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BBC documentary on Gujarat Riots tries to whitewash Islamists who set the Godhra train on fire: Here’s the truth

At about 9:12 minutes into the programme, it claimed, "The final death toll was 59, and the cause of the fire was disputed. But at the time, Muslims were blamed," an attempt to give clean chit to the Islamist mob that set the train on fire and sow doubts over the identity of perpetrators of the bloodcurdling incident.

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the national broadcaster of the United Kingdom, aired a two-part series documentary attacking PM Narendra Modi’s tenure as Gujarat Chief Minister during the Gujarat riots of 2002.

India on Thursday denounced the controversial BBC documentary series on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and described it as a “propaganda piece” that is designed to push a discredited narrative.

One of the nefarious objectives behind the documentary was to cast aspersions on the role of Islamists in the Godhra train carnage, which claimed a total of 59 Hindu lives.

At about 9:12 minutes into the programme, it claimed, “The final death toll was 59 and the cause of the fire was disputed. But at the time, Muslims were blamed.”

Former BBC reporter Jill McGivering was then brought in to further lend credence to the insinuation. “This is in a State that has a particular history of tensions between the Hindu majority and the Muslim minority. There is a history of communal violence, nasty violence,” she was heard saying.

“And the concern was something like this happens, the Hindu community will feel angered that their community has been targeted,” McGivering further added while she tried to portray Narendra Modi as a Hindu hardliner who avenged the riots.

But by doing so, the BBC nullified the role of the extremists who set the Sabarmati express on fire, which is not disputed in any sense.

The truth about the 2002 Godhra train carnage

On 27th February 2002, the Sabarmati express was scheduled to reach Godhra station at about 3:30 am. On that day, the train was running four hours late. As such, it arrived at Godhra by 7:40 am.

8 minutes later, a mob of 2000 Islamists set 59 Hindus, including 25 women and 15 children, in the coach S6 of the train on fire in Godhra’s predominantly Muslim area – Signal Falia.

31 Islamists were found guilty of the Godhra massacre on February 22, 2011, by the trial court (with only 11 receiving the death penalty and 20 receiving life in prison), and all 31 convictions were affirmed by the Gujarat High Court in October 2017, resulting in everyone receiving a life sentence. Prior to that, based on the testimony of witnesses and survivors, it was obvious to anybody with even a modicum of intellectual integrity that Muslims had set the train on fire.

In February 2003, an accused person made a judicial confession in which he acknowledged that Godhra was a well-planned attack and that he had personally participated in it. A judicial confession is conclusive evidence. This proves that the Godhra carnage was a preplanned attack on the innocent Karsevaks.

In the March 2006 issue of Outlook, a report was published. This report includes the following two paragraphs:

Gayatri Panchal, a resident of Ahmedabad, who survived the incident on February 27, 2002, but lost both her parents in her reaction to the report has said, “The report of the Banerjee Commission is absolutely wrong. I have seen everything with my own eyes and barely escaped myself but lost both my parents.”

Panchal, who has three sisters, said the Banerjee Commission report was not correct as the fire could not have been accidental as no one was cooking in the S-6 coach and it was packed with passengers. “Mobs pelted stones at the coach for a long and then threw in burning rags and also poured some inflammable material so that the coach was on fire. I will maintain the same wherever I am called to depose on the matter,” Panchal said.

So, it is clear that, according to the eyewitness account, coach S-6 caught fire when Muslims drenched it in gasoline, set it ablaze, and circled the railway from all sides to prevent the Ramsewaks from leaving, according to the police’s obviously plausible statement. 

It becomes necessary to refer to the Nanavati-Mehta commission’s comments which cite the forensic science laboratory’s reports. The report denies all the possibilities and conspiracies raised by Muslims and liberal activists inventing multiple reasons for the coach being set ablaze.

These theories included ideas of an imaginary scuffle between Karsevaks and the local Muslim vendors, and an equally untrue incident of Hindus molesting a Muslim girl. Here is what the commission has 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.”

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 in some places was totally burnt. After explaining the difference between a fire in an open space and a fire in a confined place, he 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. Its total area of it was 5000 sq. ft. Therefore, there was no possibility of a 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.”


The Godhra massacre is the clearest illustration of the ruthless inhumanity of Islamists, as seen by their sympathy for vile criminals, their blame of innocent victims—including infants and toddlers—and their use of absurd falsehoods and mental tricks to justify the inexcusable.

The documentary by the BBC is its latest attempt to create an atmosphere of communal unrest in the country by disputing well-established facts.

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OpIndia Staff
Staff reporter at OpIndia

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