"Godhra – The True Story"
“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.” - Adolf Hitler
THE TRUE STORY - Nicole Elfi - (Nicole Elfi left France thirty-four years ago for India, drawn to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. She participated in publication of works related to them and in research on Indian culture, authoring two books in French; the second one, Aux Sources de l’Inde was published June 2008. Contact email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Godhra, a city of the Indian State of Gujarat, was the lead story in all Indian newspapers on February 27th-28th, 2002. A shattering piece of news: 58 Hindu pilgrims had been burned alive in a train. “57 die in ghastly attack on train” ran the Times of India’s headline; “Mob targets Ramsevaks [Devotees of Rama] returning from Ayodhya”; “58 killed in attack on train with Karsevaks [volunteers]” (The Indian Express); “1500-strong mob butcher 57 Ramsevaks on Sabarmati Express” (The Asian Age). But the BBC’s announcement had a very different tone: “58 Hindu ‘extremists’ burned to death” … or Agence France Press on March 2nd: “A train full of Hindu ‘extremists’ was burnt.”
A deluge of anguished news followed about a “Muslim genocide”: “Mass killings of Muslims in reprisal riots” (NYT, March 5th), “The authorities … share the prejudices of the Hindu gangs who have been busy pulping their Muslim neighbours” (The Observer, March 4th). We were told that Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, intended to eradicate Muslims from the State—more than 9% of Gujarat’s population, in other words five million people. We read that the police was conniving in the mass slaughter and did nothing to prevent it. Narendra Modi was compared to Hitler, or Nero. We shuddered reading the reports describing rapes and various horrors, supposedly inflicted on Muslims by Hindus.
Today, six years later, with the noises and cries of the wounds having fallen silent, what emerges from those events? What are the facts?
At 7:43 A.M. on February 27th, 2002, the Sabarmati Express rolled into the Godhra station, fortunately with a four-hour delay, in broad daylight. This train transported more than 2,000 people, mainly karsewaks on their way back to Ahmedabad after participating in the ‘Poorna Ahuti Yagnya’ at Ayodhya, a ritual at the traditional birthplace of Rama.
As it pulled out of the station, the train was pelted with stones and bricks, and passengers from several bogeys were forced to bring down their windows to protect themselves. Someone pulled the emergency chain: the train came to a halt about 100 metres away from the platform, surrounded by a large crowd of Muslims. The railway police managed to disperse the crowd, and the train resumed its journey.
Within minutes, the emergency chain was simultaneously pulled again, from several coaches. It halted at about 700 metres from the station. A crowd of over 1,000 surrounded the train, pelting it with bricks, stones, then burning