2002 – Dateline Godhra

The burning of Coach Sl6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27 at Godhra railway station continues to raise questions. Was it a conspiracy? Who did it and-why? Even three months after the incident, contradictory versions keep surfacing. 

All accounts, including that of the National Human Rights Commission, suggest that the violence against hluslims in the rest of Gujarat which followed this incident, was planned months in advance, and that the Godhra arson was only an excuse to implement the plan. But how did that ‘excuse’ take place? Had the Sabarmati not been burnt, would the VHP have undertaken the State-backed pogrom against Muslims that has been going on specially in Ahmedabad, since the last three months? Or would they have waited for another such excuse? Keen to find out what sparked off this flashpoint, and ‘ talk to those who survived the incident, whose stories had largely gone unreported in the English press, I went to Godhra and Ahmedabad from April 1 to 7. 

I met as many eye-witnesses to the incident as I could locate. I also met the District SP, Raju Bhargava, and the Collector, Jayanth; Ravi, as well as prominent citizens and political leaders of Godhra. I also met a few survivors who had been traveling on the train and some of the families whose members had perished in the fire.

The interviews of the Sabarmati survivors were conducted jointly by Sandhya Mhatre and me. Two of these interviews were conducted by Shama Dalwai and Shaila Satpute.





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