Posted on October 31, 2016 - Filed Under 00 - The Godhra Carnage | 1 Comment
“Godhra”. The word is more than just the name of a town located in Panchmahal district in the western Indian state of Gujarat. The word used also indicates an event. A mind-numbing one. A horrifying one. An unimaginable one. A barbaric one. The word “Godhra” records the gruesome killing of some 59 innocent people, including 25 women and 15 children and injuries to 40. Independent India saw many horrors. This was one of the worst of them.
This mind-numbing horror was also the cause of many more horrors, many more events, many more riots, many more political changes. It was also the immediate cause of rioting, which left some 1169 people dead.
But this was not the first time, nor the last time, that the town witnessed communal vandalism. The town had a long history of bloody communalism. It was well-known for it. Let us take a brief look at the town’s long history of bloody communal riots.
Communal History of Godhra for the Record
Godhra is the main centre of Panchmahal district, which is considered to be communally very sensitive. Chronology of a few communal riots/atrocities is appended below:
1927-28: Murder of P.M. Shah, a leading local representative of Hindus.
1946: Mr. Sadva Hazi and Mr. Chudighar, pro-Pakistani Muslim leaders were responsible for attack on a Parsi Solapuri Fozdar during communal riots. After partition, Mr. Chudighar left for Pakistan.
1948: Mr. Sadva Hazi conspired an attack on the District Collector, Mr. Pimputkar in 1948 but his bodyguard saved him at the cost of his own life. After that, Mr. Sadva Hazi also left for Pakistan in 1948.
On 24th March, 1948, one Hindu was stabbed to death near a mosque in Jahurpur area. Around 2,000 houses of Hindus were burnt, besides Hindu temples. District Collector Pimputkar could save the remaining areas belonging to Hindus by imposing curfew, which lasted for six months.
1965: Shops belonging to the Hindus were set ablaze near police chowki No. 7 by throwing incendiary material from the nearby two Muslim houses, viz. Bidani and Bhopa. It could be possible allegedly because of the Congress MLA belonging to the minority community. PSI of this police chowki, which was near the Railway Station, was also attacked by anti-social elements.
1980: A similar attack was made on the Hindus on 29th October, 1980, which started from the Bus Station of Godhra. This attack was planned by Muslim miscreants who were involved in anti-social activities near the Station Road area.
Five Hindus including two children of five and seven years of age were burnt alive. A Gurudwara was also set on fire, in Shikari Chal of this area. Forty shops belonging to the Hindus were also set on fire in station area. Due to these communal riots, Godhra was put under curfew for a year, which severely affected the business and industries.
1990: Four Hindu teachers, including two women teachers, were murdered (cut into pieces) by miscreants in Saifia Madarsa in Vhorvada area of Godhra on 20th November, 1990 in front of children. One Hindu tailor was also stabbed to death in this area. All this was done by anti-social elements allegedly at the instance of the Congress MLA of the area.
1992: More than 100 houses belonging to the Hindus were set on fire near the Railway Station in the year 1992 to snatch away this area from Hindus. This area in 2002 was lying vacant as most of the Hindu families have shifted elsewhere.
2002: The bogies of Ahmedabad-bound Sabarmati Express were set on fire on 27th February, 2002 by Muslim miscreants. S-6 coach carrying karsewaks returning from Ayodhya was targeted as a pre-meditated plan/ conspiracy. 59 innocent men, women and children died and 40 sustained injuries. The attackers had a plan to set on fire the entire train but could not do so because the train was late for four hours and they could not take the advantage of darkness of night.
(Source: Vishwa Sanwad Kendra, Gujarat and The Indian Express dated 30th April, 2002: http://www.indianexpress.com/storyOld.php?storyId=1822, quoting Gujarat’s then MoS for Home Gordhan Zadaphiya)
2003 September: Ganesh idol immersion saw stone pelting and conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. This was reported by rediff.com and The Times of India, but was forgotten by everyone, including the Sangh Parivar leadership:
All the above details of Godhra (except the 2003 stone pelting) are also mentioned in an article titled “Godhra in Ferment even before Independence” in the Milli Gazette magazine on 16 March, 2002. (Source: http://www.milligazette.com/Archives/15042002/1504200276.htm).
This magazine is considered as a mouthpiece of Indian Muslims or at least a voice of Muslims in India. This is the Indian Muslims’ leading English newspaper and it has also published these details about Godhra.
After the 2002 Godhra carnage, the Nanavati Commission was appointed to probe the carnage which was a full-fledged Commission of Inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. It submitted its report on the Godhra carnage in September 2008. The report said: “Godhra town is a very sensitive place. There is a high percentage of Muslim population in various places in the district. Communal riots had taken place in Godhra in the years 1925, 1928, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1953, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1991 and 1992. The communal riots that had taken place in 1948 were very serious. Initially, the Muslims had burnt 869 houses of Hindus. Thereafter, the Hindus had burnt 3,071 houses of Muslims”.
The whole report can be read at: http://www.home.gujarat.gov.in/homedepartment/downloads/godharaincident.pdf
Even The Indian Express of 14 December 2012 mentions some of the incidents. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/gujarat-election-2012-deeply-divided-by-religion-godhra-braces-for-2nd-phase-poll/1045242/3
Even Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948) had also written about the Muslim communalism in Godhra. V.P. Bhatia (1928-2003) wrote in Organiser weekly dated 21st April, 2002 in his famous column Cabbages and Kings:
“The following article from Gandhiji’s entitled “What are we to Do?” in Young India (11th October, 1928) reveals that the Muslims were ever aggressive against Hindus in that city (as in other areas of Gujarat) in the wake of the Khilafat fiasco. There was virtually a state of war between the two communities in which the non-violent Hindu was the real sufferer. The following are the exact words of Gandhiji in the said article.
“Two weeks ago, I wrote in Navajivan a note on the tragedy in Godhra, where Shri Purshottam Shah bravely met his death at the hands of his assailants and gave my note the heading Hindu-Muslim Fight in Godhra. Several Hindus did not like the heading and addressed angry letters asking me to correct it (for it was a one sided fight). I found it impossible to accede to their demand. Whether there is one victim or more, whether there is a free fight between the two communities, or whether one assumes the offensive and the other simply suffers, I should describe the event as a fight if the whole series of happenings were the result of a state of war between the two communities. Whether in Godhra or in other places, there is today a state of war between the two communities. Fortunately, the countryside is still free from the war fever (no longer now) which is mainly confined to towns and cities, where, in some form or the other, fighting is continually going on. Even the correspondents, who have written to me about Godhra, do not seem to deny the fact that the happenings arose out of the communal antagonisms that existed there. “If the correspondents had simply addressed themselves to the heading, I should have satisfied myself with writing to them privately and written nothing in Navajivan about it. But there are other letters in which the correspondents have vented their ire on different counts.
A volunteer from Ahmedabad, who had been to Godhra, writes: You say that you must be silent over these quarrels. Why were you not silent over the Khilafat, and why did you exhort us to join the Muslims? Why are you not silent about your principles of Ahimsa? How can you justify your silence when the two communities are running at each other’s throats and Hindus are being crushed to atoms? How does Ahimsa come there? I invite your attention to two cases:
A Hindu shopkeeper, thus, complained to me: Musalmans purchase bags of rice from my shop, often never paying for them. I cannot insist on payment, for fear of their looting my godowns. I have, therefore, to make an involuntary gift of about 50 to 70 maunds of rice every month?
