20 years ago, 59 Hindus were brutally burnt alive in Godhra, Gujarat. Not only were the Hindus burnt alive, but history also forgot their names, forgot that the bloodthirsty Muslim mob came back to inflict more damage after murdering 59 Hindus and that the entire ecosystem meticulously tried to invalidate accounts of eyewitnesses and victims so they could save the Muslim mob.
When 59 people, including women and children, were burnt alive on 27 February 2002 inside a train by a riotous Muslim mob, it was because they were returning from Ayodhya. A place where they wanted to build Ram Mandir. A place where an illegal structure called ‘Babri Masjid’ stood. Those burnt alive were all Hindus.
For the media and the activist who tried to whitewash the Godhra carnage, it was almost justified that these men, women and children were murdered simply because they were Hindus, because they were returning from Ayodhya and because they chanted Jai Shree Ram while returning from a place where they wanted their Ram Mandir built.
The media, which should ideally have been reporting how a Muslim mob burnt Hindus to death, was far more bothered about being politically correct than standing with the unvarnished truth of how Hindus had been massacred.
OpIndia CEO and author Rahul Roushan in his book ‘Sanghi Who Never Went To A Shakha’ talks about his time as a young journalist associated with Aaj Tak, where he briefly interned. He was there in the studio when the news of the train coach being set on fire had started trickling in. He talks about how things were handled in the newsroom on how to break the story for the viewers. Here is a snippet from his book about the incident:
“‘Pata chala kaun kiya?’ (‘ Do we now know who did it?’), asked the copy editor to the input guy, who immediately replied ‘Musalmaan sab aur kaun?’ (‘ The Muslims did it, who else?’) in a hushed but disgusted tone. After a brief pause, the copy editor said, ‘Ab yeh toh nahi likh sakte na.’ (‘ Now, we can’t really write this.’) I furtively tried to have a look at the input guy. He didn’t say anything after this. Anger was discernible on his face and so was the disgust. His eyes met mine and I immediately averted them, lest he thought I was trying to spy. He then walked away, leaving some fax or photocopies at the desk of the copy editor, presumably the raw reports sent by the reporters from the ground. I too walked back to my desk, silently. This conversation of barely ten seconds, which would include some uncomfortable pauses, too, revealed so much in retrospect. The mainstream can write headlines like ‘Frenzied Hindu mob brings down sixteenth-century mosque’ and ‘Dabang Rajputon ne Dalit dulhe ko ghodi se utaara’ (when some men from the Rajput community force a Dalit groom to alight from the horse during a wedding procession), mentioning the religion or caste of the perpetrator of a reported crime in some cases, but it feels greatly uncomfortable about mentioning the religion when the perpetrator of the crime is a Muslim—this when religion was clearly the main element in the crime committed at Godhra. ‘Muslim mob sets a train carrying Hindu pilgrims on fire’ is not seen as a legitimate or ‘responsible’ headline, even though it is factual.”
The concept of ‘responsible reporting’ is skewed such that it has now become ‘hateful’ to mention in the headline or give further details of the crime if the perpetrator is a Muslim. As one can see, twenty years back, the guys at Aaj Tak did not want to specify that a murderous Muslim mob trapped Hindus inside a train compartment and set it on fire killing 59 people.
‘Responsible reporting’, however, went for a toss when subsequent riots broke out and it was all about the ‘Hindu mob’ that set shops of Muslims on fire. There were fantastical reports published by newspapers that a ‘Hindu mob’ raped a pregnant Muslim woman, Kausar Bano, ripped open her tummy with a sword and flung the foetus in the air. It has been 20 years and this myth has been perpetuated for a generation now. There are different variations, sometimes even more gruesome fate of the foetus is depicted, but the basic premise remains the same.
However, the postmortem of Kausar Bano told a different story. A 2010 report states that the doctor who conducted a post-mortem on Kauser found the foetus intact. Dr J S Kanoria, who had conducted the autopsy on 2nd March 2002 presented supporting documents to the special court and said that the foetus was intact in the woman’s womb. The foetus weight 2,500 gms and was 45 cms long.
