The special court held that the burning of the coach was the consequence of a planned conspiracy — that it was not an accident. This is exactly the position maintained all along by Mr Modi and the BJP — and opposed by the Congress, the Left parties and many ‘secular’ and liberal-minded sections of society…. The BJP is naturally jubilant at Tuesday’s verdict…. But there are troubling aspects arising from the Godhra train-burning affair, and its echoes will … fade only when closure is applied to the numerous cases relating to that unfortunate period in Gujarat.
These cases are now being monitored by the Supreme Court and are being probed afresh by a special investigation team appointed by the court. Looking at the inordinately long time taken by the SIT in the Sabarmati Express case, there is no knowing when all the Gujarat cases will be concluded.
The second aspect of Tuesday’s verdict is that there should be little surprise if it is legally challenged on grounds of the nature of evidence that came to be relied on. Finally, India’s judicial process would also be in the dock for the extreme slowness that it exhibited. It permitted 63 individuals, who would eventually be acquitted by the special court, to remain in jail for nearly nine years along with the other accused who had been booked. The Supreme Court needs to answer why so many individuals — who have now been declared … innocent — have had precious years of their lives virtually snatched away…. Does this not amount to a travesty of justice?
The political issue involved is fundamentally this: was there a link between the burning of Coach S-6 … and the … murder and mayhem that followed? Mr Modi had unhesitatingly proclaimed then that “every action has an equal and opposite reaction”…. Leading BJP stalwarts had noted that “if there had been no Godhra, there would be no riots”, suggesting an intrinsic link between the two. The underlying thesis was that if “Muslims” had instigated the burning of the S-6 coach, then “Hindus” were right in avenging the dead. This shocking line of communal reasoning turns democratic ethos on its head…. The state should investigate and punish the guilty. The state is also duty-bound to prevent citizen groups from taking the law into their own hands, as evidently happened in Gujarat…