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Godhra is a municipality in Panchmahal district in Indian state of Gujarat. It is the administrative headquarters of the Panchmahal district. Originally the name came from gou which means "cow" and dhara- which have two meanings depending on how you pronounce the word: 'dharaa' means a feminine thing or person that "holds" something and it usually means"land", and the other pronunciation is 'dhaaraa' in which means "flow". However, the second pronunciation is not popular nor is usually associated with this word. Hence, 'Godhra or Godharaa' means the Land of the Cow.


  • “Two weeks ago, I wrote in Navajivan a note on the tragedy in Godhra, where Shri Purshottam Shah bravely met his death at the hands of his assailants and gave my note the heading Hindu-Muslim Fight in Godhra. Several Hindus did not like the heading and addressed angry letters asking me to correct it (for it was a one sided fight). I found it impossible to accede to their demand. Whether there is one victim or more, whether there is a free fight between the two communities, or whether one assumes the offensive and the other simply suffers, I should describe the event as a fight if the whole series of happenings were the result of a state of war between the two communities. Whether in Godhra or in other places, there is today a state of war between the two communities. Fortunately, the countryside is still free from the war fever (no longer now) which is mainly confined to towns and cities, where, in some form or the other, fighting is continually going on. Even the correspondents, who have written to me about Godhra, do not seem to deny the fact that the happenings arose out of the communal antagonisms that existed there. “If the correspondents had simply addressed themselves to the heading, I should have satisfied myself with writing to them privately and written nothing in Navajivan about it. But there are other letters in which the correspondents have vented their ire on different counts.
    A volunteer from Ahmedabad, who had been to Godhra, writes: You say that you must be silent over these quarrels. Why were you not silent over the Khilafat, and why did you exhort us to join the Muslims? Why are you not silent about your principles of Ahimsa? How can you justify your silence when the two communities are running at each other’s throats and Hindus are being crushed to atoms? How does Ahimsa come there? I invite your attention to two cases:
    A Hindu shopkeeper, thus, complained to me: Musalmans purchase bags of rice from my shop, often never paying for them. I cannot insist on payment, for fear of their looting my godowns. I have, therefore, to makean involuntary gift of about 50 to 70 maunds of rice every month?
    Others complained: Musalmans invade our quarters and insult our women in our presence, and we have to sit still. If we dare to protest, we are done for. We dare not even lodge a complaint against them.
    What would you advise in such cases? How would you bring your Ahimsa into play? Or, even here you would prefer to remain silent!
    “These and similar other questions have been answered in these pages over and over again, but as they are still being raised, I had better explained my views once more at the risk of repetition. “Ahimsa is not the way of the timid or the cowardly. It is the way of the brave ready to face death. He who perishes sword in hand is, no doubt, brave, but he who faces death without raising his little finger, is braver. But he who surrenders his rice bags for fear of being beaten, is a coward and no votary of Ahimsa. He is innocent of Ahimsa. He, who for fear of being beaten, suffers the women of his household to be insulted, is not manly, but just the reverse. He is fit neither to be a husband nor a father, nor a brother. Such people have no right to complain…” (extract from To the Hindus and Muslims, a collection of articles by Gandhiji from Young India ).”
    • Mahatma Gandhi, What are we to Do?” in Young India (11th October, 1928) and Collected Works, Volume 43, pages 81-82.
  • Godhra town is a very sensitive place. There is a high percentage of Muslim population in various places in the district. Communal riots had taken place in Godhra in the years 1925, 1928, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991, and 1992. The communal riots that had taken place in 1948 were very serious. Initially, the Muslims had burnt 869 houses of Hindus. Thereafter, the Hindus had burnt 3,071 houses of Muslims...
    • Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice Akshay H. Mehta, “Part I: Sabarmati Express Train Incident of Godhra,” Report by the Commission of Inquiry, Ahmedabad (September 18, 2008), Web. [http://home.gujarat.gov.in/homedepartment/downloads/godharaincident.pdf). quoted in Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014.
  • Even though communal murders and attacks dating to the early decades of the 20th century are still fresh in people’s memory, the following incident has become part of Hindu fear-lore in Godhra: Four Hindu teachers, including two women teachers, were hacked to death by miscreants in Saifia Madrasa in Vhorvada area of Godhra on November 20, 1990 in front of children. One Hindu tailor was also stabbed to death in this area. All this was done by anti-social elements allegedly at the instance of the Congress MLA of the area.
    • Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014.
  • Fortunately, in the last ten years, with growing political stability and massive improvements in the economic and educational infrastructure of the area, the social and occupational profile of Godhra’s Ghanchi community has changed noticeably. With stricter enforcement of law and order and new economic opportunities opening up for this once- backward community, criminal elements have been marginalised. This has begun to change both the self view and aspirations of the Ghanchi community as well as their image in the eyes of non-Ghanchis—both Hindus and Muslims.
    • Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014.
  • Stereotyping of communities is not only communal but also misleading. Keeping this in mind, some attributes for which the Ghanchis of Godhra are known among both Hindus and Muslims in Godhra and outside, may be taken as applicable to a majority of them. They are known as an aggressive, impulsive community, descendants of Afghan soldiers and Bhil women. They were initially harvesters and traders of oil and later became farmers. Today they are in the transport business. They are largely illiterate and poor, though the number of educated among them is growing. The Ghanchis have had a long history of violent conflicts with Godhra’s Hindus, pre- and post-Independence.
    • Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy, by Jyoti Punwani
  • “Godhra”. The word is more than just the name of a town located in Panchmahal district in the western Indian state of Gujarat. The word used also indicates an event. A mind-numbing one. A horrifying one. An unimaginable one. A barbaric one. The word “Godhra” records the gruesome killing of some 59 innocent people, including 25 women and 15 children and injuries to 40. Independent India saw many horrors. This was one of the worst of them.
    This mind-numbing horror was also the cause of many more horrors, many more events, many more riots, many more political changes. It was also the immediate cause of rioting, which left some 1169 people dead.
    But this was not the first time, nor the last time, that the town witnessed communal vandalism. The town had a long history of bloody communalism. It was well-known for it. Let us take a brief look at the town’s long history of bloody communal riots.
    • Deshpande, M. D. (2014). Gujarat riots: The true story ; the truth of the 2002 riots.

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