But as we see, the lie had already been perpetuated.
Nothing justifies the riots. And nothing justifies the burning alive of those Hindus, who were killed specifically because they were Hindus.
What was worse was, these Hindus were then blamed for their own deaths. And their killers were given a ‘clean chit’ by secular media because ‘no one knows how the fire was lit’.
In 2018, Raghav Bahl’s The Quint published an ‘explainer’ on the Godhra carnage and subsequent riots. It claims ‘no one knows who lit the match’. Let me help you: A riotous Muslim mob did it. Say it in as many words.
In July 2002, India Today in its report claimed that on the Godhra platform a ‘scuffle’ broke out between karsevaks and tea vendors, most of whom were Muslims. When the train started to move, the train was stopped after the alarm chain was pulled. A crowd gathered and pelted stones on the train. Now, the karsevaks ran for their lives and got back into the coach. Doors, windows shut, the train started moving. A kilometre further, it stopped again because of ‘technical glitch’. The mob, now of 1000 strong Muslims, now descended and pelted stones on the train again and set it on fire.
You see, the reason Hindus were set on fire by a rioting Muslim mob was because the ‘scuffle’ with Muslim tea vendors provoked them. But even if it were true, what does it say about a community that gets triggered by anything from a scuffle to cartoon to just about any ‘gustakhi’ that they just want to then go about killing everyone?
Justice Nanavati-Mehta Committee report [pdf] talks about how the Godhra carnage took place. Right after the Godhra platform and boundary, there is a road and a locality named ‘Signal Falia’. “It extends up to the culvert and goes further towards A cabin. It is a locality mainly inhabited by Ghanchi Muslims,” the report mentions. When the train had arrived, a lot of unauthorised vendors, mainly Ghanchi Muslims, would come on the platform and sell snacks, cold drinks, bidis, etc.
The report further states that the train arrived at the platform at 7:43 AM as it was running about 5 hours late and there was a halt of about 5 minutes. In its evidence portion, the report cites media reports from 28th February 2002, the day after the carnage, where leading mainstream media had reported that a mob has set Hindus on fire. They mentioned how Hindus were returning from karseva and how the mob set the train coaches on fire with petrol.
The Times of India had mentioned how the train was stopped at Signal Falia where someone had pulled the chain and after initial pelting of stones on coach S6 and S7, windows were broken and petrol bombs were thrown inside. The Indian Express, too, carried eyewitness statements on how the mob had set the coach ablaze after pelting stones.
How did the conspiracy theories come to be, denying justice to Hindu victims?
As evident, barring the usual whitewashing, there was consensus that it was a mob that had set fire to the train, causing the brutal massacre of 59 Hindus. While the media might not have put the details in the headline to be politically correct, there was no other theory that was peddled about how the Hindus died. It was only later that these theories emerge.
Even someone like Vir Sanghvi, at the time, had conceded that it was indeed a Muslim mob that had set fire to the train, causing the brutal death of the 59 Hindus.
Sanghvi, at the time, wrote:
It will be some time before we can establish the veracity of these versions, but some things seem clear. There is no suggestion that the kar sewaks started the violence. The worst that has been said is that they misbehaved with a few passengers. Equally, it does seem extraordinary that slogans shouted from a moving train or at a railway platform should have been enough to enrage local Muslims, enough for 2,000 of them to have quickly assembled at eight in the morning, having already managed to procure petrol bombs and acid bombs. Even if you dispute the version of some of the kar sewaks – that the attack was premeditated and that the mob was ready and waiting – there can be no denying that what happened was indefensible, unforgivable and impossible to explain away as a consequence of great provocation.
So what was the genesis of these conspiracy theories that denied the truth 5 months after even individuals like Vir Sanghvi admitted that it was indeed a Muslim mob that murdered the Hindus? On what basis did The Quint claim that nobody really knew who lit the match and how the Hindus were burnt to death when even Vir Sanghvi, the quintessential “liberal” who would just as easily deny the genocide of Hindus, admitted that the violence was not started by the Hindus and that there was a mob that set the train on fire.
