Concerned Citizens Tribunal - Gujarat 2002
An inquiry into the carnage in Gujarat

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The Sabarmati Express train started from Ahmedabad for Ayodhya on February 22, 2002, with kar sevaks on board. It appears that on its onward journey to Ayodhya, there was an incident at Dahod railway station where the kar sevaks indulged in vandalism and terrorising of Muslim vendors at the station. According to another version, the Dahod incident took place on the return journey. There is no clear evidence of the date of the incident but it is clear that it took place.

There was another incident between Rudauli and Daryabad stations (closer to Faizabad) wherein the kar sevaks attacked Muslim passengers, including innocent women and children. When some young man protested against this, he was thrown off the train between Patranga and Rojagaon stations. Several women, badly wounded and covered in blood, jumped off the train at Rudauli station. The kar sevaks got off and started attacking those whom they identified as Muslim from among those present at the platform.

At Rudauli station, other similar incidents occurred, such as forcing the Muslims to shout, ‘Jai Shri Ram!’, pulling the beards of some of them, including stabbing with trishul. Despite the severity of these incidents, there was no prompt action taken either by the railway authorities or the police; nor were those seriously injured rushed to hospital. It appears that both local Hindus and Muslims condemned the attack and that Muslim religious leaders appealed for peace and urged that there should be no retaliation. (Report in Jan Morcha, published from Faizabad on February 25, 2002, two days before the Godhra incident on the return journey of the same Sabarmati Express– see Annexure 7 Volume 1.)

As the train travelled back from Ayodhya on its return journey to Ahmedabad, kar sevak girls and boys armed with trishuls and lathis, were getting down at every station and shouting slogans like, "Mandir Vahin Banayenge!", "Jai Shriram!", "Muslim Bharat Chodo, Pakistan Jao" ("Muslims, Quit India! Go to Pakistan"), "Dudh mango tho kheer denge, Kashmir mango tho cheer denge" ("Ask for milk and we’ll give you kheer (pudding), But ask for Kashmir and we’ll cut you up"). Many passengers felt harassed by this behaviour but were constrained to silence because the kar sevaks had captured all the reserved seats and the train was jam-packed.

The train reached Godhra station at 7.30 a.m. (three hours late), on February 27, 2002. There were certain incidents on the platform. There were some reports to the effect that a Muslim girl was molested by the kar sevaks who attempted to pull her into the train. The attempt to take her into the train was averted due to the intervention by Muslim vendors at the Godhra railway station.

In a separate incident, a Muslim tea vendor had boarded coach S-6 with an aluminum tea kitli and plastic cups to sell tea. Passengers started to buy tea from him but he was insulted by some of the kar sevaks and sent out of the coach. It appears that some kar sevaks, identified by their saffron head bands and trishuls, had climbed onto the roofs of coaches of the Sabarmati Express as it stopped at the Godhra railway station, stripped themselves and made obscene gestures at Muslim women residing just opposite the station, who had come out to perform their morning chores. There was also some stone throwing, both from within and from outside the compartments.

As the train left the platform, at 7.48 a.m., it was immediately stopped by someone pulling the chain. The obvious reason for this was to enable some of the kar sevaks who were still left behind on the platform to enter the train. The train proceeded for about a kilometre. At Singal Falia the train stopped. Whether this was on account of someone pulling the chain or otherwise is not clear. The engine driver, at that point of time, had only seen someone from outside pelting stones at the train though not at coach S-6. Soon thereafter, coach S-6 was on fire. The question is, how did the fire occur?

The version of the government appears to be that the Ghanchi Muslims residing near the railway station, who had gathered in large numbers, threw fireballs into the train and that resulted in the fire. The government version also has it that these Ghanchi Muslims wanted to attack the kar sevaks, and that there were about 2,000 Muslims who were bent on attacking the train.

It may be stated at this stage that the full capacity of the train is 1,100. But, in fact, the train at that time had about 2,000 passengers, of which about 1,700 were kar sevaks. As far as coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express is concerned, the reservation capacity is 72. However, it was jam-packed on that day. Only one coach was burned and even in that coach one is not sure how many passengers were kar sevaks. The train had 11 coaches with vestibule connection and the kar sevaks were spread all over the train. So why did anyone target coach S-6? If 2,000 Muslims had gathered there, could they not have attacked the other coaches? Again, did anyone try to come out from the other coaches? If it is reasonably presumed that some of the passengers, including kar sevaks, rushed out, did anyone attack them? On all these questions there is no satisfactory answer.

In all, 58 bodies were found in coach S-6, out of which 26 were of women, 12 were of children and 20 were of men. It appears that 43 persons sustained injuries, of whom only 5 were admitted to the hospital. The rest were treated for minor injuries like bruises, and were allowed to go. Out of the five admitted to hospital, one died, and the rest were discharged after 3 or 4 days.

Since the bodies were charred beyond recognition, it was not possible to identify anyone on the basis of physical features. The collector of Godhra told the Tribunal that only five bodies could be identified on the basis of articles or things which were on their person. One was the local station master’s wife who had boarded the train at Godhra to go to Vadodara. She had a metal tiffin box in her hand and she was thus identified. Thus, no one could say with certainty that the dead bodies were all of kar sevaks.


Published by: Citizens for Justice and Peace