godhra train burning
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- 08-14-2010, 01:07 PM #1Unregistered Guest
godhra train burning
A judicial commission Monday ruled out any foul play in the 2002 train fire in Godhra in which 59 Hindus were killed, an incident that sparked a three-month sectarian violence in Gujarat - the nation's worst in recent times.
In revelations likely to have a major political impact, the panel said in its interim report that the fire that razed a coach of the Sabarmati Express killing Hindu train riders was an "accident".
"The fire was accidental and spread quickly due to foams in berths and passengers' luggage. There was no external cause," said retired Supreme Court judge U.C. Banerjee, the chairman of the panel set up in September to probe the Godhra incident of Feb 27, 2002.
Contrary to the Gujarat government's claims that Muslim miscreants torched the coach bearing mostly Kar Sevaks or Hindu volunteers, the panel surmised that the fire was possibly the result of cooking inside the coach or due to a carelessly thrown cigarette butt.
The Godhra train torching led to state-wide retaliatory violence in Gujarat, in which at least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed and thousands rendered homeless.
The Banerjee panel report also censured the "entire hierarchy" of Western Railway for concluding without evidence that miscreants torched the train.
Banerjee said evidence corroborated that 90 percent of the burnt train coach comprised 'kar sevaks' or Hindu volunteers, who were armed with 'trishuls' or tridents.
If there was any miscreant activity, the panel reasoned, these volunteers would not have allowed it without putting up any resistance.
Negating the theory that petrol or electrical short circuit caused the fire, the preliminary report charged the Railway Safety and Railway Administration with failure to conduct an inquiry immediately after the accident.
This failure, Banerjee said, was a violation of the Railway Act and the accident manual.
"The Railway Administration has also not made any concerted effort to preserve clues of the incident," the panel said in the interim report, while singling out the decision of the railway authorities to dispose as scrap another coach damaged in the accident.
Banerjee also rapped the fire brigade for not acting fast enough to put out the flames.
"The response of the Godhra fire brigade was most unsatisfactory not only in terms of delayed arrival but also in terms of high percentage of ineffective fire engines and non-functioning of the motor pumps that were brought to the accident site," the report noted.
Banerjee was appointed in September 2004 to investigate the Godhra incident even as Railway Minister Lalu Prasad was slammed by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - which rules Gujarat - of trying to twist facts.
Reacting sharply to the panel's interim report, the BJP accused Lalu Prasad of using the findings to divert attention from the misrule of his Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar, which goes to the polls Feb 3.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley questioned the rationale of releasing an interim report now when the commission could have actually released its final report when its term ends in February.
"Look at the timing of the report, it smacks of political conspiracy. When the panel was set up, we had feared that it was a politically motivated step. Our fears have been justified," said BJP vice president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The Congress, which heads the ruling coalition at the centre, countered the BJP's accusation, saying this was the first time that facts connected to the case were coming out instead of the (BJP-ruled Gujarat) government's version.
"Whether the timing is now or then, the facts don't change. Before this we were only getting the version of the Gujarat government," Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
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