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Godhra the True Story

Godhra the True Story

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Published by India Forum

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Published by: India Forum on Feb 04, 2009
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05/25/2012

 
GODHRA: THE TRUE STORY 
Nicole Elfi
 Godhra, a city of the Indian State of Gujarat, was the lead story in all Indian newspapers on February27th-28th, 2002. A shattering piece of news: 58 Hindu pilgrims had been burned alive in a train.
57 die inghastly attack on train
ran the
Times of India
’s headline;
Mob targets Ramsevaks [Devotees of Rama]returning from Ayodhya
;
58 killed in attack on train with Karsevaks [volunteers]
(
The Indian Express
);
1500-strong mob butcher 57 Ramsevaks on Sabarmati Express
(
The Asian Age
). But the BBC’sannouncement had a very different tone:
58 Hindu
extremists
burned to death
… or 
Agence FrancePress
on March 2nd:
A train full of Hindu
extremists
was burnt.
 A deluge of anguished news followed about a
Muslim genocide
:
Mass killings of Muslims in reprisalriots
(
NYT 
, March 5th),
The authorities … share the prejudices of the Hindu gangs who have been busypulping their Muslim neighbours
(
The Observer 
, March 4th). We were told that Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, intended to eradicate Muslims from the State — more than 9% of Gujarat’spopulation, in other words five million people. We read that the police was conniving in the massslaughter and did nothing to prevent it. Narendra Modi was compared to Hitler, or Nero. We shudderedreading the reports describing rapes and various horrors, supposedly inflicted on Muslims by Hindus.Today, six years later, with the noises and cries of the wounds having fallen silent, what emerges fromthose events? What are the facts?At 7:43 A.M. on February 27th, 2002, the
Sabarmati Express
rolled into the Godhra station, fortunatelywith a four-hour delay, in broad daylight. This train transported more than 2,000 people, mainly
karsewaks
on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the
Poorna Ahuti Yagya
at Ayodhya, aritual at the traditional birthplace of Rama.As it pulled out of the station, the train was pelted with stones and bricks, and passengers from severalbogeys were forced to bring down their windows to protect themselves. Someone pulled the emergencychain: the train came to a halt about 100 metres away from the platform, surrounded by a large crowd of Muslims. The railway police managed to disperse the crowd, and the train resumed its journey.Within minutes, the emergency chain was simultaneously pulled again, from several coaches. It haltedat about 700 metres from the station. A crowd of over 1,000 surrounded the train, pelting it with bricks,stones, then burning missiles and acid bulbs, especially on the S-5, S-6 and S-7 coaches.The vacuum pipe between coaches S-6 and S-7 was cut, thereby preventing any further movement of the train. The doors were locked from outside. A fire started in coach S-7, which the passengers wereable to extinguish. But the attack intensified and coach S-6 caught fire and minutes later, was in flames.Passengers who managed to get out of the burning compartment were attacked with sharp weapons, andstoned. They received serious injuries, some were killed. Others got out through the windows and tookshelter below the coach.Fifty eight pilgrims were burned alive, including twenty-seven women and ten children. The wholeattack lasted 20-25 minutes.[1]What transpired then, in the Indian press? Let’s imagine a coach of French pilgrims coming back fromLourdes, burned alive.
 
Strangely, instead of clearly, straightforwardly condemning the act, the Indian English-language presstried to justify it:
Pilgrims provoked by chanting pro-Hindu slogans
(they were not slogans but
bhajans
,or devotional songs, ending with
Jai Sri Ram
(Victory to Sri Rama).
It’s because they were returningfrom Ayodhya, where they asked for the reconstruction of a temple at the traditional birth place of Rama;this offends the feelings of the Muslims.
In sum, the victims, roasted alive, were guilty.
The Anger 
 Numb with shock, the people of Gujarat did not react straightaway. They remained calm at first. Tillthat afternoon, when the charred bodies started arriving at their respective families — with no comfortingvoice sounded, either from the government, or from the media, no condemnation for this barbaric act, butan indifferent, deafening silence — then these people known for their non-violent nature and exceptionalpatience, burst into a frenzy.There was a revolt in the whole of Gujarat. For three days, tens of thousands of enraged Hindus setfire to Muslim shops, houses, vehicles: They came out from all sides, all parties, all classes,uncontrollable — one cannot control a revolution (except in China maybe). The fatalities: 720 Muslims,250 Hindus, according to official figures.We read all over about a
genocide of Muslims.
Do we remember a single report on the Hindus whoheroically helped save Muslims in their neighborhood? Was even
one
family of Hindu victims interviewedfollowing the criminal burning of the
Sabarmati Express
? One fourth of the dead in the ensuing riots wereHindus. How to classify those 250 victims? Who evoked the dead on the Hindu side? According toreports, Congress Party councillor Taufeeq Khan Pathan and his son Zulfi, notorious gangsters, wereallegedly seen leading Muslim rioters. Another such character, Congress member of the GodhraNagarpalika [municipality], Haji Balal, was said to have had the fire-fighting vehicle sabotagedbeforehand.[2] Then,he stopped the vehicle on its way to the Godhra Station and did not allow it to proceed any further. A manstood in front of the vehicle, the mob started pelting stones, … Theheadlights 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 inbut 15-20 precious minutes had been lost.[3]Lost for a coach full of innocent people in flames.Which newspaper article stated that the most violent events took place following provocations byleaders of this sort? The Union Home Ministry's Annual Report of 2002-03 stated that 40,000 Hinduswere in riot relief camps. What made those 40,000 Hindus rush to relief camps? To seek protection fromwhom? Why was it necessary if they were the main aggressors?More than the barbaric event itself, it is the insensitivity of the Indian
elite
and of the media thatinfuriated the Gujaratis.Those accused of terrorism often receive political support, are benevolently portrayed by the media,and a host of 
human rights
organisations are always on hand to fight for them. But those victims whoselife is cut down for no reason, are they not
human
enough to get some rights too? The great majority of those who took to revolt in Gujarat were neither rich nor particularly intellectual — neither right nor left:they were middle- and lower-class Gujaratis, simple people, workers, also tribals. But some from theupper middle class, among them a lot of women, took part in the upheaval.
The media sources
 
 
 Apart from local journalists usually more objective in their reports, no English media reporter, thought itworthwhile to look deeper into the events at the Godhra railway station. Nobody came to questionpossible survivors of the tragedy. Is a coach of Hindu pilgrims even worth the trip? They had to wait for the
elite
to react; they had to receive directives from the politically correct, before taking their pens.Worse, they reported deliberate rumours and made up versions as actual news.We were told, for instance, that when some pilgrims got off the ill-fated coaches to have tea,
somealtercation took place
between them, and a Muslim tea vendor:
They argued with the old man onpurpose,
wrote some newspapers;
they refused to pay for their tea
(though Gujarati honesty is wellknown);
they pulled his beard and beat him up ... They kept shouting
Mandir ka nirmaan karo, Babar ki aulad ko bahar karo
(start building the temple and throw out the sons of Babar). Hearing the chaos, thetea vendor’s 16-year-old daughter came forward and tried to save her father from the
karsevaks
. Shekept pleading and begging them to leave him alone. The
karsevaks
, according to this version, then seizedthe girl, took her inside their compartment and closed the door. The old man kept banging on the door and pleaded for his daughter. Then two stall vendors jumped into the last bogey, pulled the chain, and putthe bogey on fire.
 But would they have been stupid enough to set fire to the coach where their colleague’s youngdaughter was being held? And why were 2,000 Muslims assembled there at 7 A.M. with jerry-cans of petrol bought the previous evening?Rajeev Srinivasan, an American journalist of Indian origin, was e-mailed this anonymous report adozen times, supposedly written by Anil Soni,
Press Trust of India
reporter. He contacted Anil Soni tocheck on the veracity of this account. Soni answered:Some enemy of mine has done this to make life difficult for me, do you understand, sir? I did not write thisat all. I am a PTI correspondent. Yes, that is my phone number, but it is not my writing.Anil Soni apparently had heard about it from hundreds of people, and was upset to see a false reportcirculated in his name.Inquiries with the Railway Staff and passengers travelling in the
Sabarmati Express
showed that: noquarrel whatsoever took place on the platform between a tea vendor and pilgrims, and no girl wasmanhandled nor kidnapped.As the Nanavati Report established later, this fictitious report was in fact circulated by the Jamiat-Ulma-E-Hind, the very hand responsible for the carnage.[4] It nevertheless went around the world,exhibited as
the true story.
Aren’t we compelled to conclude that the assailants, in India, are those whodictate what’s
politically correct,
and instruct the media?
Arson and Canards
 On the afternoon of February 28th, Gujarati Hindus’ revolt broke out. A few journalists then bookedtheir tickets for Gujarat. As far as we can see, they had a framework in place: the outbreak would be dealtwith independently of the Godhra carnage, as a different, unrelated subject; it was a planned violenceperpetrated by
fundamentalist
Hindus against Gujarat’s Muslims, fully backed by the State of Gujarat.From this day on, the burning of coach S-6 was to be left behind, forgotten.On February 28th evening, Chief Minister Narendra Modi announced his decision to deploy the Army,and the next day, March 1st, by 11 A.M. the actual deployment of troops at sensitive points had begun.Violence abated in most major cities, after their arrival with orders to shoot on sight. But security forceswere largely outnumbered by the angry flood of people, spreading for the first time like rivers in spate, to

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