Monday, February 19, 2007

The myth and truth of Godhra


feb 17th, 2007

the anniversary of the godhra massacre is coming up soon. i got this on a mailing list.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Yash

The myth and truth of Godhra
By Arvind Lavakare
Since no 'secularist' or 'liberal' or 'objective' person ever challenged the above sets of figures, some questions arise: Who killed 200-odd Hindus so early in those riots? Was it the police or the Hindus themselves? And what made those 40,000 Hindus rush to relief camps? Was it fear of Hindu mob violence, rape, arson and murder?
Two recent 'news briefs' in print are critical evidence of a reality that's been totally ignored by our 'liberals' who have, for four years running, gone on and on and on about the 'genocide' of Muslims in Gujarat after the sudden inferno in the S-6 compartment of Sabarmati Express had consumed 58 Hindus, including 26 women and 12 children, returning home after performing kar seva at Ayodhya.

In its edition of March 19, 2006, The Sunday Express carried the following report from Ahmedabad:

"Post-Godhra riot case: 7 get lifer
The city sessions court on Friday convicted seven people in a post-Godhra riot case and sentenced them to life term for the murder of 35-year-old Mukesh Panchal, a resident of Lambha. He was attacked by the accused and went missing on November 7, 2003 from Shah-e-Alam Darwaza. His mutilated body was found near Chandoka Lake on November 11. One of the seven accused—Javed Shaukat Ali—meanwhile managed to give the cops a slip and fled from the court."

In its edition of Wednesday, March 29, 2006 The Indian Express carried the following report, also datelined Ahmedabad:

"Nine get jail in post-Godhra riot case
The city sessions court on Tuesday convicted nine accused in a post-Godhra riot case. Additional Sessions Judge Sonia Gokani sentenced Mushtaq alias Kanio Ahmed Sheikh to 10 years in jail for murder and attempt to murder. Eight others were sentenced to 18 months in prison for unlawful assembly, possessing weapons and rioting."

Out of the five convictions so far in l'affaire Godhra, the above two rip the blindfold on Godhra that the country was subjected to since March 2002. Those two convictions conclusively prove that even as some Hindus in Vadodra, Ahmedabad and a few other parts of Gujarat were provoked into insane killing, arson and loot by the S-6 carnage, the Muslims in that state were hardly the cattle hiding from the slaughter house that they have been made out by the "secularists" in and outside our national English media. Do you, for instance, recall reading about the mutilation of Mukesh Panchal's cadaver in any of the English print media? Did you hear a sound byte about it on our TV?

Yes, despite all the media and the consequent political, propaganda about the 'genocide' of Gujarat's Muslims, the reality is that some of that community were also engaged in murder, rioting and unlawful assembly with arms in hand.

This trend was discernible to the objective person four years ago itself. Thus, in its issue of April 28, 2002, The Times of India reporter, Sanjay Pandey, told us that of the 726 people who had been killed by then in the post-Godhra riots, 168 were Hindus. In its issue of June 24, 2002, India Today carried an article saying that the official figure of all people killed in Gujarat in the three months following the S-6 massacre was 800, of which a quarter were Hindus. The Union Home Ministry's Annual Report 2002-03 said that about a third of the total dead in the Godhra riots were Hindus. It also said that, at one stage, 40,000 Hindus were in riot relief camps.

Since no 'secularist' or 'liberal' or 'objective' person ever challenged the above sets of figures, some questions arise: Who killed 200-odd Hindus so early in those riots? Was it the police or the Hindus themselves? And what made those 40,000 Hindus rush to relief camps? Was it fear of Hindu mob violence, rape, arson and murder?

More proof of the blindfold on Godhra came in 2005, when the UPA coalition (comprising the 'secular' friends of Muslims) made a statement in Parliament that 254 Hindus and 790 Muslims were killed in those riots.

But our national media simply refused to remove the blindfold on Godhra. Hence it was that the elites of our society continued to rant about the Gujarat 'pogrom of genocide'; some cussed Indians even conspired to deny a US visa to the Chief Minister of one of the country's fastest developing states.

Aiding and abetting that conspiracy were reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International et al. The National Human Rights Commission joined in; written lies by the likes of Arundhati Roy and fake e-mails added fuel to the fire. All of them went to town about the Gujarat 'genocide' with blinkers on, a blindfold underneath. None wanted to touch upon the minority community's role in that tragedy.

But the latest criminal conviction of 16 Muslims evokes the recall of the Justice Tewatia Report on the Godhra issue published on April 26, 2002 under the aegis of the Council For International Affairs And Human Rights, based in New Delhi.

It was a report based on a six-day field study of a team headed by Justice D.S. Tewatia, former Chief Justice, Calcutta High Court and Punjab and Haryana High Court. Its other members were Dr J.C. Batra, senior advocate, Supreme Court, Dr Krishan Singh, academician, Jawahar Lal Kaul, veteran journalist, and Prof. B. K. Kuthiala, Dean, Faculty of Media Studies, G.J. University, Hisar.

The five-man team visited three affected areas and relief camps in Ahmedabad, interacting freely with the public and members of both communities, and without government interference. In Godhra, five delegations from both communities and also of mixed composition presented their views and facts to the team. Similarly, free discussions with the public and affected communities were held in Vadodra at seven affected areas and five relief camps. It collected information from the staff at the Godhra Railway Station, district administration, including the Collector and Police Commissioner, passengers traveling in Sabarmati Express on 27.02.02 in S-6 compartment as well as in other compartments, staff of the Fire Brigade, Godhra, reports in 22 newspapers and nine magazines (local, regional and Delhi) and views on media coverage articulated by some 500 persons including intellectuals like lawyers, doctors and businessmen. The site where the train was initially stopped and stoned was also visited. A high point was that 13 delegations consisting of 121 citizens met Justice Tewatia's team and presented their viewpoints and information. The delegations ranged from the Association of Hoteliers to a group of Vanvasis and affected Muslim as well as Hindu women.

Based on the considerable oral, audio and visual evidence obtained from the above interactions, the Justice Tewatia team's conclusions most relevant to the blindfold on Godhra were as follows:
  1. Burning of 58 Hindu pilgrims on February 27, 2002 was an act carried out at the behest of then government of Pakistan which had planned to burn the entire Sabarmati Express carrying some 2000 passengers. The primary objective was to create Hindu-Muslim communal conflagration in India. The actual perpetrators were jehadi elements in the predominantly Muslim town of Godhra where
    1. a very high traffic of telephone calls was recorded between Godhra and Pakistan, especially Karachi, before the date of the carnage
    2. an abnormally large number of passports were issued,
    3. there was a large number of persons without ration cards
    4. a large number of unemployed Muslims had mobile phones,
    5. though there is no tradition of being a Muslim pilgrim center and the local Muslims are not affluent, three istema (religious gatherings) have been held and attended by large numbers of foreigners, and
    6. an Assistant Collector (a young Muslim from eastern UP) went on leave two days before the gory incident and did not return till the middle of March though the district of his posting was aflame with communal riots much earlier.
  2. The vacuum pipe between the Coaches No. S-6 and S-7 was cut thereby preventing any further movement of the train. Miscreants threw bricks and stones at the train as soon as it left Godhra railway station. The stoning intensified after it finally stopped about 700 metres from the station. The passengers of the train, particularly Coaches S-5, S-6 and S-7, were the main targets. Burning missiles and acid bulbs were thrown on and in the coaches. One such acid missile landed in Coach S-7 and a fire started which the passengers were able to extinguish. But the attack continued and more burning missiles were thrown into the Coach S-6.
  3. In an effort to control the subsequent riots, the Gujarat government
  4. Publicly announced its decision to employ the Army on the evening of the day riots began on February 28 (Within less than 24 hours at least one brigade of Indian Army had air-landed at Ahmedabad),
  5. Made preventive arrests of over 33,000 people,
  6. Fired over 12,000 rounds of bullets,
  7. Fired over 15,000 rounds of tear gas shells,
  8. The involvement of Vanvasis in the post-Godhra riots added a new dimension to the communal violence. In rural areas the Vanvasis attacked the Muslim moneylenders, shopkeepers and the forest contractors. They used their traditional bow and arrows as also their implements used to cut trees and grass while attacking Muslims. They moved in groups and used coded signals for communication. Apparently, the accumulated anger of years of exploitation by Muslim moneylenders (interest of 50 per cent per annum), shopkeepers and forest contractors had become explosive after moneylenders sexually exploited their womenfolk.
  9. The media selected, distorted and added fiction to prove their respective points of view. The code of ethics prescribed by the Press Council of India was violated by the media with impunity. It so enraged the citizens that several concerned citizens in the disturbed areas suggested that peace could return to the state only if some of the TV channels were closed for some weeks. Even the Vanvasis complained that the media had no time to hear their agony and was spreading canards against the Hindus. Newspapers published in English from Delhi invariably editorialised the news. Direct and indirect comments in the news writing were so telling that the personal likes and dislikes of the news reporters were too obvious to be missed. They appeared to have assumed the role of crusaders against the State Government from day one. It coloured the entire operation of newsgathering, feature writing and editorials.
Conclusions 1 to 4 above are indicators as to why our national media, ever afraid to criticise the Muslim and ever ready to indulge in BJP/Hindu bashing, bypassed the Justice Tewatia Report, despite its high credentials and the fact that it was publicly released at a press conference in New Delhi. After all, our 'secular' national media simply could not have tolerated giving even a line to report's conclusion 5 above. Hence, they simply buried the whole report itself, put a blindfold on the country vision of it. After all, they had found their Hindu-bashing agenda in the post-Godhra riots and they were hell-bent in pushing it full steam, right up to the Supreme Court and beyond to the United Nations.

