New Delhi: Even as the debate continues on the Godhra rail station inferno of 2002 and subsequent riots, it is certain that the Supreme Court’s latest orders in effect endorse the findings of the Nanavati-Shah Commission report that “Ramsevaks had not done anything”.
The Commission in its report tabled on Nov 18, 2014 had said that, “the Ramsevaks (Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya) had not done anything and no incident had happened earlier which could have led to the incident that happened later at Godhra”.
The Nanavati-Shah panel in its 2000-page content had also quoted eyewitnesses including retired army personnel who had traveled in the ill-fated Sabarmati Express in 2002. In fact, witness number 1015, Ramnaresh Gupta said – “the mob (at Godhra station) was carrying weapons like swords and iron bars and were shouting ‘Maro, Kapo, Badhane Jalavi Do (Burn them all)”.
Another eyewitness No. 1013, Radheshyam Mishra, a retired military havaldar, had stated that the mob
pelting stones on the train were shouting – “Mar dalo, Kat dalo”. He was himself hit by a stone.
The Commission had said – “In absence of any evidence whatsoever indicating any incident on the way, the Commission has no hesitation in coming to the conclusion that the suggestion made by Jamait-e-Ulemma Hind that a quarrel had taken place between Ramsevaks and Vendors at the Ujjain railway station is without any basis”. It said the journey of the said train from “Ayodhya to Godhra was trouble free”.
Now, it needs to be taken cognizance by media and other objective observers that controversial cops RB Sreekumar and Sanjiv Bhatt’s claim that as the Chief Minister Narendra Modi had made certain statements “to allow vent to the Hindu anger” were also not true.
The apex court noted that the SIT had looked into these allegations and had dismissed them.
It stated that according to other officials present in that meeting, either Bhatt or Sreekumar were not in attendance and that this claim was a “figment of imagination”. The Supreme Court also called Sreekumar a “disgruntled officer”.
In its order, the Supreme Court has stated that there was a “coalesced effort” of disgruntled officials from Gujarat and others to make false sensational revelations, which the SIT exposed.
“Intriguingly, the present proceedings have been pursued for he last 16 years… to keep the pot boiling, obviously, for ulterior design,” said the three judge bench comprising Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravikumar.
It is also worth mentioning that the Nanavati Commission in its interim report submitted in September 2008 had stated that the fire on the train at Godhra station on Feb 27, 2002, was the result of a “pre-planned conspiracy involving some individuals”.
Now, the roles played by media and organisations and some more individuals like Jamait-e-Ulema Hind could also come under the scanner.
A section of BJP leaders is likely to take up issues concerning a decision by the erstwhile UPA government when Railway Minister Lalu Prasad in a much more controversial manner had appointed a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court judge U C Banerjee in Sept 2004. Justice Banerjee-panel in a much-hurried manner and in a questionable stance had declared that the fire in the Sabarmati Express compartment was “only an accident”.
This report was challenged by a relative of a victim, Nilkanth Bhatia in the Gujarat High Court. The single judge bench of Justice D N Patel termed the formation of the Banerjee itself as illegal.
As expected the Congress-led UPA which was supported by communists had appealed against the ruling. But in July 2014 (by the time Narendra Modi govt. was in power), the NDA government withdrew the appeal before the bench of Justices K S Jhaveri and A G Uraizee.