Mukul Sinha’s Jan Sangharsh Manch and other ‘liberals’ and ‘activists’ fought tooth and nail to call the eyewitnesses of Godhra carnage liars, as evidenced in the Nanavati-Mehta Commission Report. They went to lengths to create various narratives like ‘fire was started from inside’, ‘short circuit’, ‘spontaneous scuffle’, ‘Karsevaks rose provocative Jai Shri Ram slogans’ (20 years later, Jai Shri Ram is ‘Hindu terrorist war cry’ and Allahu Akbar is ‘voice of courage’ as per the same set of ‘liberals’). Mainstream media and politicians were complicit in making the world think that the Hindus burnt alive in the train did not matter.
“No person had suggested for quite a long time that fire in coach S/6 of Sabarmati Express train was caused in any other manner,” the Commission report said. Except, in response to this, a member of Jan Sangharsh Manch, a ‘civil rights organisation’ started by ‘activist-lawyer’ Mukul Sinha, filed a statement and questioned the criminal conspiracy angle of state government and claimed that after the ‘evidence’ collected by him, it “appeared to him that burning of coach S/6 was because of the spontaneous scuffle and fight that had taken place between Ramsevaks and Muslim vendors on the platform of Godhra railway station and not because of any conspiracy hatched earlier.” Mukul Sinha’s son, Pratik Sinha, now runs the propaganda website ‘Alt News’ which regularly whitewashes crimes committed by Islamists.
Mukul Sinha was a scientist turned “activist”. He was a physicist, working with the Physical Research Laboratory in Ahmedabad. In 1988, he obtained a law degree and founded ‘Jan Sangharsh Manch’, a ‘civil rights organisation’ along with his wife Nirjari Sinha. The leadership of Jan Sangharsh Manch also founded the New Socialist Movement which was registered as a political party with the Election Commission in 2007. Mukul Sinha had also contested elections in the past and lost.
Mukul Sinha, along with his son Pratik Singh used to run an online rag called “Truth of Gujarat” which basically spread lies about the carnage of Hindus and tried to blame the victims for their own death. Essentially, Sinha senior with a bunch of ‘like minded’ propagandists would float theories on the 2002 Godhra carnage and subsequent riots in Gujarat.
In 2004, pro-Congress ‘activist’ Shabnam Hashmi organised a seminar in Delhi “Rebuilding Justice and Hope in Gujarat: The Agenda Ahead”. Amongst those present in the seminar were: actresses Sharmila Tagore and Nandita Das, lawyers Indira Jaisingh and Nitya Ramakrishnan, and journalists Praful Bidwai and Rajdeep Sardesai along with many known critics of the then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. They all tried to figure out ways to ‘fix’ Modi legally where Sinha gave a presentation to ‘prove’ the Muslim mob setting the train to fire was ‘false’ and that the fire was an ‘accident’.
This kind of propaganda was seeded through ‘truthofgujarat’ by Mukul Sinha along with his son Pratik.
Pratik Sinha, as mentioned earlier, now runs another propaganda outlet AltNews that whitewashes the murder of Hindus. Nirjari Sinha (Wife of Mukul Sinha and mother of Pratik Sinha), Pratik Sinha and Murlidhar Deomurari – all associated with Alt News are members of Jan Sangharsh Manch. Nirjari and Murlidhar are directors of Alt News.
It gets worse.
RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav was the Union Railway Minister in UPA 1 and he formed UC Banerjee Committee to ‘investigate’ the Godhra carnage. The UC Banerjee Report claimed that the fire that killed 59 karsevaks was ‘accidental’. Its interim report was released in 2005 which Lalu had used in the 2005 Bihar state election polls. Banerjee, however, never explained what could have caused the fire. Maybe some Karsevaks used the stones pelted at them by the Islamsits and were trying to see how man invented fire in the Stone Age.
See how suddenly the narrative went on to karsevaks who ‘got into a scuffle’ with tea vendor. Shame on the karsevaks for ‘getting into spontaneous scuffle’ which manifested a spontaneous mob armed with stones and inflammable materials which decided to kill them instead.
Gujarat High Court, in 2014, about a decade after Banerjee Committee declared the fire ‘accidental’, said that such a panel was a “colourable exercise of power with mala fide intentions”, and its argument of accidental fire “opposed the prima facie accepted facts on record”.
Remember, Congress-led UP wanted to tarnish the victims of Godhra carnage likely because the perpetrators were Muslims.
Nanavati-Mehta Commission report on Godhra carnage
“Till July 2002 neither Jan Sangharsh Manch nor Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee nor anyone else had suggested that the Godhra incident had not happened in the manner reported by the media and as stated by the State Government and others including the concerned railway personnel and the passengers but it had happened in a different manner,” the Nanavati Mehta Commission stated.
Regarding the ‘scuffle’, Nanavati-Mehta Commission had concluded, “From the evidence of all these witnesses and other material on record it becomes clear that except overcrowding in the train and occasional raising of slogans inside the train and on platforms of the intervening stations, the Ramsevaks had not done anything and no incident had happened earlier which could have led to the incident which later on happened at Godhra. 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 JamiateUlma-E-Hind that a quarrel had taken place between Ramsevaks and vendors at Ujjain railway station is without any basis. Its journey from Ayodhya to Godhra was trouble-free.”
There were another allegations that the karsevaks ‘attempted’ to abduct a Muslim woman, after the ‘scuffle’ that angered the mob. After careful scrutiny of her evidence, the Commission comes to the conclusion that the version given by her does not appear to be true. If they had really gone to the station for going to Vadodara, they would have boarded the Sabarmati Express train as it would have taken them to Vadodara earlier, but they had not done so. The alleged attempt to abduct her was made while they were near the bookstall. That would mean that they were almost in the middle of the covered portion of the platform and very close to the offices of the railway staff. The evidence discloses that there were many persons on the platform. Apart from passengers, many Muslim vendors were there. The railway staff was present in their offices. Some policemen were also present. If she had raised shouts to save her then they would have been heard at least by some persons who were near about but not a single vendor or anyone else has come forward to support her version. According to her evidence, they had then gone inside the office of the booking clerk. They did not inform anyone there about what had happened. When inside that office, they had no reason to be afraid of anything thereafter and return immediately to their relative’s place instead of waiting for the Memu train which was about to arrive. Her explanation that she was much frightened and had giddiness and, therefore, they had decided not to go back to Vadodara on that day, does not appear to be true,” the Nanavati Mehta Commission report stated.
It mentions that the theories of ‘accidental fire’ were floated after Forensic Science Lab in its report dated 7th May 2002 mentioned how the windows of the train were too high for anyone to have thrown inflammable liquid inside. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission report found this evidence during the course of their investigation regarding the FSL report. The FSL had prepared four reports on the basis of their examination. Some samples were also sent to the lab and a report on it was also made.
“Two more reports were prepared by the Chemistry Division of their laboratory of which Shri D.V. Talati, was the head. He has stated that the opinion expressed in report no. 1 that a person standing outside coach S/6 could not have applied force to the bars of the windows was in the context of the query viz. whether a man standing on the ground could have applied force to the bars of the windows. He has stated that if a man had tried to raise himself or if he was lifted by somebody then he could have applied force on the bars. His examination of the coach had indicated that inflammable material must have been thrown while standing in the passage between seat no.72 and the eastern door of the coach,” The Commission report states.
Regarding the fire and its origin, D V Talati had told the Nanavati-Mehta Commission, “About 60 litres of inflammable liquid must have been used in burning that coach. The floor of the coach at some places was totally burnt. After explaining the difference between a fire in an open space and a fire in a confined place, he has stated that the phenomenon of flashover can happen in a place that is small and completely closed. The size of S/6 was quite big. The total area of it was 5000 sq.ft. Therefore, there was no possibility of flashover in that coach unless the fire was big. The fire had not started from below the coach. The total quantity of liquid that was required for burning the coach could not have been thrown from outside, nor the fire which took place in S/6 could have been caused only by the burning rags thrown in it. As there was more damage in the eastern part of the coach, he had come to the conclusion that the fire had originated in the eastern part of that coach.”
Dismissing the claims by some websites, ‘activists’ that the fire happened inside the compartment after some inflammable liquid from a stove spilt after some karsevak tried to cook a meal in the compartment, the Commission report said, “He has denied that such fire could have taken place in the coach as a result of inflammable liquid in a vessel getting spilt in the coach. This witness has produced photographs taken by his office at the time of examination of that coach.”
Further, Mukesh Joshi, Scientific Officer at FSL had gone to Godhra thrice in 2002 and he had observed, “n hit marks on the outer side of coach S/6 caused by stones hitting the coach. There were burn marks also on the outer side of coaches S/6 and S/7.”
The Nanavati-Mehta Commission report then talks about the statements of various eyewitnesses. Multiple eyewitnesses narrate how the mob started pelting stones from the left side of the compartment as the train started to move away from the platform. “Sajjanlal Raniwal has stated that as soon as the train had moved out of the platform, a mob standing on the left-hand side had started throwing stones on it and for that reason he was required to close the door and shutters of the windows of their compartment. If really that had not happened, there was no other reason for Sajjanlal to say so. He would not have closed the windows unless he was compelled by the circumstances to do so. The passengers have also said that as the persons on the left-hand side of the train had started throwing stones on the train, they were required to close the windows of their coach. Some of the witnesses have stated that stones which were thrown on the train had a broken glass of one or two windows and therefore, the passengers in the coach were required to close the tin/metal shutters of the windows on that side. Hariprasad has also clearly stated that right from the time the train had moved out of the station, pelting of stones on the train had started and because of that passengers had closed the windows of their coach. There is no reason to doubt this part of their evidence. Hariprasad and other witnesses would not have said so unless it was true as they had nothing to gain by saying something that which was not correct.”
Mukul Sinha’s Jan Sangharsh Manch opposed this version of the eyewitness and claimed how “neither driver Rajendrarao nor assistant driver Mukesh Pachori has stated anything with regard to the attack on the train with stones while it was moving towards ‘A’ cabin.” To this, it was clear that since the driver had to focus on the track, he would do not have any reason to look towards Signal Falia, from where the mob had come. “Rajendrarao has stated that his attention was fixed on the track ahead and therefore, he had not noticed any mob or movement of persons near the Signal Falia. This conduct of Rajendrarao is quite natural. He was moving out from the station and had to keep an eye on the tracks ahead. Moreover, he had to exchange the “all right” signal with the staff at ‘A’ cabin and therefore also it is likely that his attention was towards ‘A’ cabin. They had no reason to look towards the Signal Falia side. The evidence is that persons were chasing the train in small groups. They were not standing near the track,” The Nanavati-Mehta Commission report stated.
As per the statement, the mob was not near the track, they had come near the track a little while later. “Their having not seen any mob does not provide a good reason to raise any doubt regarding reliability and truthfulness of the evidence of TTE Sajjanlal and the passengers. In view of the false rumour spread that a Ghanchi Muslim girl was being taken away, what the passengers have said regarding the mob is more likely to have happened. The Commission is of the view that on the basis of this evidence it is quite safe to record a finding that the train was attacked with stones while it was running between the station and ‘A’ cabin,” the report states.
Another conspiracy theory about the fire that was floated by Mukul Sinha’s Jan Sangharsh Manch was ‘short circuit’. The Nanavati-Mehta Commission had this to say about this, “A short circuit is another probability canvassed by the Jan Sangharsh Manch. No evidence has been led and no material has been produced before the Commission to show the possibility of a short circuit having occurred in the coach. The reason given in support of this possibility is that there was smoke in the coach first and flames were seen after sometime. Not a single passenger of coach S/6 examined by the Commission was asked if anything like short-circuit had happened in the coach.”
Further, the report said, “During the inspection by the Commission in presence of advocates appearing for the parties it was noticed that the electric wires were in the upper parts of the coach. If there was a fire because of a short circuit the passengers who were near that place would have immediately come to know about it. In that case, the passengers who were sitting on the lower seats would not have climbed up on the upper berths to protect themselves. On the contrary, those who were sitting on the upper berths would have immediately come down for saving themselves from fire and electric shock. The passengers would have left the coach immediately through all the four doors and so many persons would not have lost their lives.”
