Gandhinagar, Feb 22 (IANS) Jainarayan Vyas, Gujarat’s tourism minister and the government’s official spokesperson, Tuesday termed the judgement in the Godhra train carnage as a vindication of the government’s stand.
“We have all along maintained that the fire in the coach was not accidental but a pre-planned conspiracy. Now an impartial judicial process has confirmed our point of view. And now we state that the move to malign Gujarat under this garb is by itself a well-hatched conspiracy,” he told reporters here.
The minister was reacting to Additional Sessions Court judge P.R. Patel’s verdict that convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 for the 2002 burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra town in Gujarat that claimed 59 lives.
Vyas pointed out that the verdict was a stunning slap on the face of all the NGOs and others who tried to blacken the face of Gujarat.
In reply to a question he said that the state government never recognised the Banerjee Commission which he said was illegal and ultra vires of the constitution. The commission, appointed by Indian Railways had termed the incident “accidental”.
Vyas refused to be drawn into the issue of the acquittal of Maulvi Ummarji, whom the police had sought to make out as the main conspirator.
He said that any comment on the issue could be made only after studying the judgement.
Mukul Sinha, an activist lawyer heading the Jan Sangharsh Manch, said that the ill-feeling generated in a community will continue because the judgement takes cognisance of the conspiracy theory without any evidence of it.
“There are many questions which remain unanswered. If there was a conspiracy, where did the information come from, more so when the train was five hours late. What was the previous plan if this second one was a conspired one,” he asked.
He added: “The admitted position is that those who were convicted were part of a spontaneous crowd. Moreover, if 63 are innocent, how can others from the same crowd be conspirators?
“Thus the entire argument is full of holes. But as law abiding citizens, we accept the judgement. Nevertheless, it should be challenged and I am sure it will be. Thus the long wait still continues for justice.”
Father Cedric Prakash, director of PRASHANT, a centre for human rights, justice and peace in Ahmedabad, termed the verdict a gross miscarriage of justice.
He said that the verdict leaves several questions unanswered with many glaring gaps in it.
According to him, the so-called “conspiracy theory” is totally hollow. While the original “main conspirators” are now acquitted, a hash job is blatantly evident in an attempt to stick to it, he said.
“Above all, what happens now to the 63 acquitted? Who will bring back the nine years lost in their lives? Will they be compensated by the state? The verdict will definitely be appealed in a higher court,” Prakash said.
He added that only when the full truth of the Gujarat carnage is brought out into the open will the cause of justice be served.
Until such time the struggle will continue, he said.