The findings of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and top jurists — including four former Supreme Court judges — on the 2002 Godhra train burning incident and the riots that followed are the complete opposite of those of the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission.
The Nanavati commission, in the first part of its report made public on Thursday, concluded that the fire in the Sabarmati Express was the result of a “pre-planned conspiracy”. It also absolved the Narendra Modi government of any wrongdoing in Godhra and in the riots. But these findings are strongly contradicted by the NHRC report on the riots as well as by a probe panel headed by former SC judge V.R. Krishna Iyer and assisted by Justices P.B. Sawant and four former high court judges.
The NHRC report, prepared after its then chairman and former CJI J.S. Verma visited riot-affected areas, slammed the Gujarat government for all-round failure in controlling the riots and in providing relief to victims. “A serious failure of intelligence and action by the government marked events leading to the Godhra tragedy and the subsequent deaths and destruction,” the April 2002 report said.
A nine-member team of the Concerned Citizens Tribunal, headed by Justice Iyer, concluded in its report that the Godhra incident was “spontaneous”. “The tribunal found no evidence that the train coach was set on fire from outside. It was sudden provocation on the Godhra station that led to a clash between Hindus and Muslims. The administration suppressed facts and spread falsehood,” Justice Iyer said. The report added: “The uniform pattern of violence in Gujarat the day after the Godhra incident showed the killings of Muslims were pre-planned.”
Former SC judge UC Banerjee, appointed by the Railway Ministry to probe the Godhra fire, concluded in 2006 that the incident was “not pre-planned”. Similar findings were reported by former Allahabad High Court judge S.C. Jain, who reviewed the cases registered under the now repealed Prevention of Corruption Act.