A decade on, the burning of S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express near Godhra, which left 59 karsevaks dead and triggered massive communal riots across Gujarat, remains the biggest blemish on chief minister Narendra Modi’s political career. Hundreds of Muslims were killed, thousands displaced, and several homes destroyed in the post-Godhra riots of 2002.
File photo of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi (C) as he speaks to journalists after appearing before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team in Gandhinagar on March 27, 2010. AFP Photo/Sam Panthaky
Modi, his cabinet colleagues and other government functionaries have been accused of deliberate inaction in containing the anti-minority riots. Even the Nanavati Commission appointed by the state government to enquire into the post-Godhra riots has not submitted its report.
Activists have also accused Modi of subverting justice and protecting perpetrators of the riots. While probe in the Godhra carnage moved rapidly, investigations into the riot cases have been slow, they allege.
In the Godhra carnage case, 11 people have been sentenced to death and 20 others given life imprisonment by a trial court. However, though a decade has gone by, judgments have been pronounced only in a few riot cases.
Social activist and National Advisory Council member Harsh Mander, who runs an NGO that helps survivors of the 2002 carnage, said the carnage “looked planned” as well as the "systematic subversion of justice" that followed it.
In 2008, the Supreme Court had appointed a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by former CBI chief RK Raghavan to investigate major cases. The cases included the Gulberg society and Naroda Patiya cases in which 95 persons were killed, Naroda Gam case in which 11 people were killed, Dipda Darwaja case in which 11 people were killed, Ode where 30 people were killed in two separate cases, and Prantij where four persons, including three British nationals, were killed.
The accused include several politicians. MLA Maya Kodnani is an accused in Naroda Patiya and Naroda Gam cases, former VHP leaders Jaydeep Patel and Babu Bajrangi in Naroda Gam, and Prahlad Gosa, former BJP MLA, in Dipda Darwaja case. However, no one has been sentenced and the trial is still on.
In September last year, suspended IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt alleged that Modi and others were complacent with the rioters and Modi gave directions to the police and other officers “to allow Hindus vent out their anger” at a meeting on February 27, 2002 which he claims to have attended. Modi has, however, denied the allegation. So far, two commissions have probed the Godhra incident and arrived at different conclusions. The UC Banerjee Commission, appointed by the then railway minister Lalu Prasad, said the fire in the S-6 coach was accidental. The Nanavati Commission in the first part of its report said the Godhra carnage was pre-planned.
Slew of events planned
On Monday, the 10th anniversary of the incident, the VHP will lead a rally to the S-6 Coach, which is now kept at the Godhra railway yard. A number of Godhra carnage-hit families will pay homage to the deceased and offer prayers in temples. Around 45 NGOs have decided to come together to demand justice for the riot victims. Many other rallies, dialogues with the victims and prayers have been planned.
Major riots cases probed by SIT
Feb 27, 2002: Godhra train burning case
59 kar sevaks burnt to death. Trial completed and 11 accused have been sentenced to death while 20 others were awarded life imprisonment by POTA court on March 1, 2011. 'Main conspirator' Maulavi Umarji acquitted.
Feb 28, 2002: Gulberg Society (Ahmedabad) massacre
69 people including former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri killed. Trial under way. The court began final hearing last month. Jafri's widow, Zakia, had sought criminal prosecution of 63 people including chief minister Narendra Modi for allegedly conspiring to allow anti-minority riots. The Supreme Court had asked the SIT to examine the role of Modi and others. The SIT has filed its final report reportedly seeking closure of the case for "for lack of prosecutable evidence" against the persons named in the complaint.
Feb 28, 2002: Naroda Patia (Ahmedabad) massacre case
95 people were killed. Trial under way. Among the main accused are former Gujarat minister Maya Kodanani and VHP leader Jaidip Patel.
Feb 28, 2002: Naroda village (outskirts of Ahmedabad) massacre case
11 people killed. Trial under way. Maya Kodanani and Jaidip Patel are among the accused here also.
Feb 28, 2002: Dipada Darwaja (Mehsana) murder case
11 people were killed. Among the accused are former Visnagar BJP MLA Prahalad Patel. Trial in final stage.
Mar 1, 2002: Ode village (near Anand) massacre cases (two cases)
23 killed. Trial under way.
Mar 1, 2002: Prantij (north Gujarat) massacre case
Three British nationals killed. Trial under way. Around 24 accused are being tried.
Mar 1, 2002: Sardarpura (Mehsana) massacre case
33 killed. Special trial court convicted 31 accused for murder and other charges, acquitted 42.