Seven mysteries of Godhra train burning unraveled

By Syed Shahabuddin

NEW DELHI, 27 August ? At long last on Aug. 18, the

Ministry of Railways has released the reservation list

of the ill-fated S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express

with a self-indicting analysis.

According to the railways, of the 59 passengers

booked, three had canceled the booking and four have

not been traced (presumably because of some defect in,

or loss of, reservation slip) and 32 had actually

traveled and reached their destination.

This makes 39 and leaves 20.

The break up of the 20 is given as four killed, nine

injured and seven missing.

Presuming those missing to be dead, we have 11 killed

and nine injured. The first mystery is: Why have the

authorities attempted to conceal a basic document? The

reservation list of the ill-fated coach S-6 of the

Sabarmati Express has been available since Feb. 27;

photocopies were floating around.

Yet the railways has taken just a little less than six

months to make it public and that too under media and

Parliament?s pressure. The total number of persons

killed has been reported to be 58 of which 39 have

been identified. 

Who are the rest of those killed? Were they all the

ticketless/unauthorized travelers?

By any law of statistical probability, if 52

passengers give rise to 11 fatal casualties, for 54

remaining fatal casualties we need 265 unauthorized


This would be an impossible proposition, because the

coach had a capacity of 72 and if it was invaded by

the ticketless Karsevaks, they would not have exceeded

another 72!

Does it mean that the fire made a distinction between

the bonafide passengers and the ticketless Karsevaks?

Obviously, there is something fishy in the statement

of the Ministry of Railways.

May be Mamata Banerjee is right after all when she

accused Nitish Kumar of buying his continuance as

minister for concealing the truth and then fudging the


So, it has been subsequently attributed to an official

as an afterthought that the 32 passengers who survived

had traveled not in S-6 but in "other coaches", as

they could not enter their coach or were forced out by

the Karsevaks. But this does not solve the riddle


If only nine who were injured, 11 who were killed, or

are missing, traveled in coach S-6 i.e. a total of 20

produced 11 fatal casualties.

To account for other 54 casualties, statistics demand

98 ticketless travelers making a total of 118

passengers. This appears to be more reasonable. A

better analysis can be made if the total number of

those rescued, though injured were known.

Unfortunately we do not have this figure.

All that can be said is that the statement of the

Ministry of Railways has further confounded the


The railways need to do a more thorough job of

analyzing the actual travelers and casualties both.

This is the second mystery. A case has been made out

that a Muslim mob from the Muslim locality near the

Godhra railway station first stoned the passengers in

retaliation for the harassment of Muslim vendors at

the Godhra station by the Karsevaks and then poured

petroleum into the coach from outside and set it on


In the absence of an alternative scenario this was

taken by the entire world as the ultimate truth,

notwithstanding the denial of the Muslims of the

locality, though they admit to stone-throwing.

No evidence has been marshaled so far to prove that

Pakistan?s ISI was operating through local Muslims. So

the first reactions of Gujarat Chief Minister Modi and

Home Minister L.K. Advani alleging ISI?s hand have

been proved to be false.

What is important is to realize that if the

conspirators intended to set the coach on fire, why

should they attract attention first by stoning it? On

Feb. 27, 2002, the train stopped at Godhra only for

five minutes, 7.42 to 7.47 a.m.

The train was stopped at 7.48 a.m. just outside the

station and there was stone-throwing between 7.48 to

8.00 a.m.

At 8.05 a.m. the train was stopped again and then

between 8.05 a.m. to 8.17 a.m. the coach was set on


It passes imagination how a mob made the necessary

preparations to perform its devilish design and

executed its plan in just 12 minutes! The third

mystery in any case lies in why the mob targeted only

one coach and not the other coaches which were

chockfull with Karsevaks. There is yet no explanation.

The fourth mystery arises from the Forensic Science

Laboratory, Ahmedabad?s report (filed by the police

with the charge sheet) that the coach was set on fire

not from outside but from within.

The report has absolved the stone-throwing mob,

whatever their number or intent.

In any case, the window grills were not broken. There

was no attempt by the mob to break into the coach.

The doors of the coach were locked from inside. There

is no doubt that the coach had a large number of

unauthorized ticketless travelers, nearly all


As mentioned above, many of those killed must have

been bonafide passengers. Some of those killed were

women and children.

Surely they were not Karsevaks and the Karsevaks were

not traveling with their families. Some of the

passengers were Muslims. Surely they were not

Karsevaks either.

So is it by no means definite that the 59 killed are

all Karsevaks.

Even the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) which called the

Karsevaks to Ayodhya has not come out with a list of

missing Karsevaks. Not only Prime Minister Atal Behari

Vajpayee and Modi but the entire leadership of the

Sangh Parivar including VHP have claimed that the

ill-fated bogie was torched because the passengers

were all Karsevaks returning from Ayodhya after

performing their religious duty.

The Sangh Parivar and Modi used this claim to set

entire Gujarat on fire, leading to a carnage of

genocidal dimension which took nearly 2500 lives.

Indeed Modi and Co. have tried to justify the carnage

as a natural reaction to the gruesome and horrifying

burning of "58 Karsevaks" in the train at Godhra,

which was universally condemned. In any case, the

major plank of the Sangh/VHP propaganda that all those

who perished in the burning of ill-fated coach were

Karsevaks, falls to pieces. So how many of them killed

were "Karsevaks", returning from the Ayodhya front?

This is the fifth mystery. The FSL report postulates

that 60 liters of inflammable liquid (presumably

petrol or kerosene) had been poured into the coach

from one of the side-doors by one or more determined

persons who formed the killer squad. Was a liquid used

by the killer squad?

One cannot imagine a killer squad carrying canisters

or buckets of petrol into the coach and emptying them

without let or hindrance, or without exciting

suspicion and without resistance by the passengers.

The question is:

Was it petrol? This is the sixth mystery. It has been

suggested that the material used was not a fluid but a

solid ? an incendiary powder once ignited, reaches

very high temperature in no time. It is said that the

same powder was subsequently used in Ahmedabad and

other places to torch buildings, and melt iron

railings and windows grills and collapsible gates.

A possible scenario is the sprinkling of this chemical

at the two ends of the coach igniting it from both the


This would explain what Saeed Naqvi, a prominent

journalist, noted on his visit ? passengers seemed to

have rushed toward the middle of the coach till they

were engulfed by fire.

The killers could have easily made a get-away into the

adjoining coaches. The final question: Who set the

coach at fire?

Who planned and organized this ruthless massacre?

Gujarat Congress party President Shankersinh Vaghela,

a former acolyte of the Sangh Parivar and the BJP, has

publicly accused the Sangh Parivar.

He says that he knows them well; they ruthlessly

planned and executed this horror, stage-managed it in

order to justify the Gujarat carnage for which all

preparations had already been made which incidentally

explains the dimensions of the mass violence which

began within hours of the Godhra incident and which

went on unchecked for the next three days in major

cities of Ahmedabad and Baroda.

This is the ultimate and the seventh mystery. The

investigation should be turned over to the Central

Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to establish the

identity of the killer squad because the Godhra

mystery has to be unraveled in the national interest.

If Vaghela?s suspicion is confirmed that the Sangh

Parivar itself lit the fire to incite Hindu fury

against the Muslims and thus set the stage for the

genocidal violence it had already planned, Godhra fire

will go down in history as another "Reichtag fire?!

(The writer is a Delhi-based



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