As the all-blue Sabarmati Express chugged into platform No. 1 of Godhra railway station today,10 years after a similar journey here had ended in bloodshed,there were few in sight apart from a few snack and tea vendors.
As the S-6 coach,sharing the number with the coach where the fire had started in 2002,arrived,a few VHP men shouting Jai Shri Ram broke the silence of the station,startling sleeping passengers with a rude reminder of the past.
Among those on board was Janak Panchal,a kar sevak who had travelled on the same train from Ayodhya in 2002,and who got off at Godhra. As the VHP men greeted him with garlands,Panchal said every year at this time,he goes to Ayodhya and returns to Godhra on February 27 to pay homage to his younger brother Shailesh,who was among the 59 passengers,mostly kar sevaks,who were killed in the train fire. Todays was his 10th such trip.
My brother was only 21 years old and studying mechanical engineering. My neighbours young son Chirag Ishwarbhai Patel,19,was also killed in the incident, said Panchal.
He also ensures he gets the same S-6 coach every time he travels to Ayodhya,booking his tickets well in advance.
The other passengers looked quite annoyed with the racket outside,including by the photographers who clicked away at the train.
The timings of the Sabarmati Express were changed last year. Railway officials said the train now arrives at 12.10 am at Godhra,while earlier its scheduled time was 3 am. Ten years ago,the train was supposed to reach Godhra at 3 am but was late by more than four hours. Railway officials said the timings had to be reset because several new stations were added on the trains route. What it means is that on most nights when Sabarmati Express arrives at Godhra,most of the people on board and in the town are asleep.