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FACTS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES- GODHRA AND AFTER- A Field Study By Justice D. S. Tewatia, Dr. J. C. Batra, Dr. Krishan Singh Arya, Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, Prof. B. K. Kuthiala
COUNCIL FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS AND HUMAN RIGHTS A-208, Surajmal Vihar, Delhi 110 092. (Phone 2374816, Fax 2377653)
The Council for International Affairs and Human Rights is deeply concerned over the Godhra carnage that consumed 58 pilgrims, including 26 women and 12 children (GUJARATRIOTS.COM : Actually it is 25 women, 15 children and 19 men- total 59 Hindus), returning from Ayodhya when the Sabarmati Express carrying them was torched near Godhra railway station and the subsequent sectarian violence. These gory incidents shocked the nation to no end. Torching alive innocent citizens is in total violation of Indian values and traditions and is a blot on the fair name of this ancient civilization. It is a gross violation of human rights of innocent citizens who were roasted alive or brutally killed or maimed for no fault of theirs.
The Gujarat tragedy is too deep for tears. An in-depth and objective study to understand the conspiracy, if any, that led to the burning alive of pilgrims and the killing of innocent citizens that took place is several parts of Gujarat is the need of the hour. It is equally important to identify the evil forces that were instrumental in accomplishing the “mission”.
The civil society needs to evolve ways and means to resolve the communal divide that has become a festering wound and poses a serious threat to human rights. It is of utmost importance to know how the administration responded to the challenge and what was the role of the political parties, social organisations, the intelligentsia and the media.
It is in this context that the Governing Body of the Council that met at Delhi on March 22, 2002 decided to send a team to conduct a field study into the communal strife in Gujarat.
Justice D. S. Tewatia, Vice-Chairman of the Council and a former Chief Justice of Calcutta and Punjab and Haryana High Courts, is the leader of the team.
Other members are: Dr J C Batra, senior advocate, Supreme Court of India, Dr. Krishan Singh Arya, Academician, Chandigarh, Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, former Assistant Editor, Jansatta, Delhi, and Prof. B K Kuthiala, Dean, Faculty of Media Studies, G. J. University Hisar.
The team left for Gujarat on April 1 and returned on April 7, 2002.
The team conducted a scientific field study into the horrendous happenings in Godhra and other parts of Gujarat and collected enormous evidence in the form of interviews and documents. It has produced a comprehensive rep ort dealing with numerous aspects of the tragedy. It was not possible for the team to uncover each and every dimension of the tragedy due to constraints of time and resources. But it has done a wonderful job in the limited time and resources available to it. The Council is extremely grateful to Justice Tewatia and his team for conducting the study and producing a comprehensive report.
The Council hopes that its labours will not go waste and that authorities concerned, the intelligentsia and the media as also the common citizens will take serious note of the conclusions and recommendations made by the team. A careful reading of the report will help sift fact from fiction and identify rumours and canards that have been spread by vested interests. The report, one hopes, will enable the nation to have a correct perspective of the forces behind the tragedy and the elements that exploited it for partisan
The Council is grateful to the members of the team, the representatives of various organisations of Hindus and Muslims of Gujarat, concerned citizens who came forward to narrate details of incidents and provided evidence and the local authorities that ensured that the team conducted the study without any hindrance.
Shyam Khosla ,Secretary General. April 26, 2002
S No Chapter Page
1. Introduction 1
2. Data Collection 5
3. Godhra incident 9
4. Facts and inferences 22
5. Communal riots in Gujarat 25
6. Conclusions 35
7. Recommendations 40
INTRODUCTION: NEED FOR AN OBJECTIVE ANALYTICAL STUDY
Finding the truth is the ultimate objective of any intellectual exercise. Be it a fact-finding mission, analysis of social, political or economic processes or a spiritual journey the edifice of truth is built on the facts. In sciences experiments are conducted to generate new information, which forms the basis for the enunciation of new theories and principles. Facts become sacred, inferences and opinions must arise from the information of the past and the new data gathered. Neutrality in the selection of past data, in the process of gathering new information and also in the process of analysis and derivation of inferences is fundamental to any objective intellectual
UNIPOLAR THOUGHT PROCESS
Any exercise to search for truth has to make a beginning without any predispositions. Objectivity is lost if the past attitudes and aptitudes of the seeker of truth colour the vision and the analyst becomes blind to a set of information bits and another set of data is visualized as being greater than its real worth. In research hypothesis are stated and the esearcher has a mind- set wherein based on dispassionate analysis of gathered data the stated hypothesis is either proved to be right or wrong. Incorrect derivations and inferences would arise if the researcher were emotionally or ideologically inclined to prove or disprove a given hypothesis.
Truth is the first casualty of such an exercise. Intellectual honesty demands observations, analysis and derivations that are free from the personal or group prejudice and likes and dislikes of the analysts.
Unfortunately in today’s India the vocal, articulate and dominan sections of thinkers and analysts have become predictable. Even before an exercise of analysis of events and processes begins it is possible to almost correctly forecast the inferences and conclusions that are likely to be drawn by the individuals, groups or organizations.
A newspaper would publish editorials and articles supporting and proving only one point of view.
The outcome of the discussion is predictable depending upon the television channel that is hosting it. Even in the case of simple journalistic reporting the personal predispositions of the reporter glare prominently in the news stories. The questions asked clearly indicate the ideological inclinations of the interviewer.
So much so that even the organizations created under the statutes of the Constitution become partisan and their contentions are blind to a set of data and hyper-responsive to another set of facts. Unipolar thought process of Indian analysts and commentators has become a practice rather than an exception.
QUEST FOR TRUTH
When the problems of the nation receive skewed notice from its intellectuals the analysis cannot be realistic. Not only the problems get politicized, the analysis too is coloured with the vision of the analyst. If the diagnosis of the problem is faulty, the solution is bound to be unrealistic and misdirected. When a physician commits error in the diagnosis of an ailment, he fails to cure the disease and may give birth to new problems. The country today needs better treatment by its intelligentsia. It is the dharma of the intelligentsia to be objective and search and state the truth and only the truth.
If we look back and introspect the achievements and failures of the nation after independence three facts clearly emerge.
First, there was acute shortage of food grains and the country had to import wheat. It posed a serious challenge. The farming community and the scientists responded magnificently and we are now faced with a problem of plenty.
Second, whenever the nation faced an external threat our jawans lived up to our expectations and defended our borders at the cost of their lives.
It is a matter of pride for us that jawans and kisans that constitute the majority of the population brought glory to the country. The scientists too have taken the country to new heights, be it innovations in farming practices, atomic and space research or information technology.
FAILURE OF GOVERNING CLASS
Third, in most of the cases when a task came before the governing class of the society that includes bureaucracy and politicians, mismanagement, failures and deceptions are the outcome.
The ruling class failed to manage the massive surplus produced by the farmers. The contradiction is that while millions of tonnes of wheat is rotting, a large chunk of our society is denied two square meals a day. It is a sad commentary on the governing class. Successive Governments lost on the table the gains achieved by our jawans in the battlefields.
A vast majority of the people has contributed towards the growth and development of the country during fifty-five years of independence but a minuscule minority comprising the political class, bureaucracy, intelligentsia and the media have let the country down.
The tragic fact is that despite India being a democratic polity, a small minority of the elite controls the destiny of the nation. The intelligentsia, professionals and the media failed to provide the link between the vast majority of patriotic and duty conscious citizens and the governing class. They were supposed to keep a watch and provide policy and action options without prejudice. But what did they do? They lost their moorings and became a part of the governing perpetuation of the exploitative and self-serving elite class. Whereas kisans, jawans and scientists have more than met the challenges of nation building the intelligentsia along with politicians and bureaucrats have miserably failed to deliver the goods.
ALTERNATE ACTION PLAN
Independent India inherited the problem of disharmonious relationships between Hindus and Muslims. Amongst many other major problems communal disharmony has been a serious issue before the nation after independence. There were certain inherited realities and solutions were to be found within those parameters. The managers of free India have miserably failed to solve this problem. In fact, they have accentuated the problem and widened the gulf between the two largest communities living in the country. The disease aggravated as the decades passed largely because of the wrong medication.
Is not the continuation of communal tensions between two major communities of the country an adverse comment on the performance of our ruling class, intelligentsia and the media? The answer is an assertive YES.
The inhuman burning of the Indian citizens travelling in a train at Godhra in the morning of February 27, 2002 and whatever followed in Gujarat and elsewhere is an evidence of the mismanagement of the communal divide between two major communities of the country. The political class having made appropriate noises to please their respective constituencies will go to back to its Kumbhkarani sleep to be woken up only when another carnage takes place. When a physician fails to cure certain ailment he looks for an alternative action plan and even takes a second opinion. But not our rulers.
But do our thinkers, planners and implementers ever sit back and ponder over their failures? They sing the same songs with perhaps new music. Instead of looking for their own failures they once again refuse to see the reality and selectively isolate the data to prove their own, many times repeated and widely known viewpoints. They are blind to their skewed perceptions.
They are either unaware or wilfully remaining unaware of the need for an alternate course of action.
It was in this backdrop that the Council for International Affairs and Human Rights decided to depute a Study Team of conscientious and independent professionals to conduct a field study in Godhra and other areas affected by sectarian violence.
The team comprised:
1. Justice D. S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice: Calcutta High Court
and Punjab and Haryana High Court.
2. Dr. J. C. Batra, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court of India.
3. Dr. Krishan Singh, Academician.
4. Shri Jawahar Lal Kaul, Veteran Journalist.
5. Prof. B. K. Kuthiala, Dean Faculty of Media Studies, G J
DATA COLLECTION -VISITS INTERACTION AND DOCUMENTS
The team reached Ahmedabad on 02. 04.02 in the morning by train and visited three affected areas and some of the relief camps. At all the places team members interacted with the members of the public freely without intervention of any officials, government or otherwise.
On 03.04.02 the team went to Godhra and five delegations from both communities and also of mixed composition presented their views and facts to the team. The team then went to the Godhra Railway Station and interviewed the officials and some other witnesses of the burning of the S-6 Coach of the Sabarmati Express in the morning of 27.02.02. The site where the train was initially stopped and stoned was also visited.
The team also minutely observed the burnt S-6 coach. The officials of the Fire Brigade who were involved in the fire fighting on the morning of 27.02.02 were also interviewed.
The localities adjacent to the railway station along with the sites where demolition of structures illegally erected was carried out on 27.02.02 during the curfew hours were also visited. The team also visited a Girls High School at Godhra where Muslims from rural hinterland had migrated for safety.
In the evening the team had a meeting with the District Collector, Godhra along with other officials. The District Collector made a presentation of the actions that the district administration had taken after the incident near the railway station. Information was also provided in response to the questions raised by the members of the team. Prime Minister was to reach Godhra the next day and the team left for Vadodara late at night, as it did not want to be an obstacle in the arrangements being made for his visit.
RELIEF CAMPS OF HINDUS AND MUSLIMS
On 04.04.02 the team was in Vadodara where it visited five relief camps of both the communities and seven areas, which were the scenes of arson, fire and violence during the last month. Team also exposed itself to ground situations by visiting some sensitive areas where either:
a. two communities lived face to face with each other in different localities.
b. a small number of families of one community lived in neighbourhood and surrounded by a large number of the families of the other community.
c. two communities lived in the same locality, both in significant numbers with houses of both communities randomly distributed.
The team visited some of the areas, which have been evacuated by the residents because either they were attacked or they apprehended an attack. To have the exposure to the realities the team also visited some areas where curfew was imposed. Permission to visit such areas was taken from the appropriate authorities.
In the afternoon the Commissioner Police, Vadodra and District Collector Vadodra met the team along with other officials. The team members were updated with the information regarding the management of situation till that day. The officials also answered the queries of the team.
At 5.00 pm the team met with the representatives of various media organizations – both print and electronic. About thirty media persons were present and an informative interaction took place. The team had taken a conscious decision not to address a press conference, as it did not want to express unprocessed, half-baked and impressionistic opinions.
MEETING THE GOVERNOR & THE CHIEF MINISTER
In the evening thirteen (13) delegations consisting of 121 citizens met the team and presented their viewpoints and information. The delegations included not only the members of both the communities but ranged from the Association of Hoteliers to a group of adivasis to affected Muslim and Hindu women.
On 05.04.02 the team once again visited the affected areas to see the change in the ground situation in two days after the team has visited on 02. 04.02. Here once again the team spoke to common persons at the affected sites. In the afternoon the team had an in-depth discussion on the situation in the state with Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister, Gujarat.
After meeting the Chief Minister, the team met the Police Commissioner, Ahmedabad. He gave some data about the preventive arrests (3046), booked (1807), FIRs lodged (636) killed (267 including 58 in police firing) and rounds fired by police (2842). In the afternoon seven delegations – five from Ahmedabad and two representing state level organizations briefed the team of their version of the incidents, perceptions and possible remedial measures. Total number of citizens, both Muslims and Hindus, present in these meetings was 91.
During and after dinner some important persons of the minority community met the team members personally and provided useful information. A retired judge of the High Court belonging to the Muslim community also apprised the team of his perception of the communal riots. He himself is a victim as his house was burnt a few days ago. In the morning of 06. 04. 02 team members went out individually to interact informally with common men to feel the pulse of the people. At noon the team went to Raj Bhawan to meet Shri Sunder Singh Bhandari, Governor, Gujarat where a very useful interaction took place.
OBJECTIVITY IN OBSERVATION AND ANALYSIS:
In the evening the members boarded a train back to Delhi from where the team members dispersed to their respective stations. At this point of time every team member carried a heavy load of information, views and images of realities. For a week the team members engaged themselves in the process of sieving facts from fiction, correlating data with perceived realities and an objective dispassionate analysis. On 15.04.02 and also on 19.04.02 the team met in Delhi and after sharing each other’s analysis the report has been penned down as a collective effort.
It would also be worth mentioning that the Study Team has used both audio and video systems to record images of ground situation, evidence, and narration of the events by victims and witnesses and interviews. Some of these recordings were done with an explicit assurance given by the team to use the material only for the purposes of analysis and shall not be made public. Similarly a load of printed and handwritten documents have also been collected both from official and privates sources. Use of Internet has also been made extensively to interact and surfing for collection of relevant information.
All this information about the methodology is being provided so that the consumers of this information can evaluate the observations and analysis of the team independently.
The strengths and weaknesses are both laid out and there is no attempt to pronounce hasty judgments without any scientific analysis or even without collating the information with other members of the study team. It did not visit the affected areas to strengthen the beliefs and perceptions of its members in a partisan manner, but it went with an open mind and a clean state and allowed the facts to speak for themselves. The objectivity of observation and analysis has been coupled with the honesty and integrity of scientific process of deducing and theory propositions.
GODHRA INCIDENT: BURNING ALIVE OF 58 INDIAN CITIZENS TRAVELLING IN
COACH S-6 OF SABARMATI EXPRESS
Train numbers 9164, 9166 and 9168 have been named Sabarmati Express after the name of the Sabarmati Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi to experiment and propagate his philosophies of non-violence and swadeshi. The train runs up to Ahmedabad, from Faizabad (9164) on Saturdays, from Muzaffarabad (9166) on Wednesday, Friday and Monday and from Varanasi (9168) on Thursday, Sunday and Tuesday. It covers Lucknow, Gwalior, Bhopal, Indore and Dahod is its first halt in Gujarat.
After travelling 74 km in 2 hrs and 19 minutes from Dahod the train is scheduled to arrive at 0255hrs at Godhra. After Godhra it halts at Vadodra, Anand and Nadiad reaching Ahmedabad at 0700hrs
On 26.02.02 Sabarmati Express started from Faizabad about 225 minutes late. On that fateful day, about 2300 pilgrims were travelling by the train. Most of them were returning from Ayodhya where they had gone for either participating in the shila pujan or for the purana ahuti of the ritual jap of Ram naam that the devotees began one month in advance at their respective places.
There were other passengers in the train including members of the Muslim community. However, it has been reported that most of the Muslim passengers got down at Dahod Railway Station and rest of them at Godhra and it appears that when the train was torched there was no Muslim passengers on the train except the elements who were to stop the train by pulling the chain as part of a conspiracy to burn the pilgrims alive.
CHAIN PULLED AND VACUUM PIPE CUT:
At 07.42 hrs the train stopped at Godhra railway Station. After about five minutes, the train started to move but stopped for a few moments as some passengers could not board the train. It finally left the station but came to halt about 700 metres away from the station as some one had pulled the chain. The vacuum pipe between the Coaches No. S-6 and S-7 was cut thereby preventing any further movement of the train.*
*”Press reports the next day stated of one Syed, a Muslim employee /pointsman of the Railway, stopped the train the second time at the outer signal, soon after it started after the chain-pulling incident. The hose pipe was cut after this second stoppage when the crowd had already collected ready for the attack.”
