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Sunday, March 3, 2024

2002 Godhra Train Carnage Mastermind, Congressