M A I N   N E W S

Godhra fire an accident, says report
Rules out conspiracy
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
Negating the Sangh Parivar’s “conspiracy theory” behind the infamous Godhra train blaze which claimed 59 lives and triggered communal riots across Gujarat in 2002, the Justice U. C. Banerjee probe committee in its interim report today described the incident as an “accidental fire” and ruled out the possibility of any inflammable liquid thrown from outside the coach.

“With the elimination of the ‘petrol theory’, ‘miscreant activity theory’ as well as ruling out of any possibility of ‘electrical fire’, the fire in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express can at this stage be ascribed as an ‘accidental fire’,” the committee said in its interim report which was submitted by Justice Banerjee to the Railway Board Chairman R.K. Singh. The committee was appointed by the UPA Government in September last year at the instance of Railway Minister Laloo Prasad.

Nearly a thousand people, most of them belonging to the minority community, were killed in the riots that followed Godhra train fire. The interim report has come days ahead of assembly polls in Bihar, Haryana and Jharkhand.

The report severely criticised the entire hierarchy of Western Railway in pre-judging the issue by describing the incident of fire as a miscreant activity without conducting even a preliminary inquiry.

It said there had been a preponderance of evidence that the fire in coach No S-6 originated in the coach itself without any external input. “The possibility of an inflammable liquid having been used is completely ruled out as there was first a smell of burning, followed by dense smoke and flames thereafter. This sequence is not possible in case the fire is caused by inflammable liquid thrown on the floor of the coach or an inflammable object thrown from outside the coach.”

The report said the “inflammable liquid theory” also gets negated by the statement of some of the passengers who suffered injuries on the upper portion of the body and not the lower body and who crawled towards the door on elbows and could get out without much injury.

“The committee has found it unbelievable that `Kar Sevaks’ (to the extent of 90 per cent of the total occupants) armed with “trishuls”, would allow to get themselves burnt, without a murmur, by miscreant activity like a person entering S-6 coach from outside and setting the coach on fire,” the report said.

Referring to forensic laboratory’s experiment, the report said the committee verified the conclusion that it was impossible to set fire to the train from the outside.

“Some evidence of cooking inside the coach by Kar Sevaks was also given. Moreover, the committee has on the basis of evidence available on record found that the train left the platform at around 07.48 am and stopped on account of vacuum failure in some coaches and the train started again at about 8 am. Relying on the Survey of India Mapping of Distances and given the speed of the train at that time, the committee noted that the engine ought to take about 5 minutes time to be near the post at 468/19 and the guard’s coach at 468/45. It is at this juncture that the smoke was not only noticed but had been reported to GRP, RPF and Vadodara Control. There was thus no scope for any miscreant activity from any external agency during this period,” the report said.

It said there had been failure on the part of the Commission of Railway Safety and Railway Administration to conduct a statutory inquiry into this accident. “This was in breach of the Railway act as well as the Accident Manual of the Zonal Railway.”
The report said the Railway Administration had also not made any concerted effort to preserve the clues of the incident. In particular, it criticized the onward travel to Ahmedabad of S-7 coach despite some damage to it and despite it being a crucial piece of evidence. “In fact, the damaged portion of S-7 has been disposed of as scrap.” 

The report also noted that neither the then Railway Minister nor members of the Board visited the site of the accident or the injured passengers.

Noting that 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 of the fire tenders which came to the accident site, it said a fire which could have been doused in four to six minutes, took very much longer resulting in heavy loss of lives.

Justice Banerjee refused to take questions from mediapersons and left soon after submitting the interim report and mentioning its main points. 

The committee, set by the UPA Government in September last year, was given a three-month extension after its initial tenure ended in December. 

Former Railway Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar, during whose tenure the infamous incident took place, described the report an attempt on the part of the Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal to extract political mileage. 

He said such attempts would prove futile and the RJD leader would have to look for new tactics.


Cong: Modi govt engineered riots
Involvement proved, says Laloo

New Delhi, January 17 
With the U.C. Banerjee Committee report declaring today that the Godhra train blaze was an accident, the Congress lambasted the Gujarat Government for suppressing facts and “organising” communal violence in the state in 2002.

The documents which formed the basis of the committee’s report were available to the state administration in 2002 and it knew the fact. But the Narendra Modi government remained mischievously silent and used the incident to organise a pre-meditated communal violence,” AICC spokesperson Anand Sharma alleged while speaking to reporters.

Asked what the demand of the Congress was in the light of the committee report, he said he would like to restrict his remarks. He also denied the party having made any demand for imposition of the Article 356 for the dismissal of the Gujarat Government.

“What we want is to expose Mr Modi and the BJP. Let all his misdeeds be exposed,” he said. 

Describing the Gujarat Chief Minister as “a person known for his role in the horrific bloodshed in Gujarat”, Mr Sharma said the BJP’s decision to draft him as a star campaigner in the Bihar elections along with Ms Uma Bharati, was a proof of the party’s “true face and intention”.

“Both Ms Bharati and Mr Modi are known for their bigoted mindset and aggressively pursuing divisive agenda. The BJP’s decision to make them spearhead the election campaign in Bihar shows the party’s hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy,” he alle ged. 

Patna: Railway Minister and RJD chief Laloo Prasad on Monday alleged the high-level committee which probed the Godhra train blaze “proved beyond doubt” the involvement of Sangh Parivar and the Narendra Modi government in post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat.

He said his ministry would take legal action against all those, including former Railway Minister Nitish Kumar, if they were found to be involved in covering up the Godhra incident. — PTI, UNIBack


Godhra report attempt to help Laloo: BJP
Tribune Reporters

New Delhi, January 17
The BJP today slammed the interim report of the Bannerjee Committee on the Godhra train carnage as an “extra constitutional effort to influence the course of justice” and alleged that it was an attempt to help the Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav in the coming Bihar Assembly elections.

“Our worst fears have come true. This report is a disgraceful and unfortunate attempt to trivialise one of the worst offences and crimes which began as a series of unfortunate incidents in February 2002,” BJP General Secretary Arun Jaitely told newspersons here.

Asserting that the report had no legal basis as a criminal trial was already on and a two-member commission of inquiry was conducting an open probe in the case, Mr Jaitley alleged that the report was released today after the completion of the first round of filing of nominations for the Assembly poll and not on March 3, upto which its term was extended, as it would not have helped the Railway Minister in the Bihar elections.

“This committee set up by the Railway Ministry could only probe into negligence or damage to Railway properties in the Godhra carnage and has no legal basis to probe the conspiracy angle, which is being dealt with by the trial court and also by a two-member commission set up under the Commission of Inquiry Act,” he said.

Accusing the committee of ignoring the chargesheets and evidences available before the trial court in its interim conclusions, the BJP spokesperson alleged that it was aimed at benefitting “those who committed the crime.”

“This is an extra-constitutional effort to influence the course of justice. It is completely beyond the scope of the Railway Ministry. Moreover, the timing of the interim report and the need of it is questionable,” he said.


Godhra report nails BJP’s lie, says CPM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 17
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said the interim report of Justice U. C. Banerjee on the fire in the Sabarmati Express in Godhra has nailed the “lie” of the Narendra Modi government and the RSS and the BJP outfits. It had exposed the attempt by the Sangh Parivar to vitiate communal harmony in the country for political and electoral benefits.

“Such sinister recourse to vitiate communal harmony for political or electoral benefits by the RSS and the BJP is further exposed,” the party politburo in a statement said.

It said the report negates the “inflammable liquid theory” propagated by the Narendra Modi government and the BJPand the RSS. This was used to unleash the most barbaric state-sponsored communal genocide in Gujarat with the purpose of sharpening communal polarisation and, thus, gaining electorally.

The interim report concludes that the Godhra incident was an “accident, not a deliberate attempt”. It further ruled out the possibility of an ‘inflammable liquid’ as the cause of the fire. 

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