Godhra Tak: A film that tells the true story

Topic started by tk (@ cache1-2.ruh.isu.net.sa) on Sun Mar 21 01:02:05 EST 2004.
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Godhra Tak: A film that tells the true story

[The unfortunate burning of S6 coach of Sabarmati Express at Godhra on February 27, 2002, in which 59 innocent lives were lost, was used as an excuse to raise communal passions. It resulted in the most shameful killings, arsons and rapes in many parts of Gujarat. What exactly happened in Godhra? Was it a deliberate act of heinous nature or an accident? Who started the fire? Did it start from inside the coach or was inflicted from outside? SUBHRADEEP CHAKRAVORTY’s 60-minute documentary GODHRA TAK: THE TERROR TRAIL answers these basic questions. Following are the extracts of interviews taken from the film. Also read a piece by MR. CHAKRAVORTY which appeared in weekly Tehelka (March 6, 2004). –– Ed.]

V.N. Sehgal: "More smoke happens when the oxygen supply is limited – as was the case – windows were all closed. Burning of petrol results in black smoke and can even cause death which I think happened to a large number of people. The widow of the coach was seven feet above the track. If someone tried to throw petrol inside, hardly 15 to 20 per cent of the liquid will go inside. Similarly even if they (the mob) stand on a heap of stones, as they did, even then their attempt would fail. Moreover, if the inflammable liquid had been thrown or an attempt was made to throw it inside the bogey the liquid would have fallen on the track and that liquid would have shown its existence by affecting the lower portion of the S6 bogey which did not happen.

As such, it is clear that there was no liquid in huge quantities thrown inside. I found that the damage on this vestibule is of a peculiar nature in the sense that the fire had burned inner portion of the vestibule more than the outer portion. This indicates that the fire had spread from inside to outside and not vice versa. Also, the floor is missing right from the door to the middle of the coach. This indicates the origin of fire – from the door."

J.M. Panchal: "There was a furious crowd pelting stones at the S6 coach. So the passengers who were traveling in the coach immediately closed the doors and windows and suddenly some people broke open the windows and some others entered S6 through the vestibule between S6 and S7. And they poured the inflammable fluid and thereafter the S6 coach was set on fire."

V.N. Sehgal: "But this theory does not seem possible for the simple reason that all the people already present in the coach will certainly notice if somebody enters and tries to do some mischief."

Mukul Sinha: "There is no evidence till so far to show that there was any person who had actually done such a thing. In fact we have asked – the commission had tried to investigate and find out. Nobody, neither the passengers nor the karsevaks or anybody has given an iota of evidence that somebody had entered the S6 coach with some amount of inflammable material and had poured the same inside the coach."

V.N. Sehgal: "If somebody was carrying petrol inside the carriage, if there is a critical ratio between air and petrol this works as an explosive mixture. This explosive mixture burns every fast and this may have been the case."

As a Hindu what do you think about the Godhra incident?" a reporter asked me at an eventful press conference I held in Ahmedabad after the screening of my documentary film, Godhra Tak: The Terror Trail. I remember fumbling, wracking my brain for an answer. "What do you mean by a Hindu?" I countered. " A believer of Hindu religion," he answered, giving me enough time to regain my poise. "For any true believer of religion any sort of violence against fellow human beings is deplorable," I said. "We should oppose both Godhra and the post-Godhra violence," I added.

October 20, 2003 had started on a bad note. An Ahmedabad hotel cancelled our booking citing political pressure, barely two hours before the screening of the film. We shifted the venue to Khet Bhavan near Gandhi Ashram. I was expecting a poor turnout but was amazed by the full house. Every journalist there was expecting some drama.

The press screening went well, and the journalists started asking questions. It may have been my journalistic past, but I struck a chord with them and things were going well. Towards the end of the press conference a man who had been sitting besides me during the screening, posing as a journalist, came up to me and said that a few VHP activists wanted to see me. I told him they would have to wait till I finished.

I was answering the last few questions when they came in and started abusing me. Their leader, a local doctor, stood in front of me, his face just six inches away from mine. They alleged that my documentary film was one-sided, and made to create problems again. They threatened to cut my shaven head off. They branded me anti-Hindu, and told me to apologise for making the film. The language they used was very abusive. I kept my cool throughout, realising that I was alone and what they wanted was for me to loose my patience and temper, so that they could beat me up. The journalists, who I thought I had struck a chord with, were silent. The photographers and TV crew were looking for perfect angles.

I told them I had made the film after interviewing both sides. My intention was to bring to light the facts about Godhra in a balanced way. I was a professional. I had interviewed Pravin Togadia, Vinay Katiyar, Jaydeep Patel (general secretary VHP, Gujarat), as well as the karsevaks who were in S6 on that fateful day, and also presented their viewpoints. They were clearly unimpressed, only interested in facts that suit them. They continued harassing me for a full half hour.

The incident has left me shaken. Am I to be judged first as an investigative journalist/filmmaker or a Hindu? If a Muslim does an investigative story on Godhra, what will they (VHP) say? Will they brand it as biased? Do journalists have a religion that guides their work?

Recently, a well-known editor of a very reputed Hindi literary magazine asked me to suggest the name of someone who could review my film. I suggested a Muslim reviewer and he told me flatly that it would be politically incorrect to ask a Muslim to review Godhra Tak. A Hindu did that review. If this is the reality, I feel deeply hurt.
(Courtesy: Tehelka)


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