Will the criminal conviction of 16 by two separate sessions judges in Ahmedabad remove the blindfold on Godhra that the 'monster media' put on the people of this country?

(The writer can be contacted at 202, Dosti Erica, Antop Hill, Wadala (E), Mumbai 400 037.)                          
'Sabarmati Express fire same as WTC disaster'
Press Trust of India - February 09, 2007
Ahmedabad, February 9: Comparing the burning pattern of S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express train with World Trade Centre (WTC) disaster in the US, the Gujarat government counsel told the Godhra Commission that huge amount of fuel had ignited the fire which killed 59 karsevaks on February 27, 2002 near Godhra railway station.
Giving a power-point presentation to the Nanavati-Shah Commission, probing the carnage and the riots that followed, advocate Sumit Shah said, "the fire inside the coach (of the train) can be compared to the WTC fire."
"Here canisters filled with petrol were used to burn the coach and there (at WTC) an aeroplane filled with petrol was used," Shah said while showing photographs of the terrorist strike on twin-towers in New York on September 11, 2002.
Shah was trying to counter the 'flash over fire' theory presented by advocate Mukul Sinha of the Jan Sangarsh Manch that claimed that 'given certain conditions, a small fire can spread very rapidly'.
Choosing to describe the blaze in S-6 as 'a malicious fire initiated after thoughtful planning', Shah argued that the train coach was not a air-tight and confined space which could have given rise to a flash-over fire.
"Several windows of the coach were broken in the stone pelting," he said.
"The bogie had not burnt equally or identically throughout. This itself indicates that a flashover or backdraft had not occurred'', Shah said.
"If a flash over had occurred, all passengers would have been burnt to death. But here, many managed to come out unscathed and several others escaped with minor injuries," he argued.
"Hence it was a normal fire which spread rapidly after coming in contact with the fuel," Shah said adding samples examined by Forensic Science Laboratory experts had confirmed the presence of petrol.
The advocate also cited the FSL report which had examined the 38 samples collected on February 27, 2002, the day of the incident.
"The presence of petroleum hydrocarbons was detected in 27 samples while petrol was found in two," Shah said.
"Two samples had presence of Hydrocholoric Acid (HCL)," he added.
Shah contended that the plastic carboys (containers) in which 140 litres of petrol was brought could have melted at high temperatures inside the S-6 coach.
"Traces of carboys were not detected because they could have melted and evaporated at such high temperatures," he said.
"The carboys might have been taken back by the culprits after emptying the contents into the train compartment," Shah remarked.
He also presented an animated reconstruction of the train carnage as per the 'conspiracy theory' of Gujarat government.
Did Godhra save Pakistan? @      
Part I :  We were ready to punish Pakistan( )
'Rumours of an attack on a temple spread like wildfire. Ahmedabad city was put under curfew. Yet the violence did not stop. The local police were accused of showing anti-Muslim bias and were ineffective. After two days of unsuccessful attempts at stopping the violence, the city of Ahmedabad was handed over to the army.'
'Two trains were stopped, Muslims were pulled out and killed. The rioting had spread to Mehsana, Surat, Anand and Jamnagar and Rajkot, the birth place of Mahatma Gandhi. Even the Sabarmati ashram, established by Mahatma Gandhi, was not spared and was attacked by a rampaging mob. It was only after 10 days that the situation was finally brought under control. It was estimated that over 1,500 people were killed while thousands left their homes in panic and sought refuge in temporary camps.'
-- A report on the Gujarat riots, not in 2002, but in September 1969.
'We had begun to get reports of scattered violence shortly after we had watched on television the barbaric video tape of motorists being ripped out of their cars, hammered, pounded and chased by rock-throwing men on the ground. The image of a man being pulled from his truck by thugs still burned in my mind. My memory was seared by the vivid imprint of the motionless, beaten man lying on the ground, being kicked and brutalised.
'I was still filled with rage at the sight of one of the assailants picking up a large piece of cinder-block and throwing it at his apparently lifeless body, smashing him in the head. Then, after the savage beating, the attacker appeared to do a dance, raise his hands towards the helicopter overhead and flashed a victory sign.'
'As our helicopter circled over the city, we could see that fires were breaking out over a widespread area. The dark plumes of smoke were ominously spreading to different spots of the city. Firemen could not respond to many of these early fires because snipers were shooting at them. Later police escorts went in with the fire fighters to protect them from the snipers.'
