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Nanavati Panel report: ‘Anger over train burning led to 2002 Gujarat riots’

The report gave a clean chit to the police, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal and stated that the incidents occurred because of anger on account of the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002.

Written by Sohini Ghosh | Ahmedabad | Published: December 12, 2019 12:25:21 pm
Nanavati Panel report: ‘Anger over train burning led to 2002 Gujarat riots’ The February 27, 2002 train burning incident in Godhra claimed the lives of 59 Hindus. (File)

In its report on north Gujarat, The Nanavati Commission gave a clean chit to the police, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal and attributed the massacres in Mehsana and Sabarkantha districts of this region, to anger on account of the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002. It cited instances to prove that in fact the Hindus were either assaulted for helping Muslims or they alerted the Muslims about possible attacks. These two districts lost maximum number of lives in the riots in this region.

It noted that barring Mehsana that saw two convictions, the Sardarpura and DIpda Darwaja massacre cases in which 33 and 11 persons were killed respectively, several cases in which chargesheets were filed saw acquittals, going by the inference in the final report that was tabled in the Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday.

The districts are Mehsana, Sabarkantha, Banaskantha, Gandhinagar and Patan, where rest of the complaints saw A-summaries being filed, according to the report. A-summary is filed in cases where the identity of the accused is not established for a prolonged period, while some cases continued to be pending in courts. The Sardarpura and Dipda Darwaja cases were among the nine cases investigated by the Supreme Court appointed SIT and tried in special courts appointed under its direct supervision.

The report gave a clean chit to the police, BJP, VHP and Bajrang Dal and stated that the incidents occurred because of anger on account of the Godhra train burning incident of February 27, 2002. It cited instances to prove that in fact the Hindus were either assaulted for helping Muslims or they alerted the Muslims about possible attacks. About Mehsana, the home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was then chief minister of Gujarat, the Commission observed, “The district was affected more by the Godhra incident…” Three from this district were burnt alive at the Godhra railway station and the police expected disturbance when the dead bodies of the train carnage victims arrived, it said.

Taking note of the convictions, it said in the Dipda Darwaja case where a mob of 200 persons killed 11 Muslims, the special trial court convicted 83 who were chargesheeted. Second case of conviction came in the Sardarpura incident where 33 persons were killed by a “big mob of Patels” who set houses on fire. The court convicted 31 accused and acquitted 42.

With respect to the Visnagar incident, the Commission observed, “Initially, it was not stated that the persons in the mob belonged to the BJP or any political or religious organisation. It was at a later stage that some allegations were made against local BJP leaders…” The Commission further observed that two BJP leaders were acquitted subsequently.

“Six persons who have filed a joint affidavit making an allegation against the police and the Chief Minister appear to be closely related to each other. The allegations do not appear to be true in view of the other evidence on record. There is no evidence to show any involvement of the Ministers or leaders of any political party in the incidents which happened in this district,” it said. It also placed on record a case of “Hindu assaulted for helping Muslims”. Based on the complaints and material, Commission found several cases where Hindus alerted Muslims of probable attacks or provided them with shelter.”In Poshina town, president of BJP Minority Cell was threatened by Hindus for helping Muslims,” it said about Sabarkantha district.

About state capital Gandhinagar, the commission noted, “most incidents took place on 28.2.2002 and1.3.2002….About 1,212 persons were displaced because of communal disturbance”.

On the performance of the police, it said, “… a number of affidvaits have been filed stating that the police had taken prompt and effective steps to curb violence in the district. There is material to show that the police had saved lives and properties of many persons by taking effective steps and also helped them in moving to safer places. There is no material to show there was any inaction or negligence on the part of police in maintaining law and order in the district. There is no evidence to show involvement of any Minister of the State Government in the incidents or any interference by a Minister in the functioning of the police,” it stated. About Sabarkantha, it finds the highest number of incidents happened in Idar taluka (78), followed by Bhiloda (73), Modasa (69), Meghraj (55), Himmatnagar (49) and Prantij (38). Out of 461 offences, 106 offences were committed at night and 355 offences were committed during day time.

“There is no incident to show that either BJP, VHP or any other political party or its leaders or any religious organisations or their leaders had instigated attacks on Muslims. Only in two cases, it was alleged that VHP persons had taken part in those incidents… The incidents against Muslims appear to have happened because of the anger of the people on account of the Godhra incident. Anti-social elements appear to have taken part,” the Commission concluded.

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