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What happened in Godhra, Gujarat?
by Sound Vision Staff Writer

The Godhra train incident is what most reports about the violence in Gujurat, India point to as the starting point for the barbarism and massacre of Muslims that followed. This is why it is critical to understand exactly what happened there.

About 60 people died in the train attack. Most of them were Hindu. Later on Hindu militants burned and looted Muslim properties for several days, resulting in about 5,000 deaths, according to Muslim sources.

Initial reports on February 27 presented the incident as a pre-planned Muslim mob attack on the Sabarmati Express train against "innocent" Hindu activists who had begun traveling from the city of Ayodhya. However, as the facts began to trickle out, a different picture has emerged.

While it is true that many of the passengers were women and children, others were militant Hindu activists who were involved in various forms of hooliganism. From the time these activists boarded the train on February 25 in Ayodhya until they reached Godhra on February 27, they unleashed a wave of mischief, terror and fear on their passengers, some of whom were also Muslim.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, reporting in the March 6, 2002 edition of the Washington Post, details some of the "hooliganism" that took place: the militant activists exposed themselves to other passengers, pulled headscarves off Muslim women on the train, evicted a family of four in the middle of the night for refusing to join in chants glorifying the Hindu god Ram and refused to pay for tea and snacks they consumed at each train station.

These details are corroborated by eyewitness accounts. One of these comes from a group led by a few members of the Indian parliament who are trying to get the facts straight about the issue. It is headed by Dr. Amar Singh, a member of parliament from Samajwadi Party, who spoke with two of the Hindu victims of the train-burning incident in Godhra. They revealed that, "all along the journey these Ramsevaks (the Hindu militants) were behaving like Gundas (thugs). They wouldn't pay for what they had bought from the vendors. On stations they would chant anti-Muslim rhymes and slogans, insulting Muslim Holy places. There was teasing as well of both fellow passengers and women on the platforms." This fact-finding delegation, comprised of Rajbabbar (M.P. Samajwadi), Shabana Azmi (M.P.) and Aziz Burni (Editor of a leading Urdu news paper, Rashtriya Sahara), was one of the first groups to arrive in the strife-torn area. They visited the hospital and there they found these two victims (from a Hindu family) of the Godhra incident.

By the time the train reached Godhra, vendors at the town's station had already heard about the activists' antics and were prepared not to be victimized. Events played out as expected. "When the train reached Godhra, they behaved with the same bad manners. They refused to pay one tea vendor and even after beating him up, they threw him off the train," noted the Hindu eyewitnesses.

But in response to this behavior, the Hindu militants did not find passive tolerance. Instead, a number of young Muslims got on the train as it was pulling out of the station and pulled the emergency brake half a mile away from Godhra's station, right in the midst of a Muslim neighborhood. The fight began with rock throwing from both sides. The compartment carrying the militants was found stockpiled with stones.

While the stone-throwing was going on, apparently some Muslims threw a burning mattress below the compartment of these militants. But the fire spread quickly, not allowing the passengers to run since the compartment was filled with kerosene and cooking gas carried by the passengers.

The above description is based upon several reports in the Indian press. However, Muslims in the area add another point to this sad story. They say things got out of hand when the daughter of an old Muslim man with a small tea stall at the train station was kidnapped. The Hindu militants argued with this old man, beat him up and pulled his beard. The 16-year-old daughter who was also present at the station came forward as her father was being beaten and tried to save him from the Hindu militants. She kept pleading and begging to them to stop beating her father and leave him alone. But instead of listening to her woes, the Hindu militants lifted the young girl, took her inside their compartment and closed its door.

When the train started to move out of the platform of Godhra's railway station while the old man was banging on the compartment doors, pleading for his daughter to be left alone, two other vendors jumped into the last bogey and pulled the emergency break to stop the train. By the time the train halted completely, it was about one kilometer away from the railway station.

