Godhra: Who’s afraid of facing facts?
The interventions of the Supreme Court in the Best Bakery case so far have rejuvenated faith in the institutions of Indian democracy. But reparations for the genocide in Gujarat, punishment of the perpetrators and masterminds of mass violence and the putting in place of institutional safeguards against future crimes against humanity are not yet in sight
Why is the VHP so disturbed by my film Godhra Tak—The Terror Trail? asks independent film-maker Shubradeep Chakrovarty, who had to face saffron wrath when he organised a press screening of his film in Ahmedabad recently.
"There is no previous video documentation of the trail of terror, of the behaviour of the kar sevaks to and from Faizabad. In this documentary, I tried to follow the entire route of the first batch of kar sevaks from Gujarat to Ayodhya and back. We documented the terror unleashed by them en route and also the incidents at Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.
"In fact, one of the kar sevaks, Maheshbhai Jayantilal Shah, admits on camera that kar sevaks misbehaved at Rudauli and that their subsequent behaviour at Godhra was provocative. Maheshbhai is not any kar sevak. His name is in the list of witnesses produced by the prosecution and therefore he cannot be disowned. The kar sevaks’ misconduct is all documented in the video format, including the stabbings by kar sevaks at Vadodara after the Godhra tragedy. Visual documentation cannot be denied, it has its own power and reach and this is what disturbs the VHP.
"The Godhra incident itself has been scientifically de-constructed in the film. Dr VN Sehgal, who was professionally engaged by me to investigate the topography, build-up, scientific details of the Godhra incident, is a top-rate professional. He is former director, Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Delhi and a member of Interpol. In the film, I explored with him the merits of the conspiracy theory given by the prosecution and VHP alike.
"Dr Sehgal demonstrates in elaborate detail how it was physically impossible for 60 litres of inflammable liquid, necessary for a fire of this intensity, to have been flung by the crowd of Muslims gathered around Signal Falia where the train had stopped. (Incidentally, the Ahmedabad-based Forensic Science Laboratory had also reached a similar conclusion earlier). He also explains that the nature of the fire suggested that it was caused by petrol and that this petrol was stored between seats 46 and 72 of the compartment since that portion of the compartment floor is badly gutted. Why petrol was being transported at all is a question that remains unanswered".
Incidentally, the one-hour film also has interviews with Praveen Togadia, (international general secretary, VHP), Vinay Katiyar (BJP president, UP) and Dr. Jaydeep Patel (general secretary, VHP Gujarat) and kar sevaks.
After completing the film, Chakrovarty held private screenings in Delhi and also at the recent South Asia Film Festival in Kathmandu. On October 20, 2003 a similar private screening, planned at Hotel Nalanda on Ellis Bridge, Ahmedabad was prevented after the hotel owners received threats from the VHP. The venue was then shifted to Khet Bhavan where a group of 10 VHP activists also sat through the screening. But immediately thereafter, led by a VHP activist who is a doctor by profession, they abused and threatened the film-maker. The film-makers ordeal continued for over half-an-hour in front of the press. He was then forcibly made to speak to a senior VHP leader in Ahmedabad who fortunately asked that Chakrovarty be allowed to go. But over the next days attempts were made through various channels in Ahmedabad to seize the tapes and CDs of the film. Chakrovarty had to escape to Mumbai where Communalism Combat organised a press screening of his film on October 23, 2003.
Interestingly, thousands of cassettes depicting the sangh parivar’s version of the truth behind Godhra have been shown around in Gujarat and across the country to justify the post-Godhra violence. They were also used to garner electoral support in the Assembly polls in Gujarat last year. These cassettes not only depict unsubstantiated versions but also generate ill-will between communities. But in no part of the country have they attracted the long-arm of the law. n
Copyrights © 2002, Sabrang Communications & Publishing Pvt. Ltd.