The various commissions of inquiry and investigative teams that probed the Godhra train fire failed to address the core issue that could have led to the whole truth. Who were the victims who died in the fire? But first recall some facts.
Six months after the Godhra fire this scribe wrote:
"We don’t know who died in the fire. We don’t know how many, if any, kar sevaks were among the victims... Why did the government immediately after the Godhra tragedy state that the ISI had planned it, and why months later did it say it had not? How could the riots be preplanned, for which considerable evidence has been adduced, while the event that provoked them was not? Why can’t the government furnish the names and identities of the victims...?
"The Ahmedabad based Forensic Science Laboratory proved that the railway carriage was set afire from inside. The outside doors of the burnt bogie were locked. The arsonists there could only have entered the compartment through the corridor from the adjoining bogie. How did a Muslim mob pass through unprotesting kar sevaks and burn alive the inmates of the adjoining bogie?
"The Eastern Railway bifurcation dispute between Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar uncovered more dirt. Mamata claimed that she had seen the forensic report. She accused Nitish of holding back the passenger list to curry favour with the BJP. In response Nitish disclosed to Parliament that only recently did the investigators ask his ministry for the reserved passenger list. Till today the reserved passengers have not been questioned.
"Fifty-eight passengers died at Godhra. Only four among them were reserved passengers. Nineteen remained unidentified. Thirty-five charred non-reserved passengers therefore were ‘identified’ by the government.
"Who were they?
"Is this investigation or farce…? Can’t they track down reserved passengers and ask them how and why were they not in the carriage when it was burnt?"
This was published on August 26 2002. Recalling this somewhat long passage may be forgiven in the light of new information reported in the media. The cat is out of the bag. No wonder the identities of the victims were never established. It transpires that VHP leader Jaydeep Patel accused in `Naroda Gam massacre case was officially handed over 54 charred bodies of whom only three were identified. The bodies were given through a letter from the Executive Magistrate of Godhra although Patel had no authority to receive or take away the bodies. Both the District magistrate and Additional Director General of the Police who was part of the Special Investigative Team probing the Godhra carnage refused to comment when approached by the media.
Surely there should be an independent judicial commission to probe the identity of the burnt victims and how was it that all but four reserved passengers were not seated in their berths when the bogie was burnt down. Who were the reserved passengers? Will the truth ever be sought, or covered up as it was in the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage?