Godhra train burning

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Godhra train burning was an incident that occurred on the morning of 27 February 2002, in which 59 people died in a fire inside the Sabarmati Express train near the Godhra railway station in the Indian state of Gujarat.

Godhra jn railway station.JPG


  • After the unfortunate happenings in Gujarat, the Congress and its pseudo-secular supporters took the lead in a sustained campaign against my party by propagating, essentially, three lies, which are still in circulation... [The third lie is] that the carnage in Godhra, due to the gutting of two compartments of Sabarmati Express, was accidental—or, worse still, self-inflicted. I deem it to be my duty to nail all the three lies.
  • Does anyone remember who the chief minister of Maharashtra was during Mumbai riots which were no less deadly than the Gujarat riots of 2002? Does anyone recall the name of the chief minister of UP during Malliana and Meerut riots or Bihar CM when the Bhagalpur or Jamshedpur riots under Congress regimes took place? Do we hear the names of earlier chief ministers of Gujarat under whose charge hundreds of riots took place in post-Independence India? Some of these riots were far more deadly than the 2002 outburst. The state used to explode into violence every second month? Does anyone remember who was in-charge of Delhi’s security when the 1984 massacre of Sikhs took place in the capital of India? How come Narendra Modi has been singled out as Devil Incarnate as if he personally carried out all the killings during the riots of 2002?”
    • Salim Khan, quoted in : Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014. Ch. 1
  • The arguments they put forth to rubbish the charge of pre-planned attack by a group of miscreants (some with pronounced Congress Party links) not only added insult to injury but also revealed the extent to which the Congress Party could go in defending those guilty of mass murder.
    • Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 197
  • Unfortunately, in the coverage of Gujarat riots, The Hindustan Times and most other newspapers dutifully allowed the Congress Party bias to creep in all their reporting. Consequently, very few are aware that the Nanavati Commission and courts found Godhra violence to be the handiwork of mischievous elements within the Congress Party who also allegedly had links with Pakistani outfits.
    • Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.209
  • One cannot help but get the impression that Modi’s sympathy for those who were charred to death by anti-social elements at Godhra was held against him as a cardinal crime. An even more cardinal crime was that his government took prompt action and arrested and put on trial those who led or masterminded the Godhra killings. The fact that Modi did not try to underplay the seriousness of Godhra incident and condemned it as an example of anti-national activity made enemies of all those whose politics thrives on garnering the Muslim vote bank through inculcating a sense of permanent victimhood in such ways that even if Muslim criminals and terrorists are nabbed, they cry foul and dub it as an instance of anti-Muslim bias. It is the same mind-set that defends Kashmiri secessionists, guilty of unleashing ethnic cleansing of Hindus in the Valley but have never taken up the cause of Kashmiri Pandits, even though they were ousted from their homeland through violence and terror. The media tried bulldozing Modi into de-linking the post-Godhra riots and the Godhra incident but because he did not yield to that pressure, he was painted as a Hindu bigot.
    • Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.301
  • Every word that Modi uttered following the Godhra incident was twisted and distorted by the well-oiled misinformation machinery set up by the Congress and the Left.
    • Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014. (p.287)
  • As a dispassionate observer, and after a year of detailed research, it is clear to me at least that, from the beginning, the narrative of 2002 has lacked balance and objectivity. Facts were the first victim. The initial bulletins almost all declined to describe the mob as Muslim (even in 2011 Patrick French would use the modifier ‘reportedly’, despite the conspirators and many of their accomplices already being convicted). It was well known that Godhra was a densely Muslim area, and a pretty volatile one at that. Nonetheless, reports of the Godhra atrocity mostly failed to detail the bare but indisputable facts. The Asian Age wrote of a mob ‘reportedly belonging to a minority community’ attacking the train, with the result that ‘several’ – rather than fifty-nine – passengers died. The Times of India also mentioned a strangely anonymous mob, but in The Hindu it was only ‘a group of people’ and on NDTV the reportage described the attackers as ‘unidentified persons’. Even though the attackers were a mystery the reporters still seemed to know accurately the identity of the passengers aboard the train. Justice Tewatia’s report concluded: ‘Most of the national newspapers and news channels played down the intensity of the Godhra carnage and projected it as a result of provocation by pilgrims.’ ... Like so many false witness statements surrounding the events in February 2002 – including those later coerced, tutored and paid for by egregious human rights activists – Sofiabanu’s statement has gone down in history as part of the tapestry of demonstrable untruths that have vitiated a sensible, objective and balanced debate on the tragic events of those days.
    • Marino, Andy (2014). Narendra Modi: A political biography. Ch. 7.
  • One particularly motivated charge is that the train fire at Godhra Junction was started either as the result of an electrical short circuit or passengers cooking in the cramped carriage and had nothing to do with a mob throwing petrol bombs at the train. This account was dismissed multiple times – by the Justice Tewatia Committee, the Special Investigation Team (SIT) and the Supreme Court that reviewed its report, as well as by the Nanavati Commission. Forensic scientists demonstrated, according to the laws of physics, exactly how the combustible accelerant thrown into the train carriage by the accused spread and did its deadly work. Only one investigation, the Banerjee Committee of 2004, consisting of a single judge in Bihar sitting at the request of Lalu Prasad Yadav – who needed the local Muslim vote for an upcoming election – decided that the attacking mob had nothing to do with the fire. The Banerjee report when published, two days before Lalu’s vital election, was widely discredited for its one-sidedness. It, however, remains a potent weapon in the hands of those who regard, rightly or wrongly, the Modi administration as being either complicit or at the very least negligent in the matter of the riots.
    • Marino, Andy (2014). Narendra Modi: A political biography. Ch. 7.
  • The writer Arundhati Roy asserted that a pregnant Muslim woman had been murdered and then her foetus ripped from her womb by rioters. When it became clear that nobody knew of the incident and Roy was asked to come and help the police inquiry to find the unfortunate victim, she replied through her lawyers that there was no power which could compel her to attend. She claimed in addition that Ehsan Jafri’s daughters had been murdered alongside him at Gulbarg Society. This prompted Jafri’s son to write from the United States that there was only one daughter and she was in the US with him.
    • Marino, Andy (2014). Narendra Modi: A political biography. Ch. 7.
  • Why had the Sabarmati Express been attacked in such a frenzied and lethal manner and – always the essential question – why then?... Godhra presented a cheap, good-value operation from Pakistan’s point of view....The aim of the militants was not only to spill Hindu blood but Muslim blood as well. Godhra was merely ‘a sprat to catch a mackerel’, a goading of the Hindus to set off an entirely predictable and much wider conflagration. Thus the operation against the Sabarmati Express was launched in cynical disregard for the well-being of the state’s Muslims.
    • Marino, Andy (2014). Narendra Modi: A political biography. Ch. 7.
  • The television news channels showed the pictures of the burning S/6 coach and the dead bodies throughout the day. But something was missing. The rage was missing... There was no trace of indignation ...A few days after the event, Jaya Jaitley of the Samata Party, wrote: “...on Godhra there was stubborn silence when the Treasury benches begged the Opposition to join in a unanimous condemnation of the event...” Sonia Gandhi did not feel the need to call on the prime minister on February 27...The silence on February 27, 2002 was deafening. The indifference was complete. The insensitivity was infuriating.
    • S.K. Modi, Godhra: The Missing Rage (New Delhi: Prabhat Prakashan, 2004), pp 26-29 quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 204
  • I have allowed the media to behave as it wants. [...] I am not worried. The truth will certainly be known.... I have always criticised violence in my speeches but the way the trouble in just two per cent of the area is blown up and used against us should be countered. Arundhati Roy paints Gujaratis as rapists and then goes scot-free by apologising. Isn't it an insult to Gujarat? .... In this country we do have a justice system. In this country you buy an argument when someone claims that just because a few karsevaks didn’t pay the money for the tea they bought, it led to the torching of the # S6 compartment. This is possible and you consider it valid. But when the police investigates the case and puts forward the case, you consider it invalid. Don't you have a biased mind? All over the world you circulate the e-mail narrating a fictitious event which claims a girl was abducted on the platform, she was raped and that lead to the torching of S6. You can show that within just three minutes all this is possible. For people like you the question should be: Whom do you trust?
  • Decades ago, a prominent Congress leader, Kanhaiya Lal Munshi (1887-1971) had warned his party colleague, and the then Prime Minister, Jawahar Lal Nehru (1889-1964) in a letter stating, “If every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question... the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up.” Far from heeding this warning, under the guise of upholding secularism, the Congress Party has made demonisation of the majority its main political plank. This perversion is unthinkable in any other country of the world.
    • KM Munshi quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.210, with quote from K.M. Munshi, Indian Constitutional Documents: Pilgrimage to Freedom, 1902-1950,
  • Till July, 2002 neither the Jan Sangharsh Manch, nor the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, nor anyone else had suggested that the Godhra incident had not happened in the manner reported by the media and as stated by the State government and others including the concerned railway personnel and the passengers...
    • Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta, “Part I: Sabarmati Express Train Incident of Godhra,” , quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.198
  • The determination of the mob to cause mass killings is evident from the account of Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) B.R. Simpi (Witness-25). When he reached the site of accident from Vadodara at about 11a.m., he saw a mob of about 2,000 to 2,500 persons near Ali Masjid. He testified, that they were “shouting slogans which had the effect of hurting the religious feelings of the other community,” and heard announcements like Islam khatre me hai, Maro, kato ( Islam is in danger, let us cut them up and kill them)– coming from loud speakers of the Ali Masjid. He had to order firing in order to control this aggressive mob calling for the murder of more Hindus.
    • Justice Nanavati and Mehta quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 194, with reference to Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta, “Part I: Sabarmati Express Train Incident of Godhra,”
  • There is absolutely no evidence to show that either the Chief Minister and/or any other Minister(s) in his Council of Ministers or Police officers had played any role in the Godhra incident or that there was any lapse on their part in the matter of providing protection, relief and rehabilitation to the victims of communal riots or in the matter of not complying with the recommendations and directions given by National Human Rights Commission. There is no evidence regarding involvement of any definite religious or political organization in the conspiracy. Some individuals who had participated in the conspiracy appear to be involved in the heinous act of setting coach S/6 on fire.
    • Nanavati Report, Report of the Commission of Inquiry Consisting of Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta, and also quoted in The Godhra Riots:Sifting Fact from Fiction by Nicole Elfi (2009)
  • On the basis of the facts and circumstances proved by the evidence the Commission comes to the conclusion that burning of coach S/6 was a pre-planned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn coachS/6 of the Sabarmati Express train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the Karsevaks travelling in that coach. All the acts like procuring petrol, circulating false rumour, stopping the train and entering in coach S/6 were in pursuance of the object of the conspiracy.The conspiracy hatched by these persons further appears to be a part ofa larger conspiracy to create terror and destabilise the Administration.
    • Nanavati Report, Report of the Commission of Inquiry Consisting of Justice Nanavati and Justice Mehta, and also quoted in The Godhra Riots:Sifting Fact from Fiction by Nicole Elfi (2009)
  • Internationally influential media like the Washington Post copied from an Islamist website rumors about Hindu provocations behind the Godhra carnage, falsely claiming a Gujarati journalist as source, and never publishing a correction when the journalist in question denied ever having put out such a story. With such media, who needs rumors? ... In spite of strong and widespread anti-Muslim feelings, Hindus have shown remarkable patience and forbearance in past instances of Islamic terrorism. There was no retaliation after the numerous selective mass killings of Hindu and Sikh villagers or bus passengers in Jammu and Kashmir, nor after the attacks on Hindu pilgrims there; nor after the Mumbai bomb blasts (March 1993); nor after the bomb attack against a BJP gathering in Coimbatore (February 1998); nor after the attacks on the Parliament buildings of Srinagar and Delhi (September and December 2001). After handfuls, dozens or hundreds of Hindus were massacred, Hindus all over India maintained calm and refused to take their anger out on their Muslim neighbors. This should be kept in mind when assessing the Hindu loss of self-control after the Godhra massacre. In spite of secularist predictions that the communal situation in Gujarat was fast spinning out of control, possibly for good, this Hindu self-restraint re-asserted itself after the Akshardham massacre. ... Strangely, the effective cut-off date for this period of tension was another violent incident: on 24 September 2002, two Muslim terrorists entering the Hindu Swaminarayan shrine of Akshardham in Gandhinagar.
  • There is something profoundly worrying in the response of what might be called the secular establishment to the massacre in Godhra...Some versions have it that the karsevaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans; others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers. According to these versions, the Muslim passengers got off at Godhra and appealed to members of their community for help. Others say that the slogans were enough to enrage the local Muslims and that the attack was revenge...it does seem extraordinary that slogans shouted from a moving train, or at a railway platform, should have been enough to enrage local Muslims, enough for 2,000 of them to have quickly assembled at eight in the morning, having already managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs.
    • Vir Sanghvi, Chief Editor of The Hindustan Times, One-way Ticket: My Take on the Godhra Tragedy When It Happened, February 23, 2011, Hindustan Times, Quoted from Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 209
  • After this question I finally let out the Djinn of Godhra which has been disturbing me from past eight years and Mr. Modi as well, on whose mind Godhra has been looming for a long time. Mr. Modi paused for a little while and then started explaining to me in detail the events which happened on that day and thereafter. Such was his minute detailed explanation that I felt being transported to Godhra and Gujarat of those times. He gave a detailed description about government action on rioters, curfews which were imposed in Gujarat as soon as riots were started, the police action on rioters and many more things. He even compared the Godhra riots with the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and talked about the difference between the actions taken by the government in both the cases as soon as the killing started. Along with it, Mr. Modi even emphasi[s]ed on the fact that in Gujarat, peace was restored in most of the places within 72 hours of riots while in 1984 riots, nothing was done in the first three days, which caused dangerous losses to the minority community involved. Then Mr. Modi described the actions took by him, like dispatching immediate orders to reserve police for taking strict actions against the erring people, strongly dealing with casualties and finally providing for rehabilitation.
  • The plan was to burn the entire train with more than two thousand passengers in the wee hours of February 27, 2002. It was a terrorist action plan that partly failed. The perpetrators of the terrorist acts received support from jehadi elements operating from Godhra. These included some Congress members of the nagar palika.
    • Justice D. S. Tewatia, Dr. J. C. Batra, et al., Godhra Carnage-Justice Tewatia Report, Council for International Affairs and Human Rights, Delhi, April 2002, Quoted in Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p. 193
  • What they narrated to me showed that the media, particularly, English-language media were lapping up one-sided news portraying Modi as the Demon and all his opponents angels. They told us about the earlier riots in which the Hindus were mostly at the receiving end. There were several instances of stone-throwing on Hindus passing through Muslim dominated areas of Ahmedabad. The governments of the day kept a blind eye to all this. All the suppressed passions broke loose at the Godhra carnage, and no government, Modi or no Modi, could have stopped what followed—despicable and condemnable as both the Godhra and post-Godhra killings were.
  • BJP leader V.K. Malhotra has aptly ridiculed this facile allegation in a speech in the Lok Sabha: "The country has witnessed 2500 riots between 1950 and 1990. Godhra city had communal riots in 1947, 52, 59, 61, 65, 67, 72, 74, 80, 83, 89 and 90. Were all of these caused by the Rathyatra ?" He pointed out that those who were painting a grim picture of the minorities being massacred, were doing a great disservice to the country and giving it a bad name. The fact was that 90% of the people killed in Hyderabad were Hindus. (...)
    • V.K. Malhotra , Reported in Times of India,17/12/1990. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.
  • By contrast, the sizably smaller Gujarat riots were two-sided. A genuine pogrom was, however, what triggered them: Muslims setting a train wagon on fire, killing 58 Hindu pilgrims. In the original East-European setting, if 58 Jews got killed, that was called a pogrom, right? So, Muslims committed a pogrom, and then riots ensued; big riots but by no means “unprecedented”. And completely dwarfed by the treatment the Pakistanis gave the East Bengali Hindus in 1971, where the death toll was at least a million, the immense majority of them Hindus, with even the Bengali Muslims killed for anti-Hindu reasons (Sanskritic language and script, non-Muslim dress habits, non-Islamic linguistic nationalism, secularism). The average victim of communal violence in independent South Asia is a Hindu, though you wouldn’t say it if you trust this book, let alone Indian secularists’ writings.
