If there is one single incident that leapfrogged the political fortunes of Modi, it is the burning of the S6 coach of Sabarmati express on 27th of February, 2002 killing 58 hapless passengers. Modi was successful in playing up the unfortunate incident as a “jehadi terrorist attack on karsevak” thus arousing the anger of the majority community. Exploiting the consequential anger and hurt sentiments of the Hindus, VHP and BJP lumpens, aided and abetted by the Government machinery, massacred the Muslims. The dividend extracted by Modi out of the burning of the S6 coach has been so great, that he can now claim to become the Prime Minister of the oldest civilisation and the largest democracy!
To briefly recall the rise of BJP in Gujarat, the L K Advani rath yatra from Somnath and the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992 mobilized the majority community to vote Keshubhai to power in 1995. After the debacle of Shankersinh Vaghela, Kesubhai once again became the Chief Minister in 1998. Modi took over in October, 2001 when the BJP Government was tottering after the earthquake hit Gujarat in January, 2001. This was the time when BJP was in power in both Gujarat and in the Centre.Nitish Kumar was the Railway Minister in 2002 in the NDA Government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee.
VHP had declared the Shila Pujan of the Ranjanmabhumi Mandir at Ayodhya on 15th March, 2002 and to mobilise the people, VHP had started the Purna Ahuti Yagnya at Ayodhya in the month of February, 2002. The Railway which was under under Nitish Kumar had permitted thousands of Kar Sevaks to travel free from Ahmedabad to Ayodhya during the 4th week of February, 2002. On the fateful day of 27th February, 2002, Sabarmati Express coming from Ayodhya carrying over 1700 karsevaks steamed into the Godhra station in the early morning. A short skirmish between the karsevaks and the Muslim vendors, led to a large scale communal conflict; 58 passengers died in the burnt S6 coach.
Quite apart from Modi’s manipulation to make it appear as a ISI supported jehadi terrorist attack targeting the Hindu Karesevaks which was a complete lie, the burning of the S6 coach remains a mystery till today. The incident of the burning of the coach as it happened in the jurisdiction of the Indian Railways, it was the duty cast upon by law on the Railways to enquire into the tragic incident immediately and send a report to the Government of India. Let us quickly summarise the provisions of the law in this regard:
The section 6(c) of the railway act provides that the Commissioner of safelty shall make an inquiry under this Act into the cause of any accident on a railway and give notice of railway accident u/s 113 and then hold a full inquiry u/s 114 of the Act. Where no inquiry is held by the Commissioner under section 114, the Act require u/s 115, the railway administration shall cause an inquiry to be made in accordance with the prescribed procedure. Section119 however provides that where a Commission of Inquiry is appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 to inquire into an accident, any inquiry in relation to that accident shall not be proceeded with
Nitish Kumar however failed to get the statutory enquiry conducted and after a few days, the Gujarat Government appointed a judicial commission that eliminated the possibility of holding a regular enquiry by an expert body. Worser still, after his successor in office Lalu Prasad ordered a high level Railway enquiry by Justice UC Banerjee, Nitish Kumar rubbished the report that the S6 burning was not a preplanned conspiracy. Political animosity between Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad fuelled Modi’s falsification of the burning of the Coach.
Time has come therefore for Nitish Kumar to tell the nation what had exactly happened on 27th February, 2002? I had the opportunity to cross-examine a large number of railway employees including eyewitnesses who have admitted before the Nanavati Commission that they did not see anybody burning the coach. Nitish Kumar should also tell the nation whether the then Home Minister, LK Advani, prohibited him from getting the statutory enquiry conducted by the safety commissioner?