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Godhra trials forge trade alliances

Some witnesses of the Godhra carnage have not only taken back their statements but also struck business partnerships with some of those who had been accused of perpetrating gruesome acts of violence. Nagendar Sharma tells more...

india Updated: May 21, 2008 00:34 IST
Nagendar Sharma

The Godhra incident might have changed the Hindu-Muslim relationship for the worse in Gujarat, but a six-year delay in the commencement of the trial, has seen some key witnesses and accused come together as business partners.

Documents available with the Hindustan Times show that at least four main witnesses on whose testimony the police relied heavily for its initial investigations, changed their statements more than once, helping some of the accused named in the FIR. And two of these became business partners.

The generosity of these witnesses was aimed at only three accused, each of whom had a flourishing business in Godhra and nearby areas. While the changed statements of the witnesses helped two accused escape being chargesheeted, the third was out on bail a year after the incident. Many remain behind bars, awaiting a Supreme Court decision on their bail petitions and whether the trial be shifted outside the state.

One of the main witnesses, Nitin Kumar Hariprasad Pathak alias Kakul Pathak, entered into a partnership with one of the accused in the case, Abdul Razzak Abdul Rahim Dhantia alias Razzak Dungaria in December 2005.

The partnership deed for New Giriraj Quarry Works shows Pathak and Dungaria as two of the five partners. The deal was struck two years after Dungaria was released on bail by Gujarat High Court following contradictions in the statements of witnesses.

Kakul Pathak now says this business ceased to exist six months back. “Yes I am a witness in the Godhra case, but this partnership had nothing to do with the case. Moreover, the business being talked about here was sold to somebody else six months back and the chapter between me and Dungaria is closed.”

He refused to answer any further questions on his relationship with Dungaria, saying “he was not bothered about any document against him”.

Dungaria said he was innocent and wrongly named by the police due to some misunderstanding. “I was granted bail by the High Court in Feburary 2003, when it became clear that I had no role in Godhra.”

He denied the charge that he worked out a deal with the witnesses. “My business in Godhra is several decades old and everybody knows me here. I do not need to grant favours to anyone to speak for me,” he said.

Dungaria is named in the original FIR lodged in the train burning case. One of the main witnesses, Dilipbhai Dasadiya had first idenitified him, but a few months later retracted from his statement given to the police.

In an affidavit filed before a magistrate nearly five months after his first statement to the police, Dasadiya said he was a schoolteacher who was teaching 25 kms away from the scene of crime and was not present at the Godhra railway station.

Dasadiya refused to speak about the case, but admitted knowing Kakul Pathak and other witnesses. Though he denied any business dealing between them. “We all are party workers and know each other well, but that does not mean we have any joint business”.

However, AA Hasan, a lawyer representing some of the accused in the case says “these witnesses were manufactured by the police to derive fictitious statements to arrive at a pre-decided conclusion. I do not deny that they must be indulging in some financial deals with a few wealthy accused”.

Responses:
(We have been overwhelmed by the response to the “Riots and Wrong” series we have been running since Monday. Here are some of the letters.

The article Godhra Ghosts was touching. It highlighted the condition of the people and the number of years they suffer as a result of the slow moving judiciary system. I have no more answers than you do, but won’t it be great if these families was adopted by someone.
Gagandeep Singh, Australia
On email

I really appreciate your effort to Focus this issue with such poor people,who has no one except God for help. A few friends and I really want to help them.
Tahsinuzzaman Syed
On email

I was very moved by the plight of the Godhra victims mentioned in your article. I would like to help them.
Zahid M Chugtai, US
On email