Seventy seven-year-old Sardar Magan Vaghela still believes that his son died for a cause and his “sacrifice” would not go in vain. “Woh Ramji ke mandir ke khatir us train se Ayodhya gaya tha. Der sahi, mandir toh banega hi (He went to Ayodhya for the sake of Ram Temple which will be built eventually),” says Vaghela sitting in his home, having just one room and a balcony, near Khokhra circle.
Vaghela’s 26-year-old son Rajesh was among the 59 kar sevaks, who were travelling in the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express which was set on fire at Godhra railway station exactly 15 years ago.
Over these years since the incident, Vaghela, who worked at a textile mill in the area, has turned more religious. “I am associated with the Vishva Hindu Parishad’s dharm prachar vibhag. I have been travelling to various places where I do narrate the story of my son who sacrificed for the cause of Ram Mandir,” he says.
Vaghela says that he was dependent on Rajesh since his elder son Pravin lives separately. “We were devastated after Rajesh’s death. We received about Rs 4 lakh compensation from the government. Most of the amount was taken by his widow Chanda who has abandoned us.”
Vaghela says that he had to fight with Chanda to keep his grandson Jatin with him. Jatin was barely 5-year-old when the incident occurred.
“I don’t remember what all happened. All I remember is that my childhood was full of ups and down after my father was killed in the Godhra kand. I couldn’t focus on my studies and eventually I dropped out after Class X,” says Jatin who works at a paan stall in the locality on a stipend of Rs 4,000 per month.
“We all go to Khokhra circle every year on this day and remember everyone who lost their lives. I am proud of my son, but equally saddened that even today the Mandir hasn’t come up,” says Vaghela, pointing at the picture of his son hung above the bed.
Neha, 38, a resident of Surelia Estate, a posh neighbourhood in Vastral, is attending to his bed-ridden mother who, she thinks, wouldn’t survive due to various age-related health complications. “She survived the news of death of my father Mansukhbhai Soni, 62, and brother Jeshal, 24, but now we are not hopeful.”
Her daughter Vishwa and son Dhairya are studying in Classes VII and IV, respectively, and they know what happened to their maternal grandfather and uncle 15 years ago. “Our children know about the incident. We told them what all happened and they have understood,” says Neha.