-- Los Angeles, early evening of April 29, 1992. The riots, provoked by a video clipping of police brutality, lasted over a week.
The Gujarat riots of 1969 were far more serious than the 2002 riots. The death toll, as a proportion of population was far higher and the violence had spread to many parts of the state.
What the synopsis of two events shows is:
  • Police brutality and prejudice are not uncommon during riots.
  • People show great brutality during riots.
  • In a tinder box-like situation, like the one in Ahmedabad in 1969 and in Los Angeles in 1992, all that is required to start violence is a trigger event.
  • Serious riots have always needed Army/National Guard intervention to bring them under control.
  • The Gujarat riots of 2002 were important as well as unique in a sense.
The country was at that time on the brink of war with Pakistan. On the earlier two occasions, 1965 as well as 1971, remarkable internal peace had prevailed.
In 1971, despite the well known fact that the Pakistan army had killed close to 300,000, mainly Hindus, in Bangladesh (a figure accepted by the official Hamidur Rehman commission as well -- Pakistan General Gul Hasan who was chief of the army at the time claims that over 600,000 were killed), there was no internal strife as all parties (including the much reviled RSS) were co-opted in keeping this secret.
Ninety percent of the nearly 1 crore (10 million) refugees that poured into India were also Hindus. But even this was successfully hidden from the public.
The Godhra incident and the Gujarat riots were the first instance when internal conflict erupted even during an external threat.
There have been many claimants to credit for avoiding war in the subcontinent in 2002, the year when for ten long months the Indian armed forces were poised on the Indo-Pak border.
Colin Powell, then the American secretary of state, has gone on record to claim that it was the efforts and influence of the United States that averted war in the sub-continent.
If the US is so influential with the Indian government, one is tempted to ask, then why did it not succeed in preventing the nuclear tests at Pokhran in May 1998?
American multinationals who outsource their work to the Bangalore-based IT industry claimed it was their threat to withdraw which forced Indian companies like Infosys and Wipro to lobby with the government in favour of peace and restraint.
While there is some truth in these assertions, it is likely it was the Godhra incident and the riots that followed in March 2002 that really saved Pakistan from being attacked by India.
Complete coverage: The Gujarat riots
Godhra (and its twin city of Dahod) is famous in the subcontinent as the birthplace of Aurangzeb, the fanatical Mughal emperor. It is also a well known trouble spot that has seen violent riots between Hindus and Muslims for over a hundred years. A large number of people of Godhra have links with people in violence-prone Karachi in Pakistan.
On February 27, 2002, when the Sabarmati Express arrived at Godhra railway station early in the morning, it carried the usual load of Hindus returning from Ayodhya, a Hindu pilgrimage centre.
These pilgrims travel in large groups. They often act rowdily and altercations with vendors is a common occurrence. In fact, most vendors are known to shut shop when such trains approach.
But February 27, 2002 was unusual.
No sooner had the train left the station, it was stopped by pulling the emergency chain, just a little distance away from the station. Here the train was surrounded by a mob of thousands that pelted stones at the passengers.
Apparently some people then entered bogie S-6, which had mainly women and children, by cutting the cloth partition between two bogies. They then poured petrol into the carriage and set it afire. 59 people, including women and children, were burnt alive.
The incident had all the hallmarks of a pre-planned attack. The movement of Hindu pilgrims by this train was a regular, routine affair, not a sudden provocation. Also, it is not easy to suddenly garner a mob of several thousand without warning. A fire engine that tried to reach the spot was denied access, indicating a certain degree of leadership and planning.
The question that remains is, why?
Gujarat then and now was ruled by a Hindu hardliner who faced a difficult election in a few months time. That he would make capital of this incident was a foregone conclusion.
In less than two days, the city of Ahmedabad erupted in an orgy of violence. The local police either played a partisan role or were woefully inadequate to deal with the rioters. The only option was to call in the army.
But where was the army? Unlike the earlier occasions when the army stationed in Ahmedabad could move in at an hour's notice, this time it took more than two days. The troops earmarked for internal riot control duties were more than 600 km away, deployed on the border and ready for war.