Jan Sangharsh Manch by Mukul Sinha then called an eyewitness a liar. One Savitaben Sadhu, who was a few compartments away, saw the horrifying scenes unfold in front of her eyes. “She has stated that because of the attack by the mob with stones and other articles, windows of their coach had broken down and that she was hit by some stones. She has also stated that a window on the southern side was broken by some persons in the mob. When questioned about the details of the attack she has stated that she had seen persons in the mob throwing stones and burning rags inside the coach through those open windows.”
“The burning rags and some liquid which was also thrown in the coach. She was able to see all that as the shutters of the window near which she was sitting had given way and the window had become open. She had also seen persons throwing some liquid in the coach that had led to smoke and fire in the coach. First, there was smoke and after some time flames were seen. Her shawl had got burnt and she had received some burn injuries,” she had said.
Except, Mukul Sinha’s Jan Sangharsh Manch called her a liar. They claimed that all other evidence shows that first there was smoke and after some time there was fire and hence, what she said burning rags were thrown inside the train was a lie. Except, the Nanavati-Mehta committee report stated, “A careful reading of her evidence shows that what she wanted to say was that the burning rags which were thrown inside the coach had remained burning after falling in the coach and that had led to the fire and smoke in their coach.”
So, if an eyewitness that saw a murderous mob setting a train on fire and barely managed to escape, says something that is slightly unclear to interpret, it is termed a lie. As we can see in Mukul Sinha’s case, the apple hasn’t fallen far from the tree when it comes to whitewashing crimes of Islamists and dehumanising Hindus, even if the Hindus are dead and cannot defend themselves.
The others who dismissed the massacre of Hindus
It is not only Mukul Sinha through his Jan Sangharsh Manch who dismissed the carnage. Seasoned ‘liberal’ Arundhati Roy once claimed that the karsevaks who were burnt alive were returning from Ayodhya after demolishing the disputed structure often referred to as Babri Masjid at Ram Janmabhoomi.
Roy, with all confidence and conviction, claimed Babri was demolished in 2002. Further, she also had the gall to claim ‘no one knew’ how the ‘train caught fire’. No, Roy, train ‘did not catch fire’, it was set on fire, by a murderous mob of Islamists specifically to kill Hindus returning from Ayodhya after karseva. There is ample evidence provided above and a court of law has actually sentenced the accused, many of them to death.
Gujarat riots also proved as a very fertile ground for ‘NGOs’ and ‘human rights activists’ to make a name as well as money for themselves. One such ‘activist’ is Teesta Setalvad.
Setalvad has been accused of embezzling funds meant for Gujarat riot victims. She had allegedly collected funds for the 2002 riot victims and instead used it for personal luxury and expenses. The allegations had come to light after one of the residents of the Gulbarg Housing Society filed a complaint against her alleging that she had embezzled funds collected for the 2002 riot victims through her NGOs Sabrang Trust and Citizens for Justice and Peace.
It is alleged that she had used the funds collected in the name of riot victims for liquor, movies, gadgets and personal goods. Further, it was also found that her NGO has violated FCRA norms. The Sabrang Communications and Publishing Pvt Ltd had allegedly received Rs 2.9 lakhs from the Ford Foundation even if it was not registered under FCRA.
Setalvad has had several allegations against her including luring and misguiding a key witness into giving false testimony in the aftermath of Godhra carnage.
As one can see above, Mukul Sinha’s Jan Sangharsh Manch and other ‘liberals’ and ‘activists’ fought tooth and nail to call the eyewitnesses of Godhra carnage liars. They went to lengths to create various narratives like ‘fire was started from inside’, ‘short circuit’, ‘spontaneous scuffle’, ‘Karsevaks rose provocative Jai Shri Ram slogans’ (20 years later, Jai Shri Ram is ‘Hindu terrorist war cry’ and Allahu Akbar is ‘voice of courage’ as per same set of ‘liberals’). Mainstream media and politicians were complicit in making the world think that the Hindus burnt alive in the train did not matter.