Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Godhra train burning verdict today, city says no to violence

On the surface, it appears to be business as usual inGodhra even as a special court in Ahmedabad is set to deliver on Tuesday its judgement in the February 2002 Sabarmati Express fire near Godhra station.
The train fire that left 59 people dead triggered widespread communal riots across Gujarat. But there is little that suggests that this is the same city where one of the most gruesome chapters in Gujarat's modern history took shape.
"Even though everything began in Godhra, the city witnessed negligible violence during the 2002 riots. So why should there be any tension now?" Kishorilal Bhayani said. He was the president of the Godhra Municipal Corporation from 1989-91. Bhayani is actively involved in the district administration's peace committees.
Ramzani Jujaru, the district chief of the BJP's minority cell, concurs with Bhayani. "There has been no violence for the last nine years, so why should anything happen now? Hindus and Muslims have close business ties with each other here. Both communities understand that violence and riots will be harmful to everyone."
However, the reasons for the seemingly calm approach of the two communities are vastly different. Most Hindus appear to be unconcerned with the verdict.
"The verdict doesn't really matter to the Hindus of Godhra as none of their own was killed in the tragedy," Jivraj, a shopkeeper, said.
For the Muslims, it is an entirely different matter though. All the 134 accused were from Godhra and included prominent members of the community such as corporators Farooq Bhana and Mohammad Hussain Kalota and cleric Maulana Hussain Umarji.
"The importance of the judgment is that it will prove the innocence of Godhra's Muslims who have been facing the stigma for the last nine years," a resident of Signal Falia area, which is adjacent to the spot where the carnage took place, said.
The anxiety of the Muslims and the significance that the community attaches to the verdict is evident from the fact that after the khutba (sermon) during last Friday's prayers, Maulvis in all the mosques in the city issued instructions that no one should speak to the media or say anything pertaining to the trial.
The difference between Hindus and Muslims can also be seen in the matter relating to the culpability of the accused. Most of the Muslims here assert that the accused are innocent. BJP leader Jujaru shares a similar opinion.
"I am sure the accused are innocent. They might not get acquitted tomorrow. But justice will triumph eventually," Jujaru said.

However, Rajesh, a wholesale dealer and a friend of Jujaru said, "The accused deserve punishment.
The fact that the police arrested them and that they spent so many years in jail proves that they are guilty."
Pintu Soni, a jewellery shop owner, voices similar sentiments.

However, both Rajesh and Soni asserted that there is no chance of any violence, irrespective of the verdict as neither communities want to destroy this phase of general prosperity in the city.
The Sabarmati Express fire case
In the Sabarmati Express fire case, designated Judge P.R. Patel had completed hearing arguments of the prosecution and defence in September last year. But the verdict could not be delivered in view of a Supreme Court stay, which was lifted on October 26, 2010.
The trial, conducted inside the Sabarmati Central Jail in Ahmedabad, began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 94 accused, who are in the high-security prison since 2002.
The accused have been charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in burning of the S-6 coach of the train on February 27, 2002 near Godhra, about 125 km from Ahmedabad. Most of the deceased were karsevaks returning from Ayodhya. 
As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the trial and over 1500 documentary evidences were presented before the court by the Gujarat police.
Initially there were 107 accused, of which five died during the pendency of the case, while eight others were juveniles, who were tried by a separate court.

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