One event that changed the political discourse of this country was the burning of the S-6 coach of the Sabarmati Express on 27th February, 2002, that resulted in the tragic death of 58 passengers travelling in the coach including several karsevaks who were travelling in that very coach. On 25th February, 2002, karsevaks returning from Ayodhya had boarded the Sabarmati Express, albeit, without any reservation or tickets. The reserved coach was overcrowded due to the boarding of the karsevaks and S-6 coach on that day carried around 130 passengers instead of 72 as per rule.
The blame of burning the coach has been put on Muslims of Godhra in a way that they would appear as terrorists who had pre-planned the murder of the Karsevaks. This false allegation made by the Gujarat Government on 27th February, 2002, exactly 12 years from today, changed the debate on Secularism in India, with the rightist forces attacking “Secularism” as a policy of appeasement of the Muslims to the extent that the ‘secularists’ are turning a blind eye to their “terrorist activities”. The brutal massacre of the Muslims in Gujarat from 28th February onwards leap-frogged Modi as the Hindu icon who alone could fight the menace of Jehadi terrorism!
Lot has been said on this issue. However, on this day, we would pose just one question which has never been answered by the investigators of the train burning case.
The Question: Sabarmati Express was scheduled to arrive at Godhra station at 2.55 am in the morning of 27th February, 2002. But, it arrived at 7.43 am in the morning instead. The train was running around five hours late. The police story gave gory details about the so called conspiracy that was allegedly hatched by the local Muslims to burn the specific coach S-6 after the Sabarmati Express arrived at the Station at 7.43 am. However, when I had cross-examined the Chief Investigator of Godhra train burning case, DySP Noel Parmar, before the Nanavati Commission as to what was the original plan to burn the S-6 coach had the train arrived at the right time (2.55am), this is what he said: (translated from Gujarati)
9. It has been clearly stated in the supplementary charge-sheet No.3 that the conspirators had discussed about the conspiracy around 9pm in the Aman Guest house Eight conspirators were present during this discussion and one was not present. I cannot say why the conspirators had chosen 26th February as the day for discussing the conspiracy, however this much is clear that after coming to know that the karsevaks who had gone to Ayodhya for the purpose of Ram Yagna Ahuti, were returning by the Sabarmati Express on 27th February, 2002, train No. 9166, the conspirators had bought the petrol and had hatched the conspiracy as stated above.
10. How the conspirators came to know about the karsevaks returning in the morning of 27th was not disclosed in the investigation. It was disclosed in the investigation that the Sabarmati Express was running late right from the beginning . The conspirators had conspired to burn down the S-6 coach. The conspirators had gathered at 9pm in the night and when they discussed the conspiracy, it is possible that they did not know that the Sabarmati train was running late because at 1.30 am in the morning , Salim Panwala had gone to the station to inquire about the exact time of the arrival of the train. The schedule time for the arrival of Sabarmati Express at Godhra station is at 2.55 am in the night. No facts were disclosed in my investigation as to how the coach was to be burnt as per the conspiracy.
Since Noel Parmar has been believed by all in Gujarat Government, we have to also believe that the conspirators had no idea that the train was running late by 5 hours even as late as 1.30 am just about one and half hour before the scheduled arrival of the train. Is it believable that if the conspirators had really planned to burn the coach, they wouldn’t had have had a full fledged plan in place if the train was to arrive at the scheduled time? Why didn’t Noel Parmar’s investigation reveal an iota of evidence of the original conspiracy had the train arrived on scheduled time?
In fact, there was no conspiracy at all to burn the S-6 coach and Noel Parmar fabricated the entire evidence only for the scenario of Sabarmati Express arriving at 7:43 a.m. He couldn’t find an iota of evidence to show what was the original conspiracy to torch the train had it arrived at the scheduled time of 2:55 a.m. His predecessor investigator who had filed the main charge-sheet, Shri KC Bawa, had never found any evidence of a pre-planned conspiracy for either scenarios and he states so in his charge-sheet. In fact, KC Bawa was replaced by Noel Parmar as the principal investigator in the month of May 2002 since the Government desired the theory of terrorist conspiracy in the charge-sheet.
The truth is that if the train had arrived at the scheduled time (2:55 a.m.), very few passengers would have come out for tea that early in the morning, there would have been no vendors on the platform, there would be no conflict and most of all no crowd of onlookers from the Singal Falia area who Noel Parmar claims to be part of the conspiracy. Sabarmati Express would have quietly passed Godhra and arrived at Ahmedabad if it were travelling as per schedule. However, when Sabarmati Express arrived at 7:43 a.m., an unfortunate spontaneous communal conflict at Godhra station was converted into the most diabolic lie to attack the secular aspirations of people of India. After 12 years, we do see the success of the Modi-led BJP’s propaganda that started on 27th February, 2002.