Godhra tragedy pre-planned, probe panel finds (Lead)

September 25th, 2008 - 6:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Ahmedabad, Sep 25 (IANS) The burning of a coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra in February 2002, which claimed 59 lives and triggered Gujarat-wide communal violence, was pre-planned, the Nanavati inquiry panel has concluded.The first 200-page part of the report prepared by the panel headed by Justice (retd) G.T. Nanavati, which was tabled in the assembly Thursday amid high drama, has virtually given a clean chit to Chief Minister Narendra Modi, saying there was no evidence to incriminate him or any member of his cabinet in the ensuing violence.

Fifty-nine people, including 25 women and 15 children, were burnt alive in the S-6 coach when a violent mob set ablaze two coaches of the Sabarmati Express at the Godhra railway station on Feb 27. Many of them were Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activists returning after a campaign in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh.

As Minister of State for Home Amit Shah tabled the report on the first day of the three-day monsoon session of the assembly, it created a furore with the opposition Congress crying foul and walking out.

The gruesome tragedy led to communal violence across the state for week in which 1,169 people, a majority of them Muslims, were killed.

The report said that 140 litres of petrol was purchased as part of the conspiracy to burn the bogey. It added that the conspiracy was hatched by Moulvi Umarji at the Aman Guest House in Godhra, about 140 km from here, and was meant to spread terror in the area.

The report states that the train-burning was a pre-meditated act and there was also heavy stone throwing for 10 to 20 minutes at the S-6 and S-7 coaches followed by the burning that prevented people from coming out.

It notes that Razak Kurkur and Salim Panwala had purchased 140 litres of petrol on Feb 26 and carried them in containers. Shaukat Lalu, Imran Sheri, Rafiq, Salim Zarda, Zabeer and Siraj Bala were also involved in the burning of the train, the report says.

The two-member inquiry commission was set up by the state government in march 2002. One of the members, Justice (retd) K.G. Shah expired earlier this year, and the government appointed Justice (retd) Akshay Mehta in his place.

The findings of the commission contradicts findings of another panel headed by Justice (retd) U.C. Banerjee, set up by Railways Minister Lalu Prasad, which unequivocally stated that the fire was accidental and there was no evidence to suggest that it was planned.

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