedabad for their last rites. There was a mammoth funeral procession through Ahmedabad’s streets by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists. Later these activists started the riots.”
This appeared in a leading national weekly. Needless to say nobody contradicted these claims then. But this is not the end but the start of the real cover-up which has gone unnoticed and which is why I recall the event. I also wrote at that time: “How could the riots be pre-planned, for which considerable evidence has been adduced, and the event that provoked them was not?” Attention by this writer therefore shifted from the conduct of the riots to the train fire which purportedly provoked them. Several questions related to events inside the burning train were raised. Immediately after the Godhra fire the Gujarat government claimed that Pakistan’s ISI had planned it and even named an individual who it claimed had fled to Bangladesh. But months later the government changed its tune to assert that the riots were spontaneous and perpetrated by local elements. Why this change? It might be noted that in the eventual probe that ended in convictions, one of the accused had fled to Pakistan.
The Forensic Science Laboratory which assisted the probe proved that the rail carriage was set afire from inside while the outside doors of the burnt carriage were locked. The arsonists could therefore have entered only through the corridor from the adjoining carriage which was occupied by Kar Sevaks. The obvious puzzle was how a Muslim mob could pass through a carriage of Kar Sevaks to set the occupants in the adjoining carriage afire. But the most damaging aspect of this unsolved crime relates to the identity of the victims who were burnt to death. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they were not Kar Sevaks but migrant labour allowed to occupy seats reserved for the Kar Sevaks. Even six months after the Godhra fire the identity of the victims was not established. Only four of the 58 victims of the Godhra fire were reserved passengers. Who were the rest? Nineteen bodies remained unidentified. Therefore the remaining 35 charred bodies of unreserved passengers were “identified” by the police. Even six months after the train fire the surviving reserved passengers had not been questioned by police. Why? Why and how were they not in the carriage when it was set afire? It might be recalled that Miss Mamata Banerjee as Railway Minister had claimed that she had seen the forensic report. She accused her predecessor in office Mr. Nitish Kumar of holding back the reserved passenger list in order to protect the BJP. Mr. Nitish Kumar responded by claiming in parliament that only subsequently did the investigators ask his ministry for the reserved passenger list. Do not both leaders owe the nation and the cause of truth to reveal all they knew about the event?
On the basis of all these facts my conjecture was that the inefficient porous Sangh Parivar organizations had been easily infiltrated by foreign elements. That is why the government immediately talked about ISI involvement. When realization dawned that the infiltrators had penetrated their own organizations the government changed tune to claim that the fire was spontaneously the work of local elements. On August 26, 2002 I wrote: “Circumstantial evidence suggests the possibility of foreign-funded saboteurs having infiltrated the Sangh Parivar to act as enemies of the state.” If my conjecture was correct this aspect should be addressed not least by the leaders of the Sangh Parivar themselves. The truth sometimes is bitter but it is always the best medicine.