    • Koenraad Elst, On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015 Ch 30
  • But then, four years into the BJP regime, the prayers of the secularists were answered at last. A Muslim mob threateningly gathered around a train carrying Hindu pilgrims returning home from Ayodhya, and then, in the secularist version, a wagon suddenly caught fire from the inside. Was this a modern case of jauhar, self-immolation by women (26 of the victims) determined to escape rape by Muslim brutes? If you are a secularist, then yes, that is what you must believe, for the Muslim mob itself cannot have done anything unseemly. It was the Hindus who, in their communalist paranoia, overreacted to an imagined threat from a crowd of fellow Indians.... After this expression of American brain-dead parroting of Indian secularist propaganda, it was no surprise that the USA subsequently refused an entry visa to Narendra Modi when he was scheduled to visit the country. The stated reason was his violation of the International Religious Freedom Act. Indo-American Communists and American Christian fanatics jointly hailed this ban as a great success for their own lobbying.
    • Elst, Koenraad. Return of the Swastika: Hate and Hysteria versus Hindu Sanity (2007)
  • What is always overlooked in a discussion of the Gujarat carnage, is how exceptional this type of Hindu retaliation to a Muslim act of aggression (the Godhra pogrom, cfr. infra) turns out to be once we take a larger perspective. There was no Hindu retaliation to the Mumbai bomb blasts of March 1993; to the numerous group killings of Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir; to the mass killing of Hindu activists in Coimbatore in February 1998; to the frequent reports of pogroms on Hindus in Bangladesh; or to the attacks on the Parliament buildings in Srinagar and Delhi in the autumn of 2001. Even the Gujarat carnage remained confined to a few cities in one state, and when Islamic terrorists killed more than thirty Gujarati Hindu worshippers in the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar only a few months later, there was no Hindu retaliation, in accordance with the old pattern. By and large, Hindus have shown remarkable self-restraint in the face of violent provocation, a fact for which they are given insufficient credit.
    • Elst, Koenraad. The Problem with Secularism (2007)
  • By all means, preserve the Godhra articles and columns in a special folder, one day they will be the object of a spectacular case study in the human capacity for doublethink. Though disgusting, it was at the same time quite funny to watch the extreme inventiveness of the secularists in blaming the victims. They were very annoyed that the Gujarat carnage was so unambiguously started by Muslims with their massacre of Hindu pilgrims, mostly women and children. So, they falsely started describing the victims as "extremists" and inventing stories of how these Hindu children had kidnapped a Muslim woman into their riding train. That canard was borrowed from an Islamist website. There is never much difference between secularist reporting and Islamist propaganda anyway, which is why Indian theocratic Islamists call themselves "secularists". The latest is their "report" claiming that the Hindus in the train had themselves lit the fire, in a gigantic mass suicide. I suppose free speech includes the right to speak nonsense. For four years after the BJP's accession to power in 1998, in spite of numerous massacres of Hindus by Muslim terrorists, the Indian Muslims were left alone. Hindus had often refused to be provoked into taking their anger out on their Muslim neighbours, e.g. after the Mumbai blasts of March 1993, all remained quiet. Hindus again showed remarkable restraint after Islamic terrorists killed forty BJP activists, allegedly "Hindu Nazis", in Coimbatore in 1998... Hindus have been killed with great frequency in Jammu, even the parliament buildings in Srinagar and Delhi were attacked, yet the Muslims remained unharmed. So, the secularists were losing credibility day by day. They needed the Gujarat carnage, and they thanked Heaven when it finally materialized. They were suddenly back in business, getting invited all the way to Washington to tell their scare stories.
    • Koenraad Elst: Religious Cleansing of Hindus, 2004, in: Elst, K. The Problem with Secularism (2007)

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