//Godhra coach fire accidental: Probe report

Godhra coach fire accidental: Probe report

New Delhi: The UC Banerjee Committee probing the blaze on Sabarmati Express in Godhra has found that it was an ‘accidental fire’ and not deliberate as claimed by the Gujarat police.

"There is no scrap of paper to prove that there was a conspiracy and there was no evidence to prove that petrol was thrown from outside," the Committee said.

The high-level panel, which had been constituted by Railway Minister Lalu Yadav in September 2004, submitted its report on Friday to Railway Board Chairman JC Batra.

As many as 59 persons were killed in the incident, fuelling communal violence across Gujarat in 2002.

The report said in contrast to what was widely claimed in the aftermath of the tragedy, the doors of coach No S-6 were open and most of the passengers managed to escape the tragedy.

Gujarat police had earlier claimed that the Muslims of the area had prevented the Kar Sevaks from fleeing the blaze. The report, however, says that out of about 250 passengers in the coach, only 59 had died while the rest managed to escape.

These findings eliminate the ‘petrol theory’, ‘miscreant activity theory’ as well as the ‘electrical fire’ theory floated earlier by the Gujarat Police and the state government.

Banerjee had earlier reported the same findings in an interim report submitted to the Railway Board Chairman, RK Singh,

The report further said that no police force was deployed at the Godhra police station on the day of the incident despite the fact that Kar Sevaks carrying trishuls were coming in large numbers.

More than 100 people are still in jail under Pota in connection with the incident.

The panel said the toxicity level in the coach was very high and that is why people inside the coach suffocated to death.

"The level of toxicity in the coach was such that all the passengers would have died had they not existed fast enough," the panel said.

Mukul Sinha, the lawyer for those arrested by the police for torching the coach, said that the reports shows that there is nothing to indicate that the fire was set from outside or there was a conspiracy.

Sinha added that the evidence showed Gujarat police didn’t have prior information about the Kar Shevaks travelling on the train. But they came to know about it later and could have made adequate arrangements after the fire was reported.

Reacting to the findings, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad said he would make his comment only after studying the report.

Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) spoksperson Prakash Jawadekar, whose party is said," There is nothing new in the report. It is rubbish and absurd. The interim report was released before the Bihar elections to suit the political bosses and the same thing has been done in the final report."

The Congress said that they will demand an explanation from the BJP on the report.