Verdict on Godhra

Published: February 23, 2011
The file photo shows rescuers and volunteers rushing to put out the fire on the Sabarmati Express.

The file photo shows rescuers and volunteers rushing to put out the fire on the Sabarmati Express.

Nine years after the incident, 31 people have been found guilty by a Gujarati court for burning down the Sabarmati Express in Godhra, while another 63 were acquitted due to conflicting testimony. In 2002, the Sabarmati Express was carrying mainly Hindu pilgrims back from Ayodhya when it was set upon by a mob of hundreds. Nearly 60 pilgrims died and it was widely assumed, correctly as it happens, that Muslims were responsible. This led to widespread massacres of Muslims in Gujarat — encouraged by the state’s chief minister, Narendra Modi — that took nearly 2,000 Muslim lives.

While justice may have been belatedly served in the Godhra case, Modi is still in charge in Gujarat and has become the state’s longest-serving chief minister. His conduct during the anti-Muslim pogroms of 2002 was so egregious that the US cancelled his visa on the grounds of ‘severely violating religious freedom’. Yet, Modi has been investigated by the Indian Supreme Court and found to have held no responsibility for the massacres. Modi has always been an odious character. Few remember that he initially blamed the Godhra attack on a “cross-border conspiracy”. That has now been shown to be manifestly untrue.

Justice has not been available for most of those killed in the Gujarat violence. Four public enquiries and countless trials have been held to apportion blame and responsibility for the massacres. But anti-Muslim sentiment in Gujarat lingers to this day, to the point that most of the trials dating back to that violent period have to be conducted out of the state. Many of those directly responsible for attacking Muslims during those fateful two months have been found guilty and locked up. But the politicians who egged them on and the police that turned a blind eye got off scot-free. Until they are held accountable, Gujarat will not be able to turn its back on this bloody era and move on.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 24th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (7)

  • Raja
    Feb 24, 2011 - 9:12AM

    in various blogs on my interactions with pakistanis, one of their most favorite topics is Gujarat riots.

    What are the odds of 100s of Hindus organizing, buying kerosene in bulk and torching a railway carriage full of Muslims IN PAKISTAN ?Recommend

  • harkol
    Feb 24, 2011 - 12:00PM


    The sad part of Law enforcement establishment in the subcontinent is that, it is a subject of the ruling parties. The politicians decide which cases to investigate, which cases to prosecute etc. Thus the police are compromised in a big way.

    And there has been an unwritten pact between all politicians. They never let another of their clan be punished, in spite of Political Affiliation. That is why no top politician has ever been punished in India for corruption or any other crime.

    The 1984 riot case is still languishing, and the top Congress leaders involved are all free. A couple of them are still facing charges and fighting case, but the way these cases are structured by govt. they’ll die before cases get over.

    Same is the case in Gujarat. First of all all the prelim-investigation was done by state police, which had ample opportunity to destroy evidence. Some top police officers, who did whistle blowing, are being punished by the state govt. Afterall a chief minister doesn’t have to actively egg on violence, but, even passivity and ordering restraint on police when his party goons go on the rampage is equivalent to active participation.

    That’s what happened in Modi’s case. He cynically exploited a Ghodra attack and made it a Hindi-Muslim issue. In Gujarat, he is unassailable for his development agenda. But, in rest of India, he is largely seen as a liability to his Party – BJP.

    Would he be ever punished? Only if Courts find a novel way (based on indirect evidence).Recommend

  • Paras Vikmani
    Feb 24, 2011 - 2:36PM

    gujarat has already moved on and muslims have not coz gujarat is one of the richest states in india and muslims r one of the poorest communities in indiaRecommend

  • ravi
    Feb 24, 2011 - 5:00PM

    @Paras Vikmani: Recommend

  • Sulaiman
    Feb 24, 2011 - 6:13PM

    Whenever there have been sectarian riots or violence there have been counter violence, and this is not different in India. However, most of the people that do not know Mr. Modi have found it convenient to put every blame on him. No community in India is at mercy of any one if it really wants to progress. Many taboos and traditions have been responsible for some communities failing to progress. Today Gujrat is vibrant, and there is a peice for every one who wants it of the cake. Those who want to bogged down by making one excuse or the other will stay behind, but those who know how to make most of it when the sun is shining have progressed and this is irrespective of any community.
    Sad that people who really have not been to Gujarat or seen any thing write a blog on a news paper just as a fodder for the local audience. This is precisely spreads mis information. Recommend

  • John
    Feb 25, 2011 - 1:17PM

    Your argument that Modi must be guilty of crime because even US has denied him visa is based on a belief that whatever US does is correct. So with that logic, you must agree that US war against Iraq is totally justified. Recommend

    Feb 25, 2011 - 2:21PM

    I find that majority of Pakistani media, journalists and bloggers never miss an opportunity to mention Gujarat killing of Muslims after burning of railway compartment carrying Hindu devotees in Godhra by Muslims, thus highlighting discrimination of minorities in India. However, the most important point missed out by these India bashers is that Gujarat and even anti-Sikh riots which took place in 2002 and 1984 respectively have never been repeated till date in any part of India. Though the said incidents were highly unfortunate and the state was found wanting in both controlling and follow up actions in punishing the culprits nevertheless some important lessons were learnt by the politicians of the concerned parties who ensured that they such madness should never be repeated otherwise they will be rejected by the enlightened masses. No wonder the concept of secularism is very much alive as well as practised in India despite some hiccups of the past and all Indians are proud of the same. Recommend

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