To re-adjust the defences took time. The troops flown into Ahmedabad did not have transport and were unfamiliar with the geography of the city. It took them nearly three days to bring the situation under control.
Most of the killings and violence took place before the army was deployed. Sporadic arson and violence did continue, but the worst was over within a week.
In normal times, the army could have been deployed in a day.
For instance, army units in Delhi and Meerut (40 km away) were ready to move in within hours of the riots sparked off by the assassination of Indira Gandhi on December 31, 1984. But the then government deliberately delayed deploying it.
This was certainly not the case in 2002, when the delay was caused due to the logistical difficulties involved in redeploying troops from the border.
The brain behind the Godhra incident knew it would trigger riots, which in turn would force such a redeployment. In fact, an entire division (40,000 soldiers) had to be moved, while another division was kept on alert to move into other areas if necessary.
The effect on Operation Parakram
On an average, a division covers close to 50 to 75 km of border. The loss of close to two divisions obviously weakened the Indian threat of action against Pakistan.
'Indian forces were ready for raids into Pakistan' 
Let us look at the sequence again.
  • 59 people are burnt to death in a well-planned attack at Godhra.
  • The 'secular' media and some political parties try to minimise the tragedy, with some going to the extent of blaming the victims.
  • The Gujarat government brings the charred bodies to Ahmedabad and makes every attempt to inflame religious passions. This combination of 'secular' apathy and government exploitation creates a fertile atmosphere for mass hysteria and revenge killings.
  • With its 200-year-old history of animosities, the city of Ahmedabad erupts in an orgy of violence. The local police are either biased in favour of the rioters or woefully inadequate to deal with the situation.
  • Almost two army divisions are withdrawn from border, creating a gaping hole in the defences, weakening the threat of armed action against Pakistan.
It was only towards early May 2002 that the troops rejoined their comrades on the border. By then, the window of opportunity was shut, as the snows in Himalayas would melt, and a Chinese threat had to be factored into the planning.
On May 14, 2002, terrorists struck at Kaluchak in Jammu area. The gruesome attack targeted the wives and children of the soldiers. The sheer audacity of the act was to show to the world India's 'impotence'. The terrorists achieved their aim as thanks to the Gujarat riots, the army was not in a position to react.
In an interview to, Major General Ashok Mehta (retd) said: 'Then Kaluchak happened in May and a new D-Day was selected- June 15. On US prodding, General Musharraf made his May 27 speech reaffirming compliance (of Indian demands of curbing terrorist activities).'
The cost of a war that wasn't
It seems clear that the attack on Parliament as well as the Kaluchak massacre were the handiwork of 'freelance' terrorists, nurtured by Pakistan but nor necessarily under its direct control. The aim of terrorists was very clear, provoke a war between India and Pakistan by hook or crook.
But the Godhra incident was a calculated act, organised and executed by Pakistan to save itself from an imminent Indian attack.
As an act sponsored by a State, with all its resources in forensic help, legal expertise and police inputs, it falls in the category of a perfect crime.
No enquiry commission will ever be able to trace the true culprits and solve the mystery of Godhra.
This analysis is based on military logic and understanding of a military mind and not on any insider information. To those who consider this presumptuous, I would cite just one example.
During the First Gulf War of 1991, there was intense speculation over how and from where the Americans launch their ground offensive.
I used to write a daily column for Loksatta during the first Gulf war.
Based on a simple map, knowledge of military history and reading of military mind, I had predicted a week before the actual event the exact pattern of attack.
The prediction was that the 82 and 101 Airborne Divisions would take Al Kurna and Al Nasariya with the Third Army launching an armoured thrust from the west to link up. The Americans would thus cut off the Republican Guard located to the east and south and be poised to drive into Baghdad should Saddam not surrender. I even published a map showing this plan.
In the event I was spot on.                        
'We were ready to punish Pakistan' @ 

"Lead me from the unreal to the Real;
Lead me from darkness to Light;
Lead me from death to Immortality. "

"Asato ma sad gamaya
Tamaso ma jyotir gamaya
Mrtyor ma amritam gamaya."

-- Brhadaranyaka Upanishad

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