Godhra riots train fire was accidental

Panel finding on event that sparked Gujarat communal clashes

Agence France Presse

New Delhi, January 17:

A train fire that killed 59 Hindu pilgrims, setting off deadly sectarian riots in Gujarat in 2002, was an accident and not caused by a Muslim mob as originally alleged, an Indian government investigation concluded today.

The four-member committee appointed to investigate the fire said it probably started

inside the coach “without any external input”.

“There has been a preponderance of evidence that the fire in coach number S6 originated in the coach itself without any external input,” said retired Supreme Court judge UC Bannerjee, who headed the committee.

“Moreover the possibility of an inflammable liquid having been used is completely ruled out as there was first a smell of burning, followed by smoke and flames,” he added.

“On the basis of the available evidence, the committee has found it unbelievable that Kar Sevaks (Hindu pilgrims) armed with Trishuls (tridents) would allow to get themselves burned without a murmur.” About 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, died in rioting and bloody reprisals after the train fire on February 27, 2002.

Railways Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav, who came to office in May as part of a coalition government led by the Congress Party set up the committee in July.

It made at least two trips to the Gujarat town of Godhra, where the compartment caught fire. A Muslim mob had previously been alleged to have started the fire.