In February 2002, more than 5000 Hindus from Gujarat had gone to Ayodhya on the call of Vishwa Hindu Parishad to perform the Purnahuti Mahayajna. On 25 February, about 2000 Ramsevaks boarded the Sabarmati Express on their return journey to Ahmedabad. At around 7.45 am, just after 5 hour late-running Sabarmati Express had departed Godhra railway station, it was stopped at the outer signal (referred to as ‘Signal Falia’ area). Chain was pulled multiple times and as soon as train came to a halt, train drivers in the engine and the guard at the rear guard van were attacked with stones and injured badly so that train couldn’t be started again. A mob of about 2000 Muslims which had gathered beforehand aggressively pelted stones on four coaches of the Sabarmati Express, in which Ram-Sevaks were coming from Ram-janmabhoomi Ayodhya.
60 litre of petrol that had been purchased 2 days back and stored in Aman guest house was poured from outside and the S6 coach was set to fire. The doors were locked from outside so that not a single person could escape. Those who tried to escape were killed by pointed rods and swords. Even 5 year-old Hindu kids were killed mercilessly. 59 Ram-sevaks were burned to death, including 27 women and 10 children. Hundreds of others were injured. The original plan was to carry this incident at wee hours of night (around 3 am) when everyone would be fast asleep, thereby maximising the deaths. However, the train was delayed by 5 hours and the original plan could never materialise.
Soon after this incident, a committee led by retired Supreme Court judge G T Nanavati and retired Gujarat High Court judge K G Shah was constituted, which carried out the investigation for 12 years, examining about 40,000 documents and 1100 witnesses, including those who had survived the attack. On 17 March 2002, chief suspect Haji Bilal, a local town councillor, was captured by an anti-terrorist squad in Godhra. The FIR had alleged that a 1540-strong mob attacked the Sabarmati Express on 27 February, minutes after the delayed train left the Godhra station on the day of the incident. The president of Godhra municipality, Mohammed Hussain Kalota, was also arrested. Others arrested included corporators Abdul Razak and Shiraj Abdul Jamesha. Bilal was also alleged to have a connection with gang leader Abdul Latif (on which the movie Raees is based) and was reported to have visited Karachi in Pakistan several times.
In 2004, after UPA government came to power, Railway Minister Lalu Yadav formed a committee led by U C Bannerjee who gave the report that the fire was a natural accident. The findings were challenged by the survivors of Sabarmati Express in the High Court, which ruled that the investigation was “unconstitutional, illegal and null and void”, declared its formation to be a “colourable exercise of power with mala fide intentions”, and its argument of accidental fire “opposed to the prima facie accepted facts on record.” The High Court also directed that the report should not be tabled in the Parliament.
What was even more shameful was the reaction of every so-called secular parties. All of them straightaway blamed Hindus and said that Hindus themselves have designed an attack to blame the Muslims. Congress and its left allies started their theories to please the Muslims. They insulted those who had died and called this deadly attack to be planned by the Hindus to gain sympathy and create anti-Muslim sentiments. However, subsequent enquiries and investigations revealed the ugly truth that the attack on Sabarmati express was a well-planned incident, led by an influential maulana and other Mulsim corporators who had been planning this attack since months. On 24 July 2015, the prime accused in the Godhra case, Hussain Suleman Mohammad, was arrested by the Godhra crime branch from Jhabua district of Madhya Pradesh. On 18 May 2016, the missing `conspirator’ of the event, Farooq Bhana, was Arrested from Mumbai by Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS).
In 2011, the court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others, saying the incident was a planned conspiracy. 11 convicted were sentenced to death, while 20 were sentenced to life imprisonment. Gujarat government challenged the acquittal of 63 accused in the High Court. The media, while every year shedding crocodile tears on Gujarat riots and holding long discussions, conveniently buries the incident of Godhra train burning as it does not fit their narratives and agenda.
On the 16th anniversary of the attack on Hindus, let us pray to Lord Shri Rama to give strength to the families of 59 Ram-sevaks who were torched alive by the Muslim mob in a well-planned anti-Hindu attack.