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Stories unheard

Prashanth G.N.

Shubradeep Chakravorty's first film is remarkable for its nuanced presentation of the Godhra carnage and also for opening up buried evidence

Photo: Anu Pushkarna

NIGHTMARISH MEMORIESShubradeep Chakravarthy's film The Terror Trail shows disturbing incidents on the way to Ayodhya

We often hear people saying if Godhra had not happened, post-Godhra would not have either. The whole issue was raked up when a film by journalist turned film-maker Shubradeep Chakravorty, Godhra Tak The Terror Trail, was screened here recently. It captures tension much before Godhra and the extremely complicated evidence on the Godhra incident itself and contends that it is not possible to conclude that the Muslim community burnt the train at Godhra.

The film shows disturbing incidents on the way to Ayodhya. The train stops at Rudauli station, close to Ayodhya. Rudauli, until the train halted on that day, had not in a long time witnessed tension. The train stops and karsevaks, the film tells us, get down at the station and on seeing members of the Muslim community, some of them with "obvious markers" like beards, abuse them. They rush and beat some with hockey sticks, stones and kick them around. They threaten those who refuse to utter "Jai Shree Ram" with dire consequences. When the Muslim residents find no reason to do so, some of them are chased and stabbed. The film shows that many to this day bear the marks of those stabbings. Question is why did the karsevaks create trouble at Rudauli when there was no reason to do so?

The train proceeds to Ayodhya. The karseva is performed and the sevaks return to Ahmedabad. On their way back at Lucknow at 1 a.m., they do not allow people to board the train.

After much shouting, when they open the doors, people rush in to find their seats occupied. Women with children are not allowed to sit. The train leaves after a while and many travel, standing, till Godhra. The train arrives early morning at Godhra from Lucknow. Karsevaks on the platform demand free tea from a Muslim man. When he refuses, they throw his teacups and kettle. They then throw the basket of a Muslim hawker. The narrator here states that the karsevaks continue to behave the way they did when the train first left Ahmedabad. After this some karsevaks threaten to take away three Muslim women and challenge others on the platform to free them, states the narrator. Soon after, the women are not seen and it is assumed, perhaps rightly, that they must have been taken inside the bogie. From this point, evidence on many issues is ambiguous. He states further that he saw stone-throwing from outside as well as inside the train. It is during the stone throwing that smoke is noticed inside S6. The doors, windows and the vestibule leading to bogies on either side of S6 are locked. It is assumed immediately that petrol was thrown in from outside by Muslim mobs. The anti-Muslim riots after, followed on this assumption.

But responsible intellectuals, interviewed in the film, point out that evidence on this is simply not clear. Mukul Sinha, Gujarat High Court Lawyer, observes: Why was the train stopped the second time? And by who? There is no evidence to show who did it."

V.N. Sehgal, Central forensic expert states evidence did not show anyone coming into the train. "If large numbers had entered the train to set fire to it, somebody should have declared it. Why didn't anyone do this?"

He contends that petrol could not have been thrown from outside. "The window is eight feet from the ground. Even if people were standing on the stones they could have not used more than 15 to 20 litres. The kind of fire that came about requires more than 60 litres."

Mr. Sehgal further observes: "In this case, it may be possible that someone inside was also carrying petrol. The fuel may have mixed with combustible air resulting in explosion. Explosion may have occurred because all windows and doors were closed. It is possible that people inside may have died owing to suffocation than the explosion itself." How then is it possible to lay blame at the door of one community? That is question the film is asking.

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