M A I N   N E W S

Laloo orders probe into Godhra carnage
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 14
Union Railway Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav today announced in the Lok Sabha the setting up of a time-bound high-powered departmental committee to probe the circumstances in which S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express was burnt at Godhra in Gujarat on February 27, 2002.

Alleging a conspiracy in the fire incident, in which 59 persons were burnt alive, Mr Yadav said, the report submitted by the Forensic Science Laboratory of Gujarat in May 2002 had found that some inflammable material inside the compartment caused the fire.

However, that report was kept under wraps for political considerations, he observed.

“The committee will submit its report in the next three months, and will probe whether the devastating blaze was caused by a short-circuit, inflammable material or some other substance,” he said, adding that the report had not concluded whether the fire was caused in the S-6 coach from the outside by throwing inflammable substances.

Reading out the report of the forensic laboratory, the minister said there was clear evidence that the fire had been caused by some inflammable material inside the compartment.

Charging that the findings of the forensic lab were kept under wraps by the previous NDA government and the BJP government in Gujarat, he said there would be no cover up and all those found guilty would be punished.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal, in his brief intervention, said the fact that the report was kept under wraps went to show that this could not have been done without the connivance of state Chief Minister Narendra Modi, then Home Minister L.K. Advani and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The NDA members except Ms Mamata Banerjee boycotted the address of the Railway Minister. The minister asserted that the Railways would not spare any official for the dereliction of duty in the Godhra carnage, which had brought a bad name to India at the international fora.

“We will fix responsibility against such officials and the guilty will be punished.” As Mr Yadav read out the forensic report some members demanded that the Gujarat Government be dismissed.

Narrating details given in the report, the Railway Minister wondered why no departmental probe was ordered on the serious issue when the Railways conducted such inquiries in the normal course even on very ordinary incidents.

“Why did the Railways remain a silent spectator,” he said, adding that neither the then Railway Minister nor the Minister of State for Railways or any other Central minister visited the site after the incident.

As per the forensic report read out by Mr Yadav in the House, “no inflammable material was thrown on the bogie of Sabarmati Express from outside. The only damage done to the coach was by stone-throwing.”

“Despite the fact that this report was available with the state and the Union Government three months after the incident, the terms of reference of the judicial inquiry were not changed,” he said. He maintained that the terms of reference were framed in such a manner that it was “already assumed that the coach was set on fire from outside”.

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