Miscreants threw bricks and stones at the train as soon as it left Godhra railway station. The stoning intensified after it finally stopped about 700 metres from the station. The passengers of the train, particularly Coaches S-5, S-6 and S-7, were the main targets. The passengers reportedly shut the windows and doors to protect themselves. Burning missiles and acid bulbs were thrown on and in the coaches. One such acid missile landed in Coach S-7 and a fire started which the passengers were able to extinguish. But the attack continued and more burning missiles were thrown into the Coach S-6.
FIFTY EIGHT PILGRIMS ROASTED ALIVE:*
*Police investigations later revealed that miscreants entered the S-5 and came through the vestibule to S-6 and threw the inflammable petrol, and set fire to the coach. This corroborates the findings of the State Forensic Laboratory that the inflammable material was not thrown through windows from outside, but was lighted/ignited within the coach S-6”
Soon, S-6 caught fire and within minutes it was in flames. Passengers who managed to get out of the burning compartment were attacked with sharp weapons and stoned. They received serious injuries. Some of them got out through the windows and took shelter below the coach. After some time (between 20 minutes and 40 minutes) fire engine arrived at the scene and took about half an hour to extinguish the fire.
Inside the coach, 58 charred bodies were found. These included 26 women and 12 children. Those who had seen the charred bodies shiver even weeks after the incident while recalling the gory scene. Even a cursory look at the photographs of the charred bodies is a chilling experience. Forty-three(43) injured persons were rushed to the Civil Hospital at Godhra with different degrees of burns. The train left Godhra at about 1230 hours minus Coach S-6, 58 dead and 43 injured.
The question why a large number of Hindus were roasted alive at the hands of Muslim crowds at Godhra and also what was the motivation to enact such a ghastly act needs to be answered. There is strong logic supported by direct and circumstantial evidence that enables the team to assert without an iota of doubt that the entire action was carried out on the behest of the Government of Pakistan. The primary objective was to create Hindu-Muslim communal conflagration in India.
The reasons why Pakistan would resort to such acts are:
1. Hindu-Muslim communal riots in India would have echo in Bangladesh, and would help in cleansing of Hindus from that country resulting in further straining of relations with India. The communal rioting will provide yet another excuse for India bashing. The reaction in Bangladesh will add fuel to the already communally tense situation in India. It would ultimately gives sustenance to the “Two Nation Theory”.
2. Hindu-Muslim riots in India would further accentuate alienation of Kashmiri Muslims, thereby creating further space in Kashmir for Pakistan’s nefarious activities against India.
3. Hindu-Muslim riots in India would tend to adversely affect India’s present friendly relations with Afghanistan. It is worth mentioning here that Prime Minister of Afghanistan had in a television interview while responding to a question about the nature of Afghanistan’s relations with India observed, “That would depend upon how India treats its Muslim minority”. Incidentally, the Prime Minister of Afghanistan was in Delhi on the fateful day the train was torched.
4. Situation at the Indo-Pak border is extremely critical and volatile. A little misunderstanding or even an unintended move can lead to a war between the two countries. Hindu-Muslim riots in such a situation would come handy to weaken our defence as the army would have to be withdrawn from the borders to combat riots. The army is normally summoned to assist the civil authorities when the situation worsens as happened during recent riots in Gujarat.
With a view to maintain law and order, two Brigades of army were deployed in various parts of the state thereby leaving a portion of our border uncovered or weakly protected. To cite an example, if the troops deployed on the Kutch border are withdrawn our defences in that area become weak and border more porous thereby increasing the danger of infiltration by jehadis and smugglers dealing with drugs and arms. What would please more the hostile neighbour and ISI than weak defences and porous borders and what can be a better mechanism than creating a situation where Indian army’s attention is diverted because of its deployment in riot- hit areas. All patriotic and nationalist forces demanding deployment of army to assist the civil authority for one reason or the other need to look at the situation from this angle as well.
5. Hindu-Muslim riots increase the alienation of the saner elements among Kashmiri Muslim and add to the support base of terrorist outfits sponsored, armed and financed by ISI. Terrorism and insurgency get a shot in the arm. In the event of a war between the two countries these subversive groups can play havoc.
6. Hindu-Muslim riots create tensions and misunderstanding between India and Muslim countries with which India has developed understanding and goodwill. By provoking communal violence, Pakistan wants to isolate India in the international community and tarnish its image as a pluralistic and democratic society.
Another question that needs systematic analysis is: Why Godhra?
Why did Pakistan choose to enact this ghastly act at a small, little known town of Godhra?
On the basis of information gathered from various sources the team identifies the following reasons for choosing Godhra for this carnage:
The rate of growth of Muslim population in Godhra is much higher than the national growth rate of Muslim population. At present the estimated ratio of Hindu-Muslim population ranges from 60:40 to 48:52. In any case, it is an established fact that Godhra has a very large Muslim population. Most of them live on both the sides of the railway station in depth.
In normal course, the Sabarmati Express was to arrive at Godhra railway Station at 02.55 a.m. The conspirators must have chosen the place with a view to complete their operation “Burn the train” at the dead of night when most of the passengers would be asleep. They must have planned to accomplish their evil “mission” unhindered and with impunity.
Godhra has the dubious distinction of having a large number of Muslim fundamentalists and jehadi elements. Godhra is neither a Muslim pilgrim centre like Ajmer nor a Muslim educational center like Aligarh and Deoband. The local Muslims are not economically affluent either, yet this town had hosted three istema’- religious congregations. In one of the istema’, Muslim representatives from more than hundred countries participated.
The holding of international congregations on such a massive scale gives credence to the commonly held perception that there has been a massive inflow of foreign money into Godhra.
One Shri Haji Bilal, a Congress member of Nagarpalika, who has been booked by the police as the executor of the carnage, have been, according to locals, proudly proclaiming himself to be “Bin Laden of Godhra”.
President of the District Congress Committee, Farooq Malla and Congress activist and member of Godhra Nagarpalika, Abdul Rehman Dhatia, are amongst those booked for the carnage giving credence to reports that local Congressmen were actively involved in the burning of the train.
The next question is: Why was this particular train chosen for torching?
The team provides the following answer:
This particular train was chosen because the 2300 pilgrims were returning from Ayodhya on this train. Torching and burning alive a large number of Hindu pilgrims (including women and children) was intended to let loose a tide of indignation and provocation of horrendous proportion in Hindu population resulting in intended ignition of the communal tinder box, causing wide spread Hindu-Muslim riots all over the country.
However, the train got late and the miscreants were able to burn only one compartment instead of the entire train and (contrary to the expectations of their Pakistani masters) the communal riots were confined to only a part of Gujarat.
The evidence that leads to the conclusion that the torching of Sabarmati Express on the morning of 27. 02.02 was pre-meditated can be stated as:
The train took only three minutes, as per the statement of the Stationmaster, form the platform to the place where it was stopped by pulling the chain at a distance of about 700 metres. It is impossible for a mob of about 2000 persons carrying acid bulbs and highly combustible liquids to converge within three minutes that too in the early hours of the morning.
The conspirators had done their homework. They ensured that the mob gets enough time to accomplish the misdeed. Had the train stopped because of chain pulling, the driver could have re-started the train after it was attacked by the mob. In order to ensure that the train would not move even an inch further, the conspirators had deputed certain persons to cut the vacuum pipe. Consequently, the train could not move before the pipe was repaired.
In order to establish the correct chronology of events the Study Team collected information from:
1.Staff at the Railway Station, Godhra
3.Passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 in S-6
4. Passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27. 02. 02 other than in S-6
5. Staff of the Fire Brigade, Godhra
6. Others who were witness to the later part of the incident
7. Reports in local, regional and Delhi Press.
STAFF OF RAILWAY STATION GODHRA
The staff at the Railway Station Godhra told the team that no serious quarrel took place on the platform when the train halted there for about 05 minutes. Immediately after the train started moving it stopped and few left-out passengers boarded the train and it started again. A mob of about 1000 Muslims ahead of the Railway Station started pelting stones and other missiles on the train. The train after moving about 700 metres stopped once again but with a jerk as a result of chain pulling.
The vacuum pipe of the Coach No. S-6 was cut. The mob had by then swelled to more than 2000. They stoned the train and also threw burning missiles, concentrating on S-6 and S-7. Soon the Coach S-6 was seen burning and the flames reached outside the coach in no time. Railway Police rushed to the scene and after initial hesitation fired in the air to disperse the mob.
There was no impact on the mob that did not disperse even after firing in the air and kept shouting slogans and throwing missiles at the police and the crowd comprising railway officials, passengers of the other coaches of the train and bystanders.
Fire brigade reached the site after about half an hour (from the time of the departure of the train from the platform). It took about half an hour to extinguish the flames and cool down the S-6 coach. District administration reached the spot after the fire had almost been extinguished and the mob had withdrawn to a distant place but was still shouting slogans.
All through voices were heard on loudspeakers from both the sides of the railway track inciting the mob to kill and burn the infidels (kafirs) and the enemies of Bin Laden. With the help of civilians, the injured were taken to the Civil Hospital and the dead were brought out and counted. Burnt bodies of passengers were identified with the help of other passengers of the train including those of S-6 who had escaped unhurt or were not seriously injured.
DISTRICT ADMINSTRATION, GODHRA
As per the presentation made by the Collector of Panchmahal at Godhra, the Sabarmati express arrived at Godhra Railway station at 7.43 am (scheduled arrival at 2.55a.m.). Train departed at 7.48 a. m. and was stopped at a distance of 1km from Godhra railway station by pulling chain at “Signal Faliya”. A mob of about 2000 miscreants attacked the train with stones and firebombs. Bogies no S/5 and S/6 were set on fire, bogies S/6 was completely burnt with 58 passengers in it including 26 women, 12 children and 20 men roasted alive.
D. S. P. rushed to the spot as soon as he got the information about the incident. Relief work started immediately by the Collector. Arrangements for firefighters were made. Along with the arrangements of Ambulance Van and ST Buses from RTO. Team of three doctors rushed to the site.
Twentyfive passengers were treated on site. Food packets, drinking water was made available to stranded passengers. 43 injured passengers were shifted to civil hospital. Police fired 14 rounds and 30 teargas shells to prevent the mob from causing further damage. Curfew was imposed in the town at 10.55am.
Collector with senior railway officers entered the burnt carriage to assess the casualties – 58 dead bodies found. Train departed for Ahmedabad with the rest of passengers at 12.40 pm. Inquest & post- mortem of all bodies was done by 4.30 pm. Bodies dispatched at 10.30 pm to Civil hospital, Sola, Ahmedabad.
PASSENGERS TRAVELLING IN SABARMATI EXPRESS ON 27.02.02 INCOACH S-6
Kamala (name changed in view of threats received and bomb attack on her a day before she was interviewed by the Study Team on O4.02.02), a college student, went to Ayodhya along with her parents and two sisters to perform the purana ahuti of the Ram jaap her mother was doing for the last one month. The family boarded the train at Faizabad in Coach no S-6 on 26.02.02 at about 0800 hours. There were many passengers on the train who were chanting Ram naam and occasionally chanting “jai Sri ram”.
In the morning of 27.02.02 the train was at Godhra railway station and as soon as it moved, a barrage of stones were thrown at the compartment. Terrified and taken aback, the passengers closed the windows.
The train stopped for a few moments and again started. After about 2-3 minutes the train stopped with a strong jerk rattling the passengers and the luggage. The train continued to be stoned with great intensity. Mob outside the train was pounding upon the windows and doors.
Somebody from outside the train was able to open a window and threw a burning object into the compartment. It fell on the luggage and the fire started. Some passengers stated stamping on the fire, but more burning objects were thrown in as the mob broke open more windows. Some liquid was also poured in from the windows, which intensified the fire.
Iron grills of some windows were detached from one side and bent to pick up the passengers luggage. This luggage was set on fire and thrown back into the coach. The passengers were terribly shaken and shouting for help. Some of them were able to open the door and get out.
Soon the entire coach was gutted. Smoke was so thick that it was impossible to breathe or see anything. She looked for her family members in vain and dropped out of the train from a window whose grill had been bent and detached from one side.
Lying of the ground she could breathe a little and saw a huge mob with swords and iron rods hurling abuses at Hindus. She moved below the coach from where she was rescued after sometime. She may have remained unconscious for some time. She later identified the charred bodies of her mother, father and two sisters. One sister was an engineer and the other was a commerce graduate.
The same train took her to Ahmedabad where she now lives with her younger sister. She has already got Rs.50,000 as relief and expects more. She told the team that she had heard certain Muslims saying that a lot of trouble was caused to them because of her narration of the Godhra tragedy and that she would be eliminated. A bomb was thrown into the room in which she was sleeping a day before the team met her. Fortunately, it did not explode. The matter was reported to the police who are investigating the case.
Raghu (name changed for reasons of security of the witness) was travelling in Coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 and his narration of the events is similar to those of Kamala.
When the coach was set on fire he went up on the upper berth in the hope that the fire will soon be extinguished. But when he got a choked because of the thick smoke he moved from one upper berth to another towards the door but the flames frustrated his first attempt to jump out. He returned and after some time made a desperate attempt and was able to reach the door where a passenger whom he had earlier seen in the train dragged him outside. He fell unconscious and was given water and sugar by a lady who was managing the passengers belonging to Ahmedabad. Though he felt dizzy he received no burn injuries except that his hair were partly burnt. His father and uncle were burnt alive in the same coach.
PASSENGERS TRAVELLING IN SABARMATI EXPRESS ON 27.02.02 IN COACHES
OTHER THAN S-6
Shakuntla (name changed because of security reasons) narrates a story similar to that of Kamala and Raghu except that she was traveling in Coach S-7 and she was looking after a group of pilgrims from Ahmedabad. She got down at Godhra Railway Station and saw many pilgrims bidding each other Jai Ram ji ki as the first greeting in the morning. Some passengers took tea and one of the vendors angrily asked them not to make a noise. The pilgrims did not respond and got into the train as it had started moving. As some lady passengers were not able to board, the train stopped for a few moments and again steamed-off when the left-out passengers boarded.
Alongwith the stones a burning missile landed in S-7 in which she was traveling but the fire was put out without much effort. After some time the train again stopped with a great jerk and shouts of maro- maro came from outside. She could not tell the approximate number of persons in the mob as all the windows were closed.
Some one using a mike was inciting the mob to kill and loot the kafirs and the enemies of Bin laden. . Through a slit in the window she saw a part of the mob with iron rods and swords.
There was tension and suspense in the compartment No one knew what was happening or what would happen to him or her the next moment. After some time both the shouts of the crowd and the voice on the mike stopped. Shakuntla along with some other passengers got out and saw S-6 in flames. There were some injured and perplexed passengers outside. The mob had withdrawn a few hundred yards away. The fire engine arrived and the fire was put off. The mob kept throwing stones at the train from a distance.
A few policemen were also there but they did nothing to protect the passengers. More and more passengers assembled near the burning coach and urged the police to take action against the miscreants but the police did nothing. Crying and shouting Shakuntla took out her bangles and offered them to the two policemen with rifles. The policemen fired a few shots in the air. That did not deter the mob.
When more police came and the fire was put out several passengers along with some policemen chased the attackers. Some persons told the police that the attackers had taken shelter in a nearby garage. The police hesitated to enter the garage.
When the policemen on duty did not take any action, some passengers and locals entered the garage. But it was too late as the miscreants had by then escaped from another door on the other side of the garage. Shkuntla helped the authorities to identify some of the bodies and returned to Ahmedabad by the same train.
STAFF OF THE FIRE BRIGADE, GODHRA
Shri Pradeep Singh s/o Shri Bhola Singh, Motor Driver, Fire brigade, Godhra & Shri Vijay Kumar s/o Shri Ram Chander Sharma, Fireman, Fire Brigade, Godhra (names mentioned with the consent of the witnesses)said they reported for their shift duty at 0800 hrs on 27.02.02. One of the major vehicles was out of order, as its clutch-plates had been taken out a few days earlier. On their arrival on 27.02.02 in their office they found that one of the nuts that connects the pipe to the water tank of the other fire engine was also missing. By the time they had put the nut in place a message about the fire in the train was received.
The Driver along with the firemen rushed towards the spot but on the way a mob led by Haji Balal, a Congress member of the Godhra Nagarpalika, stopped the vehicle and did not allow it to proceed any further. A tall well built young man stood in front of the vehicle. The mob started pelted stones at the vehicle. A fireman sitting in the front seat had to take shelter behind the driver. The headlights and the windowpanes of the vehicle got damaged. Fearing for his own and his crew’s life the driver drove the vehicle through the mob, as it was not possible to move backwards. The mob gave in but by that time precious 15-20 minutes had been lost.
The vehicle reached at the site late and crew saw one of the compartments blazing. The fire was brought under control in about half an hour. Fireman Vijay Singh reported that he saw one woman trying to come out. He covered himself with a blanket and tried twice to reach the lady but the flames were too hot and high and he could not enter the coach. He is deeply disappointed and said some lives could have been saved if the miscreants had not delayed the arrival of the fire engine.
Both the witnesses stated that they were sure that the acts of demobilizing one of the vehicles and removing the nut of the connection of the pipe with the water tank were premeditated and the Congress member of Godhra Nagarpalika, Haji Balal, who is also chairman of the Vehicle Committee of the Nagarpalika, had hatched the conspiracy. Haji Balal had been visiting the fire station at night for the past few days on the pretext of watching films on the television.
They also stated that had the train reached during the night, the entire train would have been burnt. Both the witnesses also said that the manner in which the bodies were charred and the furniture and luggage burnt indicates the use of some highly inflammable material like solvent in addition to petrol, diesel and kerosene.
The fire-crew informed the team that although they had reported the damage to the vehicle to their seniors no formal complaint had been registered. They also reported having received a threatening call warning them not to give statements about the obstruction to the fire engine by a crowd on 27.02.02. As the fire station has a call identification system, they know who made the threatening call.
The Study Team also inspected the Coach S-6. There was no evidence of any stove in the compartment. Although the Team was surprised to find two plastic jerrycans that have been referred to in the report submitted by a team of CPI (M). Wonder of wonders is that while the entire coach got burnt roasting alive the passengers, two plastic jerrycans remained intact. It seems to be a deliberate attempt to plant evidence that is a very serious offence.
OTHERS WHO WERE WITNESS TO LATER PART OF THE INCIDENT
It is natural that when an incident of such a gravity happens many citizens gather at and near the place of incident. While visiting the affected areas and the relief camps the team members kept on searching for the persons who had been the witness to at least some part of the incident. Three such persons could be contacted and interviewed. All of them reported of the inability of the police to take action against the mob. The firing in the air was reluctant and no one saw firing of teargas shells or use of lathies as claimed by the police.
“Investigations later revealed that the armed Railway Police were watching the entire incident from the last coach of the train and moved only after the fire-extinguishers arrived”
REPORTS IN LOCAL, REGIONAL AND DELHI MEDIA
The Study Team went carefully through the reports of the gory incidents published in 22 newspapers and 9 newsmagazines. There is so much variance in the reporting of the events in these publications that it is impossible to draw out a cohesive and acceptable chain of events. The reports vary from an accusation that the fire was stage- managed in order to malign the Muslim minority to an assertion that all Muslim passengers were asked to get down before Godhra by the conspirators. Since the team had reasonably credible evidence from direct witnesses it decided not to analyze the media reports for reconstruction of the chronology of events.
GODHRA INCIDENT- ANALYSED- FACTS AND INFERENCES
There has been so much said, written and broadcast about the Godhra incident that it is difficult to distinguish between facts, half- truths, innocent imagination and motivated lies. Media and interested parties have selected, distorted and added fiction to the story to prove their respective points of view.
Unfortunately, professionalism took a back seat as media persons, fact-finding commissions and administrators, by and large, failed to maintain the fairness, neutrality and objectivity expected from them. To engage in a dispassionate analysis the Study Team has divided all the facts relating to this incident into four categories:
1. Indisputable facts.
2. Facts that appear to be true but need verification.
3. Information that appears to be untrue.
1. On 27.02.02 Sabarmati Express from Faizabad reached Godhra more than four hours late.
2. There were more than 2000 Hindu pilgrims on this train.
3. No serious dispute took place at the platform at Godhra between the passengers and the vendors.
4. The entire train was stoned right after it left the platform at Godhra and it continued even after it was stopped at Signal Faliya.
5. Firebombs, acid bulbs and highly inflammable liquid(s) were used to set the coaches on fire that must have been stored already for the purpose.
6. Miscreants succeeded in torching only one coach.
7. The conspirators did not allow the fire fighting staff to reach the burning train expeditiously.
8. The iron grills of the windows of S-6 were broken and bent from outside.
9. Fifty-eight passengers of coach S-6 were burnt to death by a Muslim mob and that one of the conspirators was a Congress Councillor, Haji Balal.
10. The train was stopped by pulling the chain and the vacuum pipe was cut.
11. Someone used the public address system exhorting the mob to kill kafirs and enemies of Bin Laden.
12. Assembly of a mob of about 2000 Muslims in three minutes could not have been spontaneous.
13. The attack on Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 was pre-planned and pre-meditated. It was the result of a criminal conspiracy hatched by a hostile foreign power with the help of local jehadis.
FACTS THAT NEED VERIFICATION
1. There was a conspiracy to reduce the effectiveness of the fire fighting system of Godhra municipal committee.
2. The mob that burnt the coach had Muslims from outside the town as well.
3. Firearms were used by the mob.
4. Police could have caught or killed some of the miscreants at the spot.
5. Local politicians and elected representatives took active part in instigating the mob.
6. Railway Police at Dahod sent a message to Godhra Railway police that some Muslim youths on board Sabarmati Express were likely to create mischief at Godhra.
7. Head of a passenger of S-6 coach was cut when he tried to get out of the window. The head was later thrown back into the coach to burn.
Police investigations have opened the lead to an autorikshaw used for purchasing the petrol from a local petrol-pump and carrying the same in jerry cans to the Signal Falia area and still continuing.
INFORMATION THAT APPEARS TO BE UNTRUE
1. Some women passengers are missing.
2. Some women passengers were raped or molested.
3. Passengers had pulled the beard of a vendor at Godhra Railway Station.
4. Passengers carried weapons with them.
5. Railway staff connived with the miscreants.
6. The pilgrims had taunted certain Muslims of Godhra while returning from Ayodhya.
7. Police firing while they were burning the coach killed two Muslims.
1. Assistant Collector, Godhra (a young Muslim from eastern UP) goes on leave two days before the incident and does not return till the middle of the March while the district of his posting was aflame with communal riots.
2. The unusual growth rate of Muslim population in Godhra.
3. Absence of information with the District officials about the number of arms licenses issued.
4. Abnormally large number of passports issued to the residents of Godhra.
5. Presence of a very large number of persons without ration cards in Signal Faliya and Polan Bazar areas of Godhra.
6. A large number of unemployed Muslims in Godhra have mobile phones.
7. Very high traffic of telephone calls from Godhra to Pakistan (mainly Karachi) before 27.02. 02.
8. Holding of istema – religious gatherings – at Godhra that were attended by foreigners in large numbers.
COMMUNAL RIOTS IN GUJARAT AFTER 27.02.02 BOTH SPONTANEOUS AND PLANNED BUT A TRAP OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM
The news of the events of 27. 02.02 at Godhra at about 0800 hrs spread like wild fire all over the country by the afternoon. The television media, which has the advantage of instantaneous reporting, played its role in disseminating the information about this carnage. Nothing happened for almost twenty-four hours, though the situation was said to be very tense. Vishwa Hindu Parishad gave a call for state-wide bandh to protest against the Godhra carnage. Communal violence erupted almost simultaneously on 28.02.02 in many parts of the state when the charred bodies, the injured and the passengers travelling in the ill-fated train reached their homes. It became more intense during next twenty- four hours and started subsiding after that. After 01.03.02 there were only stray incidents of communal
violence in certain parts of the state.
On 15.03.02, after shila daan ceremony at Ayodhya by Ramchandra Paramhans, processions of Ram dhun were taken out all over Gujarat. The participation on these occasions was very large in Gujarat, presumably as a reaction of what had happened in Godhra. The Ram dhun processions at many places including Ahemdabad and Vadodra became the points of communal tensions once again and the communal tension that was subsiding again flared up.
Although the Muslim elders had assured the police at Vadodra that peace would be maintained at all costs, the processions were stoned from a mosque. The intensity of the attack proves that these were pre- meditated. The attack was so massive that the police had a tough time handling it.
The state once again came under the grip of communal riots. The rioting was very intense for about three days. Sectarian violence, however, continued in several parts of the state even three days after the attack on Hindu procession at Vadodra.
Incidents of violence on a large scale were initially reported from Ahmedabad and Vadodara towns and the districts of Panchmahals, Sabarkantha and Mehsana. Later it spread to other areas also. However the communal violence was mainly confined to Central and North Gujarat. Saurashtra and South Gujarat remained relatively peaceful. There was no communal violence in almost one half of Gujarat.
The team was told that when the charred bodies of the dead reached their families or the news of their killings reached the relatives, friends and neighbors attacked the nearby Muslim establishments. Similar incidents took place when chautha and kriya ceremonies of the dead were solemnised.
Gujarat has a long history of communal riots. The first such riot has been reported in 1714. After independence major riots broke out on several occasions since 1969. Jagmohan Reddy Commission of Inquiry of 1969 and Dave Commission of Inquiry of 1985 analysed the causes and consequences of communal tensions in great details. Serious rioting occurred in 1970 and also in 1992-93. According to official data, Gujarat witnessed 443 major communal incidents between 1970 and 2002.
Another characteristic of the communal frenzy in Gujarat is that it has always taken a long time to return to normalcy. For instance in Godhra itself in 1985 curfew remained imposed for about a year. Communal disturbance in 1985 continued for more than five months from February to July 1985.
The Study team has not gone into the facts and figures of the number of persons killed, injured and displaced, the loss of property destroyed and the number of cases related to molestation of women, if any. It is not because these facts are not important but because the team lacked the time and resources to go into these details. However the Study Team has analysed the situation for:
1. Administrative response
2. Deployment of Army
3. Relief and resettlement measures
4. Confidence building measures
5. Socio-economic profile of the rioting mobs
6. Involvement of vanvasis
7. Role of media
Based on the information collected from official and non-official sources at Godhra, Ahemdabad and Vadodara the Study Team is of the considered opinion that:
1. The local administration did not respond with speed to the Godhra carnage. The police remained a passive spectator and hesitated to use force against the miscreants. It made no attempt to apprehend the leaders of the mob that indulged in burning alive innocent pilgrims returning from Ayodhya. However, the administration took preventive measures after the VHP gave a call for Gujarat bandh in protest against the attack on the train.
2. In Godhra, Vadodara and Ahmedabad the police tried to control the rioting mobs but, more often than not, failed, as the police were outnumbered – the mobs were unexpectedly large and the police were inadequately armed. In certain cases, the mob carried more lethal weapons that the police had.
3. The administration was not prepared to handle massive migration of riot affected people of both the communities and did not have any idea of the quantum of the relief and rehabilitation work required.
4. Co-ordination between the administration and the NGOs was inadequate.
5. Training and drills for managing communal tensions was conspicuous by its absence in a state that periodically witnesses communal frenzy.
6. Socio-psychological understanding of the communal divide is lacking amongst the officials.
7. The adverse comments on the transfers of officials in the media and not so much the actual transfers demotivated the official machinery.
8. At many places policemen did commendable work of protecting life and property.
9. Policemen, by and large, responded to the situation without communal bias.
DEPLOYMENT OF ARMY
There has been lot of comments on the timing of the deployment of army in various urban and rural areas in Gujarat after the outbreak of violence. Although the team did not have enough time to go into the question in depth, the information made available to it shows that there was no delay on the part of the Gujarat Government in summoning and deployment of troops. A comparison with the past is presented for a proper perspective.
1. By the afternoon of 28.02.02 it was clear that the communal violence has spread widely and the situation had become so alarming that it was unlikely to be controlled by the police and paramilitary forces.
2. On 28.02.02 at 4.30 p.m. the Chief Minister announced at a press conference that the State Government has decided to call army to assist the civil administration.
3. By evening the Union Government had given instructions for the deployment of two brigades in Gujarat.
4. Defence Minister air dashed to Ahmedabad at midnight and had a meeting with the Chief Minister to discuss deployment of the army.
5. The army had to be withdrawn from the country’s border with Pakistan despite the fact that the troops are deployed in full strength in eye-ball-to-eye-ball situation on Indo-Pak borders.
6. Withdrawal of army from the border may have weakened the country’s defensive and offensive strategies.
7. Within less than 24 hours at least one brigade of Indian Army had air landed at Ahmedabad. In a meeting at 0800hrs in which Chief Minister, Defence Minister, army generals and civil officers participated the formal plan for the deployment of the army was approved. Magistrates who must accompany the army were appointed and by 11 a. m. on 01.03.02 the actual deployment of army at sensitive points had begun.
8. The second brigade was deputed to Rajkot and Vadodara on 01.03.02 by that night.
9. Columns allotted to Godhra reached there in the morning of 02.03.02.
10. Army went back to barracks on 10.03.02.
11. In 1969 rioting started on 18.09.69 and army was called in on 21.09.69.
12. In 1985 the riots started on 15.04.85 and the army was called in on 16.04.85.
RELIEF AND REHABILITATION MEASURES
1. Many persons of both the communities whose houses were burnt or destroyed fled and came to the nearby towns for shelter.
2. Many persons who feared an attack on them also fled and gathered in nearby towns.
3. The State Government arranged for shelters called Relief Camps to provide safe temporary shelter to the displaced persons.
4. Many voluntary organizations of both the communities also opened Relief Camps for the displaced persons.
5. The Government managed some camps while other camps were run by the voluntary organizations.
6. Most of the inhabitants in the camps remained unoccupied, leading to idle talk and further reinforcement of views on communal basis.
7. The inhabitants did not feel confident and safe to go back to their respective habitations.
According to the State Government following is the information about the camps:
District Number of Camps Number of inmates
Ahmedabad 44- 68100
Anand 13- 5200
Dahod 6 -4526
Kheda 3- 1441
Mahesana 6- 2648
Panchmahals 7- 8091
Sabarkantha 13- 10938
Vadodara 11- 12753
State Total 103- 113697
CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES
1. In affected areas deployment of police or other forces was very scanty.
2. Residents of the sensitive areas were living in an environment of fear.
3. The mutual mistrust between Hindu and Muslim population is on the increase.
4. Longer the stay in the camps more is the feeling of anxiety and uncertainty.
5. In affected areas, sensitive areas and relief camps there was no publicity material appealing and advising for communal harmony and peaceful co-existence
6. The Information and Public Relations machinery of the state did not disseminate words of assurance and appeals by the Prime Minister, Chief Minister and others that are likely to have a soothing effect on the hurt psyche of the people.
7. Presence of the reports of arson in newspapers and repetition of such reports on television affected negatively the process of confidence building.
8. Most of the voluntary and social organizations were working on sectarian lines and hardly worked for creating an environment of communal harmony.
9. Efforts of some of the officials to bring both the communities together and arrive at a compromise failed, as the amount of antagonism against each other is very high.
10. Rumors spread like wild fire increasing the level of anxieties.
SOCIO-ECONOMIC PROFILES OF THE RIOTING MOBS
(Based on information collected from officials and public, no direct observation)
1. Muslim mobs predominantly included persons of lower socio-economic strata.
2. Muslim mobs included many known faces but number of persons not earlier seen in the locality was also very large.
3. Hindu mobs, especially during the first week of March, comprised a mix of people belonging to lower, lower middle and upper middle socio-economic strata of the society.
4. Involvement of upper middle class Hindus in arson and looting is a phenomenon seen for the first time in the country.
5. The Hindu mobs appeared to be more interested in destroying the property of selected establishments of Muslims. It was reported that a chain of restaurants with Hindu names and owned by a Muslim family was targeted because of the perception that lot of money from gulf countries had been invested thereby putting Hindu competitors at a disadvantage.
6. Another new phenomenon reported to the Study Team was the presence and active participation of women in the mobs.
INVOLVEMENT OF TRIBALS
Earlier in Gujarat, tribals never got involved in the Hindu- Muslim riots. However, their involvement in post Godhra riots added a new dimension to the communal violence. In rural areas the vanvasis attacked the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and the forest contractors. They used their traditional bow and arrows as also their implements used to cut the trees and grass while attacking Muslims. They moved in groups and used coded signals for communication.
Two factors seems to have contributed to this disturbing phenomenon:
1. A delegation of tribals told the Study team that the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and forest contractors have been exploiting the tribals for decades. They charged exorbitant rate of interest to money loaned to tribals. In certain cases the rate of interest is as high as 50 per cent per year.
Having got into this never-ending vicious circle of loans, the tribals have been reduced to the status of bonded labour. Tribals working as servants are ill-treated by these money lenders who happen to be Muslims.
The accumulated anger of years of exploitation became explosive when moneylenders sexually exploited their womenfolk. The tribals are no longer allowed to use forest produce that has been their sustenance for centuries. This too fuelled the feelings of anger, hatred and revenge among them.
2. Tribals have, of late, become conscious of their Hindu identity because of the awareness campaign launched by VHP and other Hindu outfits. Burning alive of Hindu pilgrims by a Muslim mob at Godhra provided the spark for the fire of revenge and hatred.
It may be mentioned that these are only exploratory postulations, scientific anthropological, economic and sociological analysis is required to understand the changed behavior of tribals.
ROLE OF MEDIA
The Study Team received a large number of complaints against biased reporting’, non-objective attitude and anti Gujarat conspiracy of Delhi Media. The team felt it necessary to objectively observe and analyse the role of Media both regional and English language newspapers published from metropolitan cities. It also solicited comments about the role of media from about 500 persons with whom the members of the team interacted. The team’s observations are:
1. Local and regional papers at times seemed to be emotionally surcharged and lost sight of objectivity. However, Gujarati newspapers, by and large, were factual in day to day reporting.
2. The editorial pages of local and regional newspapers maintained a balance in projecting all viewpoints.
3. Newspapers published in English from Delhi invariably editorialized the news. Direct and indirect comments in the news writing were so telling that the personal likes and dislikes of the news reporters were too obvious to be missed.
4. English language newspapers published from Delhi appeared to have assumed the role of crusaders against the State Government from day one. It coloured the entire operation of news gathering, feature writing and editorials.
5. The edit pages of English language press carried comments that clearly indicated biases:
a. against the State Government of Gujarat,
b. in favor of Congress, leftist parties and the secularist
c. indifferent to the carnage at Godhra,
d. against the Hindu organizations, and
e. against the NDA government at the Centre.
6. Most of the national newspapers and news channels played down the intensity of Godhra carnage and projected it as a result of provocation by pilgrims. Not many reporters were deputed to dig out facts or to do follow-up stories. This resulted in large number of editorials and articles that projected Godhra as a reaction to provocation by karsevaks’ and riots in rest of the state as “state sponsored terrorism”.
7. A distorted image of sectarian violence in the state was projected by the electronic and print media based in Delhi.
8. Repeated telecasts of arson and violence contributed in spreading the tension to unaffected areas. TV channels ignored warning from officials and kept telecasting communal riots like infotainment.
9. Coverage of Machhipiti in Vadodara is an example. One national news channel went overboard to telecast police firing at Machhipit as if it had taken place in Ahmedabad.
10. On 27.02.02 the Government of Gujarat announced a compensation of Rs. 2 lakh for the next of kin of victims of Godhra carnage. There were protests about discrimination between Hindu and Muslim victims and the Government announced on March 9 that all victims would get Rs one lakh.
Yet, as late as the first week of April a Congressperson in USA citeda report in an Indian newspaper to accuse the Government of discriminating against minorities in the grant of compensation. The newspaper concerned did not care to inform its readers of the correct situation.
11. The code of ethics prescribed by the Press Council of India was violated by the media with impunity. It so enraged the citizens that several concerned citizens in the disturbed areas suggested that peace could return to the state only if some of the TV channels were closed for some weeks.
12. Media did not help to cool down the tempers. It failed to act as a platform for a dialogue between the Hindus and Muslims on the one hand and between the people and the establishment on the other.
The Study Team is of the considered opinion that the media in general failed to perform as conscious and socially responsible gatekeepers of information.
It followed in the footsteps of an American journalist who said, ” My job is to report the facts. I give a damn to the consequences”.
Telecasting images that spread hatred and instigated violence is unhealthy, but their repeated telecast is lethal. The media acted as an interested party in the confrontation, not a neutral reporter of facts.
The team was alarmed at the intensity of hostile attitude among the people of the state for Delhi press and television news channels. This attitude was especially articulated by delegations of intellectuals like lawyers, doctors, and businessmen. Even the tribals complained that the media had no time to hear their tale of their agony and was spreading canards against the Hindus.
TERRORISM NURTURED BY COMMUNAL DISHARMONY:
The Godhra carnage and related incidents make a typical case study of international designs and conspiracies to weaken India as an emerging world power. Analysts and professional strategists of all ideological inclinations converge on one forecast that India is going to be a major player on the international scene sooner rather than later.
The global community also realizes the inevitability of India becoming an important economic and military power. In such a situation it is but natural that nations hostile to India or its adversaries make all out efforts to create impediments in this process.
Their strategy is to keep India engaged in communal and caste strife so that the nation’s focus on development is defused and its endeavour to emerge as a super- power is thwarted. It would surprise no one if Pakistan with the tacit support of not-so-friendly neighbours and world powers hatches conspiracies to destablise and weaken the Indian State.
A careful and in-depth analysis, if carried out with an open mind, would throw open an action plans where terrorist activities appear to be merging with the already existing strong antagonism between Muslims and Hindus. Our hostile neighbour, sometimes in the guise of a friend, keeps on creating wounds on the body polity of our nation.
Creation and perpetuation of Kashmir problem is one such example. The support to the authoritarian regimes in Pakistan by USA and European countries speaks volumes about the super power’s commitment, or lack of it, to democratic values. Godhra and the wide spread communal violence in Gujarat in recent weeks is a part of this nefarious design.
The Study Team concludes:
1. Burning of 58 Hindu pilgrims at Godhra on 27.02.02 was an act of international terrorism carried out with the evil objective of pushing the country into a communal cauldron.
2. 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 Nagarpalika.
1. Preparations for enacting Godhra carnage were made in advance.
2. There were no quarrels or fights between Hindus and Muslim passengers on the train.
3. There were no quarrels or fights between the vendors and the Hindu pilgrims on the platform of Godhra Railway Station.
4. The intention of the mob was to put to death all the pilgrims travelling by the Sabharmati Express.
5. The fire fighting system available in Godhra was weakened and its arrival at the place of incident wilfully delayed by the mob with the open participation of a Congress Councillor, Haji Balal.
6. The demographic changes in Godhra in recent years have made it a centre for jehadi activities.
7. The Army was requisitioned and deployed in time.
8. The police was on many occasions overwhelmed by the rioting mobs that were massive and carried more lethal weapons than the police did.
9. Police did not have the training and know-how to mange situations of communal strife witnessed in the state in recent weeks.
10. Barring a few exceptions, the police was not found to be communally motivated.
11. Frequent deployment of army for internal management weakens the defence of our international borders and facilitates infiltration from across the border.
12. The local administration and police at Godhra did not take adequate and prompt action even after the receipt of information about the attack on the train by an armed mob. The local police was reluctant to use force against the rioting mob and made no attempt to arrest the leaders of the gang.
13. The local administration and the police should have been on the alert in view of the demographic and political changes taking place in the town.
15. The administration in Godhra, Ahmedabad and Vadodra was on the whole sensitized to the plight of Muslim minorities in their respective areas. However, the police failed to protect the citizens from frenzied mobs indulging in arson, looting and killing.
16. The relief work was carried out by establishing relief camps for victims of the riots. There are separate camps for Hindus and Muslims. Refugees are not satisfied with the facilities available in the camps.
17. Riot-affected citizens belonging to both the communities are reluctant to go back to their homes due to communal tension and apprehensions about violence.
18. Although Gujarat is a state notorious for communal riots, the bureaucracy and the police are not trained to handle communal riots and to take pre-emptive action to prevent sectarian violence.
19. Alternate strategies to mange communal divide have not been worked out.
20. Adverse media reports about role of officials affected their performance and de-motivated them. Several officers were reluctant to take firm action.
21. Gujarati language media was factual and objective. Yet its propensity to highlight the gory incidents in great details heightened communal tension.
22. English language media, particularly the Delhi Press, is perceived by the Gujaratis to be biased. The information disseminated by it was neither balanced nor impartial.
23. By converting half-baked news stories into major headlines, print as well as electronic media widened the psychological hiatus between Muslims and Hindus.
24. By disseminating half-truths and lies, the media played no mean role in distorting country’s image in the World.
25. The credibility of the media both electronic and print is at dangerously low ebb in Gujarat.
The sectarian violence in Gujarat that began in Godhra on 27.02.02 can be divided into four phases:
1. The first phase was Godhra incident which was planned and executed by a combination of external and internal jehadi forces. It lasted for less than an hour.
2. The second phase was the reaction of Godhra where Hindu pilgrims were roasted alive in the train. The backlash was very intense for 3-4 days. However, sporadic incidents continued for several weeks.
3. The third phase began on 15.03.02 after a Muslim mob attacked a Hindu procession chanting Ram dhun. Extensive media coverage of this attack provoked yet another round of communal riots that lasted for 4/5 days.
4. Sectarian violence continues even more than a month after Godhra. This fourth phase of violence has no provocation or justification other than to sustain the “Remove Modi” campaign. It is the constitutional duty of the State Government to protect citizens and maintain law and order.
It is also in the partisan interest of the ruling party in the state to put an end to the communal violence as its continuity in office depends on how soon and how effectively it combats violence. It is, therefore, hard to reject Chief Minister’s contention that the Congress party that has a vested interest in getting him sacked is perpetuating the communal violence by provoking stray incidents.
Thus the Study Team concludes:
26. Communal violence in Gujarat has become politicized, and instead of treating it as human tragedy it is being used to get political mileage by political parties.
27. Loaded statements made by political leaders propounding their action plans increases the hiatus between Muslims and Hindus.
28. Continued communal violence in Gujarat has tarnished the image of the country in international field thereby reducing its status and bargaining power. Western countries jealous of India’s growing clout in the international community have used the riots to interfere in our internal affairs. The Centre has taken some steps to stem the rot but the role of the opposition is negative. It is encouraging Muslim outfits to involve foreign powers in their “oust Mody” campaign.
29. On the world canvass today strong indicators are visible that point to a concerted effort by jehadi forces to slow down ever- increasing importance of India in the world affairs.
30. There are also concerted efforts to disintegrate India, politically as well as emotionally.
31. There are elements within the country that help and collaborate with the forces inimical to India.
32. The governing class in India is ignorant or wilfully blind to the threat perceptions posed by the jehadi forces.
RECOMMENDATIONS- ALTERNATE PLAN OF THOUGHT AND ACTION
India cannot escape taking the responsibility of failure to manage the relationship between Hindus and Muslims just by pleading that the problem was inherited from the colonial rulers and the Musliminvaders. Fifty-five years is a long enough period to resolve the issue. Unfortunately, no serious effort has been made to bring Hindus and Muslims closer.
On the other hand, certain parties for partisan considerations have exploited the hiatus between the two communities. External agencies fuel the fire of hatred but they succeed only because there are weaknesses within the country. International designs find a ready response from within the civil society as there is a fertile ground for separatist tendencies to grow.
Traditional methods of conflict resolution having failed, new systems need to be employed to convert communal mistrust into national affection and brotherhood. New approaches are required to convert the weaknesses into strength.
A minority as large as the second largest Muslim country should not feel alienated nor should the majority community be made to feel that the minorities were appeased at its cost.
The amount of time, energy, effort and other resources that the country spends for managing the communal conflicts and failing again and again, if gets diverted to the process of growth and development, India can become a land of plenty and prosperity. But the old problems must be seen from new angles and unorthodox measures taken.
The intelligentsia will have to come up with new yet realistic principles and theories of social systems that are based on ground realities. They must stop romanticizing the miseries of the nation. The bureaucracy have to devise action plans that show results within their lifetimes and cease to give extensions to the problem solving systems. The politicians have to look for alternate means of winning elections and stop treating citizens as mere voters to be used only as pawns in the hands of politicians.
The nation must accept that Hindus and Muslims have no options but to live together. There are only two options. One, to live in amity and the other to live in mutual hostility. Saner elements in the two communities would prefer the first option. Every action and situation that carries the potential of disturbing the mutual amity have to be identified and weeded out.
The problem is complex and multifaceted and solution is bound to be difficult and elusive. But the country has a large storehouse of brains that can find solutions to still harder problems. New faces have to be entrusted this job. So a different set of persons who look at the problems from new angles and propose a mix of curative and preventive measures is the need of the hour.
In view of the enormity of the cancerous problem of communal conflicts and the field experience of recent happenings in Gujarat the Study Team proposes to recommend:
a. long term measures b. short term measures c. immediate steps to be
LONG TERM MEASURES
1. Following groups be constituted to study the problems of communal conflicts in the country:
c. Diagnostic Team: to investigate the genesis of the process of communal conflict and identify key problem areas
d. Curative Team: to determine the solutions for the problems identified by the diagnostic team
e. Pre-emptive Action Team: to prepare action plans so that existing tensions do not flare up and also to ensure that no new conflict situations arise.
The teams should comprise of social scientists, conflict managers, jurists and media persons.
2. Participation in the acts of communal violence should be treated as a crime of as serious nature as an act of terrorism. In no case, communal violence should be allowed to become a lucrative vocation.
3. Deployment of army for internal law and order should be confined to the situation of internal emergency. The enemies of the country should not be allowed to use communal violence as a strategy for withdrawal of army from the border.
4. In the states, police forces on the lines of rapid action force be created for deployment during riots and natural disasters.
5. Election laws need to be amended so that the politicians are not able to use caste or religion for nurturing votes banks. Once the politicians are aware that vote banks based on caste or religion would not serve their purpose, a major portion of the communal problem will disappear.
6. A citizens standing committee be constituted to keep a watch on the communal situation so that if and when communal tension in any part of the country tends to increase the administration is warned to take preventive measures. Such committees need to be constituted at State, District, Block and Village levels.
SHORT TERM MEASURES
7. Several laws and orders passed by the successive governments have remained on paper only. Two such laws are directly related with maintenance of communal peace:
a. The order to ban the use of loud speakers in religious places as well as in processions.
b. the law to regulate the sale of property by the members of one community to the other in communally sensitive areas.
It is recommended that the above orders should be implemented and indirect sale deeds such as on power of attorney should also be taken care of. All encroachments in important public places, busy markets, religious places, near railway stations and bus stations as well as on highways especially at the entry points to the cities should be cleared.
8. It is recommended that the orders for the ban of loud speakers be put to practice with the cooperation with the leaders of various communities.
9. An inquiry commission should be set up to inquire into:
c. Economic and social exploitation of tribals in the state.
d. Recommend ways and means to stop their exploitation
10. Rehabilitation is not merely a physical act of placement of families. Serious efforts need to be done to restore the emotional state of mind. The village and mohalla majorities should be intimately involved in the work of rehabilitation.
11. Gujarat must conduct a review of its police force, which appears to be ill equipped to handle communal violence at the level of recent riots. Special training needs to be given in crowd control methods.
IMMEDIATE STEPS TO BE TAKEN
12. The case of issuance of disproportionate number of passports in Godhra be investigated.
13. Punitive fines be imposed on the residents of localities where communal violence erupts after a notified date.
14. Media should use itself as a platform for creating harmonious relationships between different communities. Its crusade, if at all, should be for or against the processes and not for or against individuals.
15. Persons living in relief camps should be provided safe habitations. Community leaders should be actively involved in managing the rehabilitation.
16. Persons booked for communal violence must be prosecuted quickly and given exemplary punishment so that it acts as a deterrent.
17. An independent commission should examine the role of media, both electronic and print, during the communal violence in Gujarat.
18. A code-of-conduct should be developed for the media both for general news gathering and news presentation and during the communal riots. Till the time new code is adopted the guidelines given by the Press Council of India for covering communal tensions should be followed.
19. Television news channels have very significant influence on the minds of the viewers. If the channels so desire they can provide a healing touch to the wounded population of Gujarat. Indian news channels also have the professional talent required for the job. It is suggested that the television news channels take the roles of crusaders for peace.
20. A situation of continuous dialogue needs to be created in every habitation in Gujarat by establishing citizens peace committees. It has been proved that regular communication links reduces antagonism between warring groups.
P.S.: Mr. S. M. F. Bukhari,IAS, head of the Rehabilitation of refugees in the State, in a press statement in the first week of Aug.2002, said that out of over 130,000 refugees in different camps in the State, only below 10% or 13,000 remained in the Govt. run camps and others have returned to their homes.
Most of the inmates of the Shah Alam or other camps in Ahmedabad are the poorer Muslims, illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, who were even otherwise living in Jhuggi/Jhopda-s or temporary shelters built by waste wood and plastic material on Govt. land, sleeping in the open and nowhere to go back, nor they desire to go back as they are happy with the ample free rations and blame the Govt. of atrocities to every VIP visiting these camps. They are claiming from the Govt. houses to be built for them now!!
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