These two men then came to the bogey in which the girl was and started to bang at the door asking the militants to release the girl. Hearing the chaos, people in the vicinity near the tracks started to gather near the train. The boys and the mob (which included women) that had now gathered near the compartment requested the Hindu militants to return the girl. But instead of doing this, they started closing their windows. This infuriated the mob and they retaliated by pelting stones at the compartment.

The sections beside compartment S-6 on both sides contained VHP militants. They started attacking the mob which had gathered to save the girl, with long bamboo sticks attached to them. This is when the anger became uncontrollable and some people in the crowd started using diesel and petrol from trucks and rickshaws standing nearby and burned down the compartment.

This story of the girl's kidnapping has not been reported by any newspaper, although most of the other elements were widely reported by the media despite the BJP government's effort to tie the incident to Pakistan. Even the government-owned All India Radio reported that the whole incident was provoked by the traveling Hindu militants. The Radio staff however was reprimanded by the BJP government.

"Both sides were at fault," said a police official here, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "The provocation was there and the reaction was strong. But no one had imagined all this would turn into such a big tragedy." B.K. Nanavati, the deputy police superintendent in Godhra, said the investigation does not support the contention by Gujarat's chief minister, Narendra Modi, that the assault on the train was a "terrorist attack."

India is, after all ruled by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), a militant Hindu nationalist party which subscribes to many of the same views as the Ramsevaks on the train. Minorities, Muslims and Christians in particular, have already been told that they do not belong to this country which calls itself the world's largest democracy. It remains to be seen how the BJP will handle the fallout of this horrific violence.


Your Comments

Rajiv Dandekar, Aurangabad - wrote on 4/12/2012 10:58:00 AM
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Comment: What else can you find when the torch bearing secularist Shabana Azmi, Raj Babbar are fact finder. Thank god they have stopped here and not gone furhter.


Laxmi rai, Godhra - wrote on 3/4/2012 4:08:34 AM
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Comment: THIS IS STORY IS TOTALLY UNTRUE AND BASELESS, I M D EYE-WITNESS..THERE WAS NO GIRL ON PLANTFORM SNATCHING BY KARSEVAKS..THERE WAS QUARALL BETWEEN CHAI WALA AND KARSEVAKS....dont make conclusations here...the writer of this story is f**D idiot


MOHAMMED ABDUL NAYEEM, HYDERABAD - wrote on 2/26/2012 9:06:43 PM
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Comment: When the presenter of views is honest, why he has not given his real name? and see the language used. Can he explain how a Muslim could become a PM in future? How could it be explained that the Petrol/Diesel thrown from outside reaches inside the compartment when the train is not on platform? What is the guarantee that the burned victims were Hindu Karsevaks and not Muslim passengers who were travelling in the ill-fated train and were gathered forcefully by the Karsevaks and burnt the Bogie from inside? Can any one give the names of actual burnt victims and endorse their death in the referred incident? Pl come with the facts, now no Muslim believes in any Government & any commission to come out with facts and actual culprits will be punished by any Establishment.I may be corrected if any thing is wrong and I assure you to face any punishment if given by the fact provers.


Suran, mysore - wrote on 12/9/2011 9:45:57 AM
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Comment: My statement is going to sound stale in this debate of hindus and muslims . religion is supposed to infuse some kind of order and sanity in our animal instincts. but we just found religion an excuse to differentiate between people. at the heart of every religion there is love , compassion , forgiveness and brotherhood but instead of emphasizing that we concentrate more on the other superficialities of religions such s rituals, superstitions which are different from religion to religion and hence dividing us humans. some people have gained from this division for centuries and continue to do so. and we the masses follow them like sheeps and call them our leaders. the divide in humanity does not stop only in religion. an idiot divides himself from others on the basis of religion and then country and then state then caste then based on his mothertongue, not necessarily in that order, these are like boxes within boxes till he closed himself off in me myself box. thats selfish and dumb , he does not realize that he is not different from any other human being in any aspect. the only thing that differs him from the others are his ideas and beliefs. what he does not realize is his beliefs are based on how he was taught and raised .. not necessarily true. we are all one , we are all same , spread the love not the hatred. we are better species than this , this world can be better , if we start seeing each other as just like ourselves.I am just a humble human trying to help another fellow human


Subir, Mumbai - wrote on 5/31/2011 10:01:33 PM
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Comment: The actual events of Godhra are still very much unknown. The first report on Godhra said that the fire broke out from within. Many other reports have circulated. Unfortunately, nobody learns the truth, as the administration always covers it up. All that is presented to the public is what the administration and the police want to present. This article feels like a collection of rumours. It assumes that the Muslim crowd actually burnt the bogey and tries to foolishly justify this behaviour saying that it was the result of karsevaks tormenting the girl. Also they say that "word of this behaviour had reached Godhra before the train". That is unlikely as communication infrastructure from trains has been very poor. Godhra sounded like a well planned event.. Godhra is just on the border of Gujarat. If the Muslims of Godhra had to burn down the train, they could have chosen any location, except waiting till the train entered this staunchly Hindu state. The train passes through MP, Rajasthan and Maharashtra also. If they wanted revenge, it could have been done in a neutral state like MP also. But no, apparently the Muslims waited till the train entered Modi's BJP state and then lit the fire. It is not unknown in history for people in power to murder some of their own, in order to start a conflagration which they ultimately benefit from. This smells like one of those cases. In this case, the Godhra incident has helped BJP and Modi create an atmosphere of fear of Muslims that they will use to stay in power for the next 100 years of till Modi lives, whichever is earlier. The truth will never be known, since the administration and police (who are part of the administration) always cover it up.


rahila chauhan, delhi - wrote on 3/22/2011 4:07:17 AM
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Comment: i am from delhi and i want to know the reality behund the macabre..any eye witness is there who can tell me this..i was very samll when this happned bt now i saw vedios on you tube itz very sad that we indians are doing this...aap log jo bhi keh rahe hain wo apne experiance aur knowlege ke basis pe keh rahe hain..aaj tak maine aisa koi incidence nahi face kiya na jisme hindu muslim wali baat aye..aur na hi kisi muslim ko pak ki jeet par khush hote dekha hai..na kisi hindu ko kisi muslim ko tang karte .please share more..jo log after godhara riots ke liye responsible the unka kya hua hai...kya unko saza mili..?


rahila chauhan, delhi - wrote on 3/22/2011 4:04:37 AM
Rating: Rating

Comment: i am from delhi and i want to know the reality behund the macabre..any eye witness is there who can tell me this..i was very samll when this happned bt now i saw vedios on you tube itz very sad that we indians are doing this...aap log jo bhi keh rahe hain wo apne experiance aur knowlege ke basis pe keh rahe hain..aaj tak maine aisa koi incidence nahi face kiya na jisme hindu muslim wali baat aye..aur na hi kisi muslim ko pak ki jeet par khush hote dekha hai..na kisi hindu ko kisi muslim ko tang karte .please share more..jo log after godhara riots ke liye responsible the unka kya hua hai...kya unko saza mili..?


rahila chauhan, delhi - wrote on 3/22/2011 4:03:42 AM
Rating: Rating

Comment: i am from delhi and i want to know the reality behund the macabre..any eye witness is there who can tell me this..i was very samll when this happned bt now i saw vedios on you tube itz very sad that we indians are doing this...aap log jo bhi keh rahe hain wo apne experiance aur knowlege ke basis pe keh rahe hain..aaj tak maine aisa koi incidence nahi face kiya na jisme hindu muslim wali baat aye..aur na hi kisi muslim ko pak ki jeet par khush hote dekha hai..na kisi hindu ko kisi muslim ko tang karte .please share more..jo log after godhara riots ke liye responsible the unka kya hua hai...kya unko saza mili..?


silu, kualaumpur - wrote on 3/11/2011 10:09:40 AM
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Comment: benchod muslimni to gand marvi joy jo e loko evu kare to


jerin, delhi - wrote on 3/1/2011 12:04:01 PM
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Comment: what the hell this fucking absurd story, who wrote this, this man should be chosen the best writer and given work in bollywood. he could be the next javed akhtar.


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