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Forensic film contests Godhra theory

Chennai, Dec. 28: An independent forensic expert has “demonstrated” with material evidence, testimony and logic in an hour-long documentary that the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra was not a “conspiracy”.

The arson in which 59 persons were killed on February 25, 2002, was a “continuation of happenings on Platform no. 1 at the railway station earlier”. Kar sevaks on the train are said to have clashed with vendors.

Godhra Tak: The Terror Trail by New Delhi-based journalist-turned-film maker Shubhradeep Chakravorty shows Dr V.. Sehgal, former director, Central Forensic Science Laboratory, and a member of Interpol, doing spot investigation of coach S6 of the Sabarmati Express.

“I had professionally engaged Dr Sehgal to do the on-the-spot investigation of the burnt coach,” Chakravorty said after the screening here yesterday. He was attacked by VHP goons when he first tried to screen the documentary in Ahmedabad on October 20.

The film features interviews with survivors, kar sevaks, people at the Godhra station and those living near Cabin A, where the arson took place, several VHP leaders starting with Praveen Togadia, Uttar Pradesh BJP chief Vinay Katiyar and some Muslim victims who were attacked at Vadodara station subsequently.

After an opening statement by Togadia that the arson was “pre-planned” and a “conspiracy” — also the prosecution’s contention, the documentary presents the tall and bespectacled Sehgal inspecting the burnt coach.

After examining the materials collected from S6, the forensic experts “are now certain that the fire was caused by petrol”, says the film. Sehgal explains how throwing petrol from outside the compartment was not possible, an aspect corroborated by a fire-fighter from Godhra. Standing near the burnt compartment, Sehgal shows there was “no fire on the tracks” to prove his point that petrol could not have been thrown from outside.

In another frame, it shows how the “inside part of the vestibule” (connecting S5 and S6) was more charred than its outside surface to “prove” Sehgal’s point that the fire emanated from inside and that the petrol was “possibly stored inside”.

The film, in disproving the conspiracy theory, also shows how “there is no evidence so far to show that someone had entered S-6 with some combustible substance”.

The documentary is loosely sliced into three parts. The first is about the behaviour of the kar sevaks who had gathered in Ayodhya. Interviews show that at Rudauli station, just short of Ayodhya, the kar sevaks had started “behaving violently”.

The second part captures the mood of the kar sevaks returning home, particularly the first batch from Gujarat who had boarded the fateful Sabarmati Express. Through interviews and visuals it presents the altercation on platform 1. Of particular interest is the voice of Dr Mukul, who quotes an RPF constable about the “stone throwing on the platform 1”.

After leaving Godhra station, the train stops near Cabin A, where the coach was set on fire. “Nobody till now knows why,” says the commentator in the film. “With this stoppage, the third and final part of the story started,” he added.

Chakravorty said during filming he moved discretely with a small crew and kept a low profile, often searching each individual address by himself.

“I took this up as a professional challenge as most people were using the Godhra incident to justify the later communal violence in Gujarat,” said Chakraborty, who told the Gujarat VHP that he was “just making a film on Godhra”.

Accused dies

Siraj Jamsa, an accused in the train carnage, who was out on bail died at Godhra town after prolonged illness.

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