Others complained: Musalmans invade our quarters and insult our women in our presence, and we have to sit still. If we dare to protest, we are done for. We dare not even lodge a complaint against them.
What would you advise in such cases? How would you bring your Ahimsa into play? Or, even here you would prefer to remain silent!
“These and similar other questions have been answered in these pages over and over again, but as they are still being raised, I had better explained my views once more at the risk of repetition. “Ahimsa is not the way of the timid or the cowardly. It is the way of the brave ready to face death. He who perishes sword in hand is, no doubt, brave, but he who faces death without raising his little finger, is braver. But he who surrenders his rice bags for fear of being beaten, is a coward and no votary of Ahimsa. He is innocent of Ahimsa. He, who for fear of being beaten, suffers the women of his household to be insulted, is not manly, but just the reverse. He is fit neither to be a husband nor a father, nor a brother. Such people have no right to complain…” (extract from To the Hindus and Muslims, a collection of articles by Gandhiji from Young India ).”
Thus, it is clear that Gandhiji mentioned the murder of Purshottam Shah, which happened in 1928. These statements of Mahatma Gandhi can also be read in his Collected Works, Volume 43, pages 81-82. To read, click on the link below.
He had also once said that ‘Hindus are cowards’. Mahatma Gandhi had also written: “There is no doubt in my mind that in the majority of quarrels the Hindus come out second best. But my own experience confirms the opinion that the Mussalman as a rule is a bully, and the Hindu as a rule is a coward. I have noticed this in railway trains, on public roads, and in the quarrels which I had the privilege of settling. Need the Hindu blame the Mussalman for his cowardice? Where there are cowards, there will always be bullies… But I, as a Hindu, am more ashamed of Hindu cowardice than I am angry at the Mussalman bullying… ”
The source quoted is “Hindu-Muslim Tension: Its Cause and Cure“, Young India, 29/5/1924; reproduced in M.K. Gandhi: The Hindu-Muslim Unity, p.35-36.
The Entire Happenings in Godhra—How the Massacre Occurred
We have seen the bloody communal history of the town. Now let us see the exact horrible, lurid details of the massacre of 27th February, 2002 with the background.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) had organized a ‘Purnahuti Yagya’ in Ayodhya in February-March 2002. It declared 15th March, 2002 as the date for the beginning of the construction of Ram temple at Ayodhya. People participating in this ‘Yagya’ had simply participated and gone home. They did not stay in Ayodhya until 15th March,2002 for the construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya at the undisputed site (majority of the undisputed land was owned by VHP and affiliated bodies and the SC in its order of 1994 had said that the undisputed land can be given to its owner).
People from all parts of the country went to Ayodhya, participated in this event, i.e. the Purnahuti Yagya and returned home from mid-February to 27th February, 2002. A trainload of such people called ‘karsevaks’ or ‘Ramsevaks’ were returning to Ahmedabad in Gujarat from Ayodhya after participating in the Purnahuti Yagya. Whether they were all members of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or just ordinary people supporting the VHP’s stance on the Ram temple in Ayodhya is not known.
The train, the Sabarmati Express was supposed to reach Ahmedabad early in the morning. It was running four hours late (Source: India Today, dated 11th March, 2002). Shortly after the train left the Godhra railway station at 7: 48 a.m., a mob (the estimates of the numbers of which have ranged from 500 to 2000) stopped it. This was 500-700 meters away from the Godhra railway station, at Signal Falia area. The train was not burnt at the railway station, but at Signal Falia. That is why the attackers could not burn the train from outside. Had it been on a railway platform, they would not have found it too high. But at Signal Falia, it was too high. Hence, some of them entered the train cutting the vestible from the side coach no S-7 and set it afire from inside and then went out again. The mob was reportedly armed with petrol bombs, acid bombs and swords. The attackers poured petrol into the compartment and then set it afire. Two thousand people were standing on all sides of the compartment to prevent the karsevaks from running away and saving their lives from the fire. The karsevaks were literally caught between devil and the deep sea. There was fire inside and armed Muslims outside. 59 karsevaks were burnt to death in a most horrifying manner. Many of the bodies were charred horrifically. The victims included 15 children, including some toddlers and some old people of above 65. They were all done to death in the most brutal manner.
Account of a 16-year-old Survivor
On 27th February, Gayatri Panchal, a young eleventh class student, was also amongst those who were returning from Ayodhya. She is a surviving witness to the inhuman atrocious cruelty in which right in front of her eyes two of her sisters and parents were burnt alive.
Harshadbhai Panchal, a resident of Ramol, left for karseva at Ayodhya on 22nd February, together with his wife, Neetaben and three daughters, Pratiksha, Chhaya and Gayatri. His sister-in-law, her son, her neighbour, Poojaben and her would-be husband were also accompanying him.
All of them were returning to Ahmedabad along with several other karsevaks. Harshadbhai and his family, Poojaben and her husband were in one compartment, while his sister-in-law and her husband and their son were in another compartment. The only survivor out of these ten, Gayatri, says about this horrible event that, “On the 27th morning, at around 8 a.m. the train left Godhra Station. The karsevaks were loudly chanting the Ram Dhoon. The train had hardly gone a few meters, when it suddenly stopped. Somebody had perhaps pulled the chain to stop the train. Before anybody could know what had happened, we saw a huge mob approaching the train. People were carrying weapons like Gupti, Spears, Swords and such other deadly weapons in their hands and were throwing stones at the train. We all got frightened and somehow closed the windows and the doors of the compartment. People outside were shouting loudly, saying ‘Maro, Kato’ and were attacking the train. A loudspeaker from the Masjid closeby was also very loudly shouting ‘Maro, Kato, Laden na dushmano ne Maro.’ (“Cut, kill, kill the enemies of Laden”)These attackers were so fierce that they managed to break the windows and close the doors from outside before pouring petrol inside and setting the compartment on fire so that nobody could escape alive. A number of attackers entered the compartment and were beating the karsevaks and looting their belongings. The compartments were drenched in petrol all over. We were terrified and were shouting for help but who was there to help us? A few policemen were later seen approaching the compartment but they were also whisked away by the furious mob outside. There was so much of smoke in the compartment that we were unable to see each other and also getting suffocated. Going out was too difficult, however, myself and Pooja somehow managed to jump out through the windows. Pooja was hurt in her back and was unable to stand up. People outside were trying to hold us to take us away but we could escape and run under the burning train and succeeded in crawling towards the cabin. I have seen my parents and sisters being burnt alive right in front of my eyes.” Luckily, by the grace of God, Gayatri was not hurt too badly. “We somehow managed to go up to the station and meet our aunty (Masi). After the compartments were completely burnt, the crowd started withering. We saw that even amongst them were men, women and youngsters like us, both male and female. I returned here after evacuating the dead bodies of my family members at Godhra Station. Out of 18 of us, ten had laid their lives.”
Gayatri’s father was a carpenter, whereas, her mother worked in the Madhyanha Bhojan Yojna (i.e. Mid-day meal scheme), her elder sister, Pratiksha was serving in the Collectorate.
In spite of what had happened, Gayatri still feels that she would any time once again venture to go for karseva. She says, “I shall not allow the sacrifice of my parents to go in vain” (Source: VSK, Gujarat and various English dailies such as The Indian Express dated 28th February, 2002).
A foreign daily Portsmouth Herald reported:
“Sixteen-year-old Gayatri Panchal saw her mother, father and two sisters die before her eyes in the train fire as they returned home after participating in a religious ceremony at Ayodhya.
‘We were sleeping and I opened my eyes when I felt the heat. I saw flames everywhere. My mother was in flames, her clothes were on fire,’ she said. ‘Someone pulled me out of the compartment and then I saw my father’s body being taken out. He was covered in black. Then I fainted.’”
Among some details of the brutality, an event that reveals the killing of a Dalit karsevak in the Godhra massacre is worth reproducing. Umakant Govindbhai of Saijpur was 25 years of age and working in the Collector’s Office. Umakant, who was trying to break the closed door and get away, was pelted with stones by the attackers and pushed with the bamboos inside the coach (Source: Article by Dr. Suvarna Raval in Marathi daily Tarun Bharat dated 21st July,2002).
The Times of India reported 1 year later, on 27 Feb 2003: “For the four Panchal sisters — Komal (20), Avani (19), Gayatri (17) and Priyanka (15) — the last year has been full of tears. Their father Harshad Panchal, mother Mita Panchal, sisters Pratiksha and Chhaya fell prey to the barbarity in Godhra on February 27. And, life was never the same again.
The result. Gayatri, a topper in SSC, today is sickly and struggling with education at grade XII. Lost without their parents the girls often go to bed in tears, as memories of the tragedy come flooding back every day. Said Komal, “We are trying to get on with life but it is difficult. Life seems meaningless without the love and affection of parents.”
This sort of massacre was not seen anywhere in independent India. Nor could this compare with any other event—such as the murder of Indira Gandhi, or any of the brutal murders of the opponents in Kannur district of Kerala, which is known for violent clashes. The terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar or various other temples in India or deadly bomb blasts in various places could, in no way, compare with this horrific massacre.
Godhra was by no means an act of sudden eruption of violence or terrorism. Most people say it was terrorism, from the Nanavati Commission, to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad. But terrorism is completely different. The terror is temporary, the pain is momentary. Indira Gandhi (1917-1984) was shot dead by bullets. It was a case of murder, but of a very big leader- the Prime Minister. Murders occurring anywhere are mostly the result of stabbing or bullet shots.
But Godhra was not that. It was much worse. It was an act of a pre-meditated conspiracy of barbarism and not real terrorism. ‘Terrorists have no religion’ is a statement parroted many times in the media by many people. But Godhra was not done by one or two terrorists. It was done by a mob, a mass mob of 500+ people, ordinary people, not terrorists undergone training in training camps. Not terrorists armed with AK-47, AK-56 rifles or grenades. They were locals, not foreigners. The local Muslims did the barbaric, communal and criminal act of Godhra to further a premeditated plan.
In February 2003, a Muslim accused of Godhra CONFESSED IN COURT that the Godhra killings were a well-planned conspiracy, planned much in advance by fanatic Muslims with petrol bought before, and that he himself had participated in it.
This JUDICIAL CONFESSION was a conclusive evidence, but the media suppressed it, covered it up and did not inform the people even when the Banerjee Committee appointed by Lalu Yadav (later declared illegal by the High Court) lied that it was an ‘accident’ without answering the stone-pelting, burning rags, and this confession. Unnecessary confusion or doubts were tried to be created by concocting outrageous lies & simply denying that Muslims roasted the train in a well-planned attack.
The Reaction of the English Media
The rioting in Gujarat in the first three days after Godhra was a result of not just the massacre at Godhra. It was the result of something else. And this something else was the reaction of the Left- liberal-secular media.
The media in general and TV channels like Star News and NDTV (who then had a collaboration) in particular, almost all English newspaper editors of the print media, and almost all non-BJP politicians belong to this Left-liberal-secular brigade. And almost every non-BJP leader, who came on TV, rubbed salt into the wounds of the anguished people. This was done by rationalizing or justifying the Godhra carnage.
At that time, Vir Sanghvi was the Chief Editor of The Hindustan Times. He wrote an article entitled “One Way Ticket” in The Hindustan Times on 28th February, 2002. He must have written it on 27th February itself, the day of the massacre in Godhra. This is the full text of his article:
“There is something profoundly worrying in the response of what might be called the secular establishment to the massacre in Godhra. Though there is some dispute over the details, we now know what happened on the railway track. A mob of 2,000 people stopped the Sabarmati Express shortly after it pulled out of Godhra station. The train contained several bogeys full of kar sewaks who were on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the Poorna Ahuti Yagya at Ayodhya. The mob attacked the train with petrol and acid bombs. According to some witnesses, explosives were also used. Four bogies were gutted and at least 57 people, including over a dozen children, were burnt alive.
Some versions have it that the kar sewaks 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 will be some time before we can establish the veracity of these versions, but some things seem clear. There is no suggestion that the kar sewaks started the violence. The worst that has been said is that they misbehaved with a few passengers. Equally, 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.
Even if you dispute the version of some of the kar sewaks – that the attack was premeditated and that the mob was ready and waiting - there can be no denying that what happened was indefensible, unforgivable and impossible to explain away as a consequence of great provocation.
And yet, this is precisely how the secular establishment has reacted.
Nearly every non-BJP leader who appeared on TV on Wednesday and almost all of the media have treated the massacre as a response to the Ayodhya movement. This is fair enough in so far as the victims were kar sewaks.
But almost nobody has bothered to make the obvious follow-up point: this was not something the kar sewaks brought on themselves. If a trainload of VHP volunteers had been attacked while returning after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in December 1992, this would still have been wrong, but at least one could have understood the provocation.
This time, however, there has been no real provocation at all. It is possible that the VHP may defy the government and the courts and go ahead with the temple construction eventually. But, as of now, this has not happened. Nor has there been any real confrontation at Ayodhya – as yet.
And yet, the sub-text to all secular commentary is the same: the kar sewaks had it coming to them.
Basically, they condemn the crime; but blame the victims.
Try and take the incident out of the secular construct that we, in India, have perfected and see how bizarre such an attitude sounds in other contexts. Did we say that New York had it coming when the Twin Towers were attacked last year? Then too, there was enormous resentment among fundamentalist Muslims about America’s policies, but we didn’t even consider whether this resentment was justified or not.
Instead we took the line that all sensible people must take: any massacre is bad and deserves to be condemned.
When Graham Staines and his children were burnt alive, did we say that Christian missionaries had made themselves unpopular by engaging in conversion and so, they had it coming? No, of course, we didn’t.
Why then are these poor kar sewaks an exception? Why have we de-humanised them to the extent that we don’t even see the incident as the human tragedy that it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP’s fundamentalist policies?
The answer, I suspect, is that we are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.
When this formula does not work- it is clear now that a well-armed Muslim mob murdered unarmed Hindus – we simply do not know how to cope. We shy away from the truth – that some Muslims committed an act that is indefensible – and resort to blaming the victims.
Of course, there are always ‘rational reasons’ offered for this stand. Muslims are in a minority and therefore, they deserve special consideration. Muslims already face discrimination so why make it harder for them? If you report the truth then you will inflame Hindu sentiments and this would be irresponsible. And so on. I know the arguments well because – like most journalists – I have used them myself. And I still argue that they are often valid and necessary.
But there comes a time when this kind of rigidly ‘secularist’ construct not only goes too far; it also becomes counter-productive. When everybody can see that a trainload of Hindus was massacred by a Muslim mob, you gain nothing by blaming the murders on the VHP or arguing that the dead men and women had it coming to them.
Not only does this insult the dead (What about the children? Did they also have it coming?), but it also insults the intelligence of the reader. Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women’s compartment suffered the most damage.
Any media – indeed, any secular establishment – that fails to take into account the genuine concerns of people risks losing its own credibility. Something like that happened in the mid-Eighties when an aggressive hard secularism on the part of the press and government led even moderate Hindus to believe that they had become second class citizens in their own country. It was this Hindu backlash that brought the Ayodhya movement – till then a fringe activity – to the forefront and fuelled the rise of L.K. Advani’s BJP.
My fear is that something similar will happen once again. The VHP will ask the obvious question of Hindus: why is it a tragedy when Staines is burnt alive and merely an ‘inevitable political development’ when the same fate befalls 57 kar sewaks?
Because, as secularists, we can provide no good answer, it is the VHP’s responses that will be believed. Once again, Hindus will believe that their suffering is of no consequence and will be tempted to see the building of a temple at Ayodhya as an expression of Hindu pride in the face of secular indifference.
But even if this were not to happen, even if there was no danger of a Hindu backlash, I still think that the secular establishment should pause for thought.
There is one question we need to ask ourselves: have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than occasion for Sangh Parivar-bashing?”
Today it can be read at: http://www.virsanghvi.com/Article-Details.aspx?key=611
As we see, when he had written it, no riots had taken place in Gujarat at all. But a close observation of his article indicates that he knew that a backlash would take place in Gujarat, after the inhuman response of the ‘secularist’ brigade to the inhuman massacre in Godhra. See his two sentences: “Even moderate Hindus, of the sort that loathe the VHP, are appalled by the stories that are now coming out of Gujarat: stories with uncomfortable reminders of 1947 with details about how the bogies were first locked from outside and then set on fire and how the women’s compartment suffered the most damage” and “My fear is that something similar will happen once again”.
What Vir Sanghvi wrote in that article really explains everything, not just about Godhra, but everything that followed after Godhra too. And not just that, but the behavior of the newspaper editors, who call themselves ‘secularists’ on all major issues too is explained and exposed by this self-confessed article such as their response to all major communal riots in India and all clashes between the Hindus and other minorities.
Let us see his statement: “We are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in the simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.”
This is the first and biggest admission of pseudo-secularism from Vir Sanghvi, not just for himself, but also for his entire fellow ‘secularists’.
When any person views any happenings in a biased way, i.e. one person suffers and the other provokes, it also shows his moral and mental bankruptcy. Irrespective of whether a VHP member thrashes a Muslim or whether Muslims thrash or burn alive a trainload of VHP members, the ‘secularist’ newspaper editors will continue to bash the VHP and hold it responsible for all the troubles. They will not even bother to see who has suffered, and try to investigate who is at fault, but simply close their eyes and blame one group, i.e. the Hindu group during the Hindu-Muslim conflicts.
Something similar was said by the great Congress leader, Kanhaiya Lal Munshi (1887-1971): “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.” (Source: Pilgrimage to Freedom by K.M. Munshi, p. 312).
He also wrote on the same page: “While the majority exercises patience and tolerance, the minorities should learn to adjust themselves to the majority. Otherwise the future is uncertain and an explosion cannot be avoided”.
Inability to judge any situation on merits, whether XYZ person attacked ABC person and killed him, or it was the other way round but simply judge it on the names of the persons, i.e. ABC or XYZ or the identities of the persons, Hindu or Muslim, i.e. ABC provokes and XYZ suffers, shows that the ‘neutral’ observer (in this case, the ‘secularists’) is partial with prejudice and jaundiced vision.
In reality, the Hindu-Muslim relations in India have been different. It is, in fact, often a case of the minority community starting the riots. Ganesh Kanate, a staunch anti-BJP and anti-Sangh Parivar journalist with Communist leanings, wrote in his weekly column in the Nagpur-based English daily The Hitavada dated 15th August, 2003, “The Muslims start riots and then suffer heavily because of the riots which they themselves start.” Even a ‘secularist’ like Ganesh Kanate said that Muslims start most of the riots. Deep down, all the newspaper editors like Vir Sanghvi and all self-proclaimed secularists also know this. The report of the Congress’ Home Ministry blamed Muslims for starting 23 out of 24 riots between 1968 and 1970. This was quoted by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Parliament on 14 May 1970. This writer would like to make it clear that he feels that every case should be judged on merit- on who is at fault, without any prejudice against any community.
Belgium-based world famous scholar Dr Koenraad Elst also wrote in his book “BJP Vis-à-vis Hindu resurgence” (Published by Voice of India in January 1997): “Another example is riot reporting. Riots, though mostly started by Muslims (e.g. the Mumbai riots of December 1992 and of January 1993), are systematically reported in the world media as “pogroms” committed by well-prepared and well-armed Hindu death squads against poor defenceless Muslims. In journalistic and scholarly references, Advani’s peaceful 1990 Rath Yatra has become a proverbially violent “blood yatra”.”
How that Mentality Affected Their Reporting on Godhra
This one-sided vision in seeing Hindu-Muslim relations is amply clear by his as well as all other pseudo-secularists’ reaction to Godhra. Almost all the media rationalized Godhra. After rationalizing Godhra, all of them added that they are by no means ‘justifying’ it (for token). To say that they all justified Godhra will be a bit too harsh. But there is absolutely no doubt that they all rationalized Godhra and, some of them, partially justified it.
The Concocted ‘Provocations’
As Vir Sanghvi says, some versions have it that karsevaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans, others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers. In the first place, this too is completely wrong, since there is not an iota of evidence to support any of these claims. But despite this, the TV channels and most of the print media concocted such myths. This was only the detailed part of the provocations. Most of them treated the Godhra massacre as a response to the VHP’s Ram temple agitation. The Ayodhya movement itself was held as a provocation for this massacre.
Weeklies like India Today, The Week, Outlook and fortnightly Frontline also published stark lies on this subject by concocting imaginary provocations such as altercations between karsevaks and the Muslim tea-vendors on the Godhra railway station, or kidnapping of a Muslim girl by the karsevaks at the station, or any number of imaginary details.
Despite knowing fully well that Godhra was a well-planned conspiracy, the Indian media forcibly did seeking of provocations to defend it as deed done on the spur of the moment. Vir Sanghvi’s The Hindustan Times carried a front-page headline on Godhra on 28th February, 2002 titled “Gujarat Hit by Ayodhya Backlash”, i.e. it held that the Ayodhya movement was the main and the biggest cause of the Godhra massacre. So much so that the headline ignored the act and simply reported the ‘provocation’, which too was altogether imaginary. The Hindustan Times did not even bother to have the headline like: “58 karsevaks burnt to death in a ghastly attack in Godhra” or something of the sort.
In its editorial on this issue, The Hindu, the largest circulated English daily from South India said in its issue dated 1st March, 2002:
THE GRISLY GODHRA (Gujarat) episode of arson on Wednesday that left 50-odd passengers of the Sabarmati Express dead—most of them Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya—and the backlash of mindless violence it had triggered elsewhere in the State, as rampaging mobs have in a series of reprisals hit back at the minority community and its properties, are clear, disturbing pointers to the explosive communal build-up across the country as a direct consequence of the VHP’s provocative and destructive campaign for the construction of a Ram temple in Ayodhya. What happened in Godhra, about which there are different and conflicting versions, is a dastardly act and it deserves to be condemned unequivocally and in the strongest of terms, and no provocation can even remotely be brought in to justify the slaughter of innocent people. No effort should be spared by the government to track down the culprits and bring them to justice at the earliest, even as quick measures are taken to ensure that the vicious spiral of violence does not get out of hand and a sense of security is restored among the people.
This said, one cannot but pinpoint the harsh reality that events such as the horrors of Godhra were tragically predictable as a result of the wounding and aggressive communal campaign of the VHP. It has been ruthlessly pursuing its agenda of commencing the temple construction on 15th March, ‘come-what-may’, and whipping up communal passions through mass mobilisation of Ramsevaks—some one million of them—across the country. The whole build-up, which started gaining momentum about a month ago— with the VHP and its Sangh Parivar giving an ultimatum to the Vajpayee Government to handover the so-called ‘undisputed’ part of the acquired land—has been typical of the much-too-familiar strategy of the Sangh Parivar, providing an ominous throwback to the run up to the Babri Masjid demolition on 6th December, 1992. As a consequence of the audaciously provocative ways of the Ram temple proponents—as evidenced by their determination to start moving the carved stone pillars to the building site from 15th March and the regular convergence of frenzied karsevak contingents on Ayodhya from different parts of the country daily since 24th February—the situation on the communal front rapidly deteriorated, with sharp polarisation of the majority and minority community, becoming explosive by the day. The dangerous implications of such a trend for a State like Gujarat—known for its high vulnerability to communal riots and its perceived status as a laboratory of Hindutva political doctrines—are alarming. In many respects, the evolving milieu resembles what obtained during L.K. Advani’s rath yatra, an event that generated communal disturbance all along its route…”
The inhuman massacre in Godhra, unparalleled in human history, was justified by many of the foreign newspapers. The Independent, England insulted the dead kar sewaks and leveled baseless allegations. The report written by Peter Popham published on 20 March 2002 was:
“…What happened in car S/6 was the hideous finale. The story began nearly 36 hours earlier.
… Many were also drunk or stoned, or equipped to get that way: flexible, tolerant Hinduism has no hard and fast rules about such things. And they were coming back to Gujarat, the only state in the Indian union that is still “dry”. All the more reason to have a bottle or two tucked away.
… The train was late: after a day and a half, it was running four and a half hours behind schedule. That’s why it arrived in Godhra not at 2.55am, as scheduled, but at 7.15am. By this time, the karsevaks were much the worse for wear.
Trouble had started at Dahod station, nearly one hour and 75km up the tracks. The train had reached Dahod around 6am, and a number of karsevaks got out of compartment S/6 to have tea and snacks at a stall on the platform. Already they were drunk and unruly. An argument broke out between the Hindus and the Muslim man running the tea stall – according to one account, they refused to pay unless he chanted “Jai Shri Ram”, the chant of Lord Ram’s devotees. He refused to oblige, and they started to smash up his stall, before climbing back into the carriage. The stallholder filed a complaint with the railway police.
At Godhra, a similar scene ensued. The karsevaks, now noisily drunk, poured on to the platform, ordered more tea and snacks, consumed them, and then made difficulties. Exactly what transpired between the bearded Muslim stallholder and the travellers varies from one account to another. But all witness accounts seen by The Independent agree that there was a row. “They argued with the old man on purpose,” one witness said, on condition of anonymity. “They pulled his beard and beat him up… They kept repeating the slogan ‘mandir ki nirmaan karo, Babar ki aulad ko bahar karo’.” (“Build the temple and throw out the Muslims…”)
Suddenly the row took a dangerous new turn: the karsevaks grabbed hold of a Muslim woman. Her identity, and how she became involved, remain ambiguous, but four different witnesses mention this event. One says it was the 16-year-old daughter of the abused tea-seller. She “came forward and tried to save her father”. Another mentions a woman washing clothes by the railway line being hauled away. A third describes how a Muslim girl wearing a burqa and taking a shortcut to school through the station platform was pounced on and dragged into the carriage. All agree that a Muslim woman was hauled into the carriage by the karsevaks, who slammed the door and would not let her go. Refusing to be quoted by name, a local policeman confirms the story.
And suddenly, what had been just an ugly little fracas, a drunken pantomime of power and subjugation, became something far more explosive.
The karsevaks were too drunk for their own good, or they would have chosen a different station at which to pull such a stunt. Because now the social geography of Godhra came into play.
…Godhra station, to the regret of the Hindus, is located in an area that is now entirely Muslim. And a huddle of Muslim-owned businesses sprang up in shacks alongside the tracks, many of them motor-repair yards. This little slum, known as Signal Fadia, has all the material a riot could require: stacks of bricks, petrol, and paraffin and calor gas cylinders. But it also had the necessary human material: a community impoverished and bitter and surviving on the margins of criminality.
The woman seized by the karsevaks was dragged into compartment S/6, and word of what had happened began to spread. “The girl began screaming for help,” said Ahmed, a wood dealer who was waiting for a train going the other way. “Muslims who were travelling on the train got off. People began pouring on to the platform to try to rescue her. I ran home – I could see trouble was brewing…”
The train moved off, and the gathering crowd began pelting the carriage with bricks. Inside the train, someone pulled the emergency cord; the train stopped, then moved off again; the cord was pulled again 1km out of the station, and this time the train stopped and stayed stopped. “People in the vicinity… started to gather near the train,” says one witness. “The mob… requested that the karsevaks return the girl. But instead of returning the girl, they started closing their windows. This infuriated the mob…”
The brawl had become a battle, with the karsevaks piling in with their swords and sticks, and a crowd now said to be 1,000-strong streaming in from the slum, bringing petrol, gas, rags – anything that would burn. Their gas cylinders broke the bars on the windows and exploded inside; the petrol bombs flew through and set the upholstery and the people trapped inside on fire. By the time that the police arrived in strength one hour later, there was nothing to be saved…”
The reason why The Independent stooped to such unimaginable levels is because of the Indian media. The behavior of the Indian media of repeated insults to the dead karsevaks and defence of Muslim communalism prompts the foreign authors to write like this. Does this author think that 15 children were also drunk? For this author’s information, by that logic Graham Staines had it coming because he indulged in conversion of innocent Hindus and ignored repeated warnings to stop conversions. But still, because this insults the dead, we avoid criticizing him. All this nonsense and character assassination of the martyred Hindus done by this newspaper is not even worth repudiating.
The then RSS spokesman M.G. Vaidya wrote in Marathi daily Tarun Bharat in July 2002:
“The headline in The Times of India dated 28th February read: “MOB ATTACKS GUJARAT TRAIN, 55 DIE.”
The writer of this report is Sajjad Shaikh. While identifying the reasons for the Godhra massacre, he writes, “Karsevaks in the train misbehaved with some washerwomen of Signal Falia”. Besides, he also cites: “The rumour of an attack on a religious place in Dahod” as one of the reasons for the Godhra incident. Here, he wants to suggest that though it is not pardonable to burn alive 55 persons, due to the reasons cited by him, it is understandable.
This primary lead news report focused the blame on the karsevaks from the very initial stages and did not attempt to investigate how the train was stopped at Signal Falia where a mob of a thousand was already waiting with sticks, petrol bombs, missiles and stones.
In the 1st March issue of The Times of India, Siddhartha Varadarajan, a reporter, writes, “While official enquiry will establish the extent to which the attack on the Sabarmati Express was pre- meditated, there can be no doubt about the planned nature of the violence directed against Gujarat’s Muslims on Thursday (28th February)”. The double standards are evident from his report, which differentiates the incidents of 27th February from the incidents of 28th February. While examining the pre-meditation behind the Godhra attacks on 27th February, he says that it is “official enquiry” which will decide whether the attack on karsevaks was pre-meditated or not. But when it comes to violent reaction of Hindus on 28th February, he takes it in his own hands to pass a judgment that the attacks by the Hindus on Gujarat’s Muslims were “pre-planned” in nature. Obviously, what had been a heinous crime was rationalized and what had been a spontaneous reaction was condemned as a ‘pre-planned’ one.
This news report was carried just two days after the Godhra carnage. The gruesome murders of the karsevaks is mentioned only once in the 450-plus word report and rest of the report is full of gory descriptions of how the Muslims are being brutally killed in the aftermath.”
The Hindu reported the incidents of 27th February as follows in its issue dated 28th February, 2002:
“57 killed as a mob torches the train in Gujarat”. The writer of this report, Manas Dasgupta, states that “Eye-witnesses said that about 1,200 Ramsevaks were travelling in the train. The local people in the Muslim-dominated Godhra town had been “irritated” by the abusive language used by the Ramsevaks while they were going to Ayodhya by the same train a few days ago. They had reportedly raised slogans as the train approached Godhra on the return journey this morning.”
The report can be read at http://www.thehindu.com/2002/02/28/stories/2002022803070100.htm
Luckily, the newsmen in India did not go to the extent that The Independent went. But The Independent report simply showed the true face of the Indian media men. They also reported in much the same way, the difference was only in the extent. Ignoring what the foreign media said, Sanghvi’s second observation is equally important. Did any of the ‘secularists’ of the Indian media bother to give any attention to the ‘provocations’ after the September 11 episode? As a matter of fact, at that time, many warnings were given before September 11 to the Americans by Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda to change its policy towards Muslims or face the consequences. And the consequences they had to face. But nobody bothered to even remember the warnings given by Al Qaeda or question the USA’s policies on Muslims, after the September 11 attack. It was, in fact, only a condemnation of the Islamic terrorism of the Al Qaeda and a concern about the danger the world faces because of it.
After Godhra, however, the VHP and the Sangh Parivar were bashed continuously and held responsible for the Godhra carnage even after Godhra. This tirade against the Sangh Parivar was noticed by Vir Sanghvi in his article’s last paragraph: “Have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than an occasion for Sangh Parivar bashing?” Another of Vir Sanghvi’s statement is equally important, “Why have we dehumanized these karsevaks to such an extent that we don’t even see the incidence as a tragedy which it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP’s fundamentalist policies?”
This is the most important revelation. Dehumanization. This approach of the media of dehumanizing the dead karsevaks including 15 children angered the entire nation. More so Gujarat, in which is Godhra situated.
Even if the karsevaks had indeed misbehaved with anyone, or refused to pay for tea and snacks, or shouted anti-Muslim slogans, or taunted or harassed Muslim passengers, or done any of the numerous things which have been charged (all charges are inconsistent and varying- which shows that the aim was to be forcibly concoct ‘provocations’), still there should have been no mention of it, or even if it was mentioned, the blame should not have been put on the dead. This is because no one insults the dead. Graham Staines really indulged in conversion and ignored all warnings given to him to stop conversion but nobody blamed him for his death because nobody insults the dead.
But, in this case, even though the karsevaks did nothing, baseless and absolutely wrong allegations were made to blame the dead for their own death. Even if they had indulged in any sort of misbehavior, such a massacre and brutal roasting cannot be rationalized. And here instead of blaming the Muslims who roasted the train, the media— the TV channels in particular—and the politicians made such allegations on people who were not even alive to refute the charges. And all the charges were absolutely wrong. The people who lost their lives in a human tragedy, in a gruesome massacre, a well- planned attack, were unfairly accused and blamed for something which they did not do.
The people of Gujarat were used to this policy of the TV channels and the print media. They were used to the continuous bashing of the Hindutva ideology, of the karsevaks, of the Ayodhya movement, of the VHP and the continuous defence of the Muslims. But the people thought that the Godhra massacre was just a bit too much. At least, such a horrifying massacre of innocent people including 15 children will make the hearts of the anti-Hindu ‘secularists’ bleed. At least, in such a huge tragedy, will the media stop insulting the karsevaks and abusing the VHP and the Ramjanmabhoomi movement? At least now, will the media condemn the fundamentalist Muslims and call them Jehadis and criticize them for the unprovoked massacre?
But nothing of the sort happened. The media continued its usual ways. And Vir Sanghvi’s fear of a Hindu backlash became a terrifying reality on 28th February, 2002, which was Thursday.
But after the backlash of the first three days, Vir Sanghvi forgot his own words which he uttered before the Hindu retaliation. He himself had warned his secularist brothers that their attitude was aggravating the Hindus. He himself indirectly warned of a retaliation and anger in the Hindus but forgot it while condemning the post-Godhra riots and calling Narendra Modi a ‘mass murderer’ many times in his newspaper’s editorial page.
This Hindu anger continued not just until the riots but until much later. This continued until at least December 2002. On12th December were held the Gujarat Assembly elections. The BJP won a huge majority of 127 out of the 182 seats with the Indian National Congress (INC) winning just 51. Not only that, the BJP’s popular vote reached a dizzying 50 per cent, a huge 11 per cent more than the Congress’ 39 per cent. Saurashtra and Kutch, which did not see any riots even in the first three days after Godhra, also saw the BJP winning, and not just winning, but winning ‘hands down’. As per weekly India Today dated 30th December, 2002, out of the 102 riot-affected seats, the BJP won 79 seats. These numbers are also dubious. But let us assume that they are true. That means the BJP won 48 out of the remaining 80 non-riot affected seats, which is still a majority with 60 per cent of the seats. Sixty per cent is still a huge majority considering that the BJP was in power in the state from 1995, with two terms. Despite anti-incumbency, this performance of the party was due to the Hindu anger after Godhra and the ‘secularist’ brigade’s reaction to it.
This Left-liberal-secular brigade also did another wrong. They tried to keep the number of attackers, i.e. Muslims at Godhra as less as they could. Kuldip Nayar gave it 500 in an article in the Deccan Herald dated 3 April 2002. India Today weekly, in its issue dated 11th March, 2002, also gave the number of attackers as over 500. On Godhra, Kuldip Nayar wrote in an article published on 6 July 2002: “Narendra Modi would have created a Godhra train incident if it had not happened. The tragedy is that some Muslims played into his hands”. Others kept reducing the figure to 1,000, while some gave it 1,500. But the true figure seems to be 2,000 as given by Vir Sanghvi and the Justice Tewatia Committee. Alok Tiwari, another ‘secularist’ editor, also gave the number of Hindus killed in Godhra as 56 while saying: “Just because 56 Hindus were killed doesn’t mean that they should kill hundreds of Muslims…”. This figure is not important. It does not really matter whether it is 2,000 or 1,500. But it simply discloses the attitude of the ‘secularists’ in dealing with the situation. And the attitude is—keep the Hindu suffering as low as possible, Muslim atrocities as low as possible and inflate and exaggerate Muslim sufferings as much as possible.
And they try to keep increasing the number of Muslims killed in the Gujarat riots, ignoring, of course, the hundreds of Hindus also killed in the riots. When the UPA Government (with Sonia Gandhi as its chairperson and Leftists as outside supporters) gave the figures of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus killed in the riots (see details later in Chapter 7), what do they get by increasing the number of Muslims killed to 1,000 or 2,000 or 3,000 and lie that “Thousands of Muslims were killed in a ‘genocide’, ‘pogrom’ or ‘massacre’ sponsored by the state government”?
Godhra was Planned, Post-Godhra was a Result of Provocation
Godhra was clearly a planned, unprovoked attack. It is impossible for it to have been the result of petty quarrels at the Godhra railway station. Vir Sanghvi has already said it in his article. As he says, slogans shouted from a moving train or a railway platform cannot enrage local Muslims, and 2,000 Muslims cannot assemble at the railway station in five minutes’ time already having managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs. And the time was also 8 a.m. in the morning. Some 140 liters of petrol was reportedly bought in cans a day before the massacre. VSK, Gujarat said that:
“1. Travellers of a particular religion were asked to get down at the previous station of Dahod.
2. The patients of a particular community were discharged from the civil hospital of Godhra one day before 27th. Not a single case from a particular community was registered on 27th February.
3. Not a single student or a teacher of a particular community was present in the schools of Godhra on 27th February.
4. It clearly shows that not only it was a pre-planned attack but many others were aware that something is likely to happen on that day.”
Disclaimer: Not independently verified, just what was reported by VSK, Gujarat
Weeklies like India Today gave imaginary provocations with graphics. But all these people forgot one thing. For the train to have been attacked, the attackers (Muslims) had to surround in on at least two sides. If it was on the spur of the moment, it would have been very difficult for the Muslims to surround the train on both sides. How could at least 500 Muslims reach the other side of the train? If that was the case, then the karsevaks would have ran out of the train and saved their lives, by running from the second side before Muslims reached there. In any case, all these provocations are purely fabricated and a figment of imagination. Something which was done with absolutely no provocation and full planning was rationalized by the media. And there was a JUDICIAL CONFESSION by an accused that it was a pre-planned massacre, planned day or days before 27 February 2002, with petrol brought beforehand.
Even Kuldip Nayar (born 1923), known for his extreme anti-RSS, anti-BJP and anti-Narendra Modi and pro-Muslim and pro-Pakistani views, wrote in an article published on 3 April 2002: “I have no doubt that the (Godhra) attack was a well-planned one. Otherwise, it is not possible for a mob of 500 carrying petrol and kerosene to assemble in three minutes in an area that can only be reached by running through prickly bushes.”
As a matter of fact, such a horrible crime should not be committed even against animals. If 59 animals had been locked in a train, pushed back into the fire as they tried to come out and then roasted to death with bodies charred, it too would have been considered as a gruesome human tragedy by all right-thinking sensible people. But because these 59 were karsevaks returning from Ayodhya, false charges were made on them—the incident was condemned merely for token with the blame put on the roasted women and children, and the VHP. Vir Sanghvi said that the karsevaks had been dehumanized. They were actually treated even worse than animals.
And when the things were really a result of provocation, the media just ignored it. The post-Godhra riots were reported completely ignoring Godhra. At that time, the Godhra attack faded into the background and the Hindu retaliation of the first three days was decried. And even after so many years, whenever the post-Godhra riots are mentioned, Godhra is completely ignored and it is made to sound as if the BJP Government of the state indulged in ruthless, unprovoked killings of Muslims in alliance with the VHP and the Bajrang Dal.
The big ‘provocation’ which was far more than a provocation but the cause of the retaliation by the Hindus in the first three days was completely ignored and the subsequent riots were reported, that too completely one-sided and magnified and inflated. The difference on the media’s attitude is revealed from its reactions. After Godhra, it was said: “The government must bring the culprits to justice. The crime deserves to be condemned. But it is inevitable and predictable because of VHP’s Ayodhya movement…VHP bashing…” and after Godhra, it was said: “Holocaust…pogrom…genocide…massacre… Modi must quit… international shame…are we like Rwanda…Hitler…”
Vir Sanghvi really gave the game up when he said, “If you report the truth, then you will inflame Hindu sentiments and this would be irresponsible. And so on.” That is to say, Vir Sanghvi admitted that the ‘secularists’ utter ‘stark lies’, no matter what interest in mind. They lied not only during Godhra but also for some three months after Godhra. They also did so during the Gujarat Assembly elections of December 2002 and continue to do so today. In fact, they have repeated their lies so often that by now they themselves may have started believing their concocted lies.
On 27th February, 2002, senior Congress leader and former Gujarat Chief Minister, the late Amarsinh Chaudhary (1941-2004) came on TV at night and while condemning the attack, also blamed karsevaks for provoking it by alleging that they refused to pay for tea at the station. (Again following Vir Sanghvi’s observation—basically, they condemn the crime, but blame the victims.)
The RSS weekly Organiser reported the incident in its issue dated 10th March, 2002, which covered events in full till 27th February. While reporting on this issue, Organiser also reported in a news item—“RSS condemns the killings and calls for restraint” and this report carries the statement of RSS Joint General Secretary, Madan Das Devi that RSS urges Hindu society to exercise restraint after the Godhra attack. RSS had asked the Hindu society to observe restraint and not retaliate after Godhra even before the riots had started.
India Today weekly dated 11th March, 2002, carrying events till 28th February, 2002, reported on the last page of the cover story:
“The mood in the state is militant. A procession of 10,000 marched with the bodies of 11 people from Ramol village near Ahmedabad, who had died in the train. They were shouting slogans like: ‘Tumhari shahidi bekar nahi jayegi, Mandir bana kar hi rahenge’ (Your sacrifice will not go in vain, we will build the temple)… This incident drew mixed reactions from the Congress, the main opposition party in the state. While senior party leader Amarsinh Chaudhary condemned the attack, he also blamed Ramsevaks for provoking the incident. Senior AICC member, Ahmed Patel condemned it strongly. They will have time to react. The bloody cycle of violence so familiar with Gujarat may just have begun.”
So, India Today knew on 28th February itself that a bloody cycle of violence had begun in Gujarat and could continue in Gujarat for several days. But, in fact, it stopped only after three days, though petty rioting continued subsequently in Ahmedabad, Vadodara and some places near Godhra. And, in fact, even weekly Outlook in its issue dated 11th March, 2002 (i.e. on 28th February) also reported:
“Gujarat has always been a communal tinderbox and even a small spark ignites big trouble. The ghost of Godhra looks set to walk its streets for months.” (URL: http://www.outlookindia.com/magazine/story/200-on-the-human-richter/214849).
Difference between Godhra and Other Tragic Incidents
Several people, unable to understand the sufferings of the Hindu society, have asked: “Why did riots occur only after Godhra? Why was nobody targeted after the Akshardham temple attack—or after the attacks on Mumbai on 26th November, 2008?”
Well, the answers are many. The terrorist attacks in many parts of India such as Mumbai, Jammu, New Delhi, etc. are done by terrorists and they are acts of terrorism, whereas Godhra was not terrorism, but communalism and barbarism. It was the brutal roasting of 59 people whose bodies were charred to death beyond recognition.
The attackers also differed. Terrorists are people who are considered to have no religion. Those who attacked the Akshardham temple were called ‘terrorists’ by the media, and rightly so. Two foreign terrorists killed more than 30 people in the attack. It was not done by local Muslims. Nobody said in the media “Muslims kill 30 Hindus in Akshardham”. It was said, “Terrorists attack the Akshardham temple”. Had the Indian media, the TV channels in particular, and the non-BJP politicians, who came on TV on 27th February, 2002, called the incident as a ‘human tragedy’ and reacted exactly like they did after terrorist attacks in Mumbai or Akshardham, maybe the riots which occurred, could have been avoided.
Also the mob in Godhra numbered well over 1,000 and as per the report of the Tewatia Committee, the mob was 2,000 in strength. Since only 35 people were arrested for the attack on 27th February, as reported by various English newspapers the next day, it was found to be grossly inadequate by the masses. M.M. Singh—one of the finest police officers Gujarat has ever produced—also said that the police should have cordoned off the area in Godhra after the massacre. This, in his opinion, would have pacified Hindu sentiments to some extent at the very outset. And even a weekly like India Today reported in its issue dated 18th March, 2002 that the blame for the riots was being put on the Modi Government for its failure to nab the culprits of the Godhra carnage. Had the culprits not been allowed to flee, the people would not have directed their anger at all Muslims, according to the weekly. The weekly reports:
“The blame for the initial explosion on 28th February is being pinned on the Modi government for its failure to arrest those responsible for the Godhra massacre. The slum from where the train attack was launched was illegally constructed on Railways land and each of the 10 main suspects involved in the attack has a criminal background. Some even enjoyed political patronage. Haji Billal, one of the main accused, was known for his links with smugglers and traffickers. Such was his notoriety, claims a BJP MLA, that ‘a few months ago the authorities had difficulty pasting a notice on his door’. On 27th February, the VHP asked the State government to act against them and when it failed, the public anger was directed against all Muslims” (Source: http://archives.digitaltoday.in/indiatoday/20020318/cover3.html).
Since it was done by local Muslims and most of the culprits went scot-free and the media kept insulting the dead karsevaks and condemning the VHP and the Sangh Parivar, the angered masses exploded in Ahmedabad on 28th February.
“After pelting stones, they started pouring kerosene in our compartments and set them afire. Only a few of us managed to come out of the broken windows. The adults and the old people were stuck inside. The old women were pleading, ‘don’t kill us’ but they just didn’t listen,” says Gayatri Panchal (16), who says 3-4 people ran after her as soon as she jumped off the train (The Indian Express, 28th February, 2002).
Sixty-five-year-old Devika Luhana was trembling with anger as she alighted from the ill-fated train. “It was vandalism at its worst. They did not even spare old people like me and pelted stones indiscriminately. They will all go to hell for this act of malice,” said Devika, who could not even retrieve her bag as she ran for her life.
“They stormed inside the women’s bogie, and before we could react, they set the entire bogie on fire. Some of us managed to escape, but a number of our sisters got trapped…it was horrifying,” said Hetal Patel, a member of Durga Vahini.
Terror still haunts 13-year-old Gyanprakash as he bursts into tears from time to time. “I cannot forget the sight of people burning in front of me,” he says while recuperating at the Ahmedabad city hospital. Gyanprakash was on the S2 coach of the Sabarmati Express when it was set ablaze in Godhra on Wednesday. His family was returning to Ahmedabad after attending a relative’s funeral. They had boarded the train at Kanpur. Gyanprakash recalls the horror: “The train had just left Godhra but stopped a little way away from the station. Suddenly, stones were being thrown at the train. The pelting continued for almost an hour. Then something was hurled into our coach and there was smoke everywhere.
“It was so suffocating I could hardly breathe. I heard my father telling me to get off the train. I went to the door but saw that people trying to get off were being stabbed. I went to the other side and jumped off” (Mid-Day, 6th March, 2002).
That is, old women were pleading: “Don’t kill us” but the attackers did not spare anyone, neither children nor old people, and certainly not the women. Most horrific was the attackers’ act of not allowing anyone to escape and watching with their eyes 59 Hindus roasting to death, crying with pain, pleading for mercy. (Those who did come out like Gayatri Panchal were also tried to be pushed back.) Had the 2,000 attackers shot dead, these 59 people with bullets, it would not have been so horrific. Had they set afire the train and ran away, it would not have angered the masses so much. But these attackers were indescribable barbarians. They watched and pushed back into fire the victims including 15 children and roasted to death in a horrific manner 59 Hindus returning from Godhra.
Can anyone imagine 2,000 Hindus burning to death 59 Muslims at Karachi Railway Station in Pakistan? If Hindus had mustered courage to do that, each and every Hindu in Pakistan would have been killed after horrible tortures.
To know why the masses retaliated, look at the photos of the victims. These pictures were shown on TV channels on 27th February and in Gujarati dailies the next day.
WARNING: Gruesome pictures.
Anyone who understands human sufferings will realize the cause of the retaliation in Gujarat after looking at these pictures. However, our politicians and pseudo-secular media people are blind to Hindu suffering. For some people, Hindus in general and VHP supporters in particular, are not even considered human beings. These gruesome killings also were not enough to melt the hearts of the pseudo-secularists. One wonders then, what will ever make them condemn Muslims for any act, if they defend Muslims for Godhra and blame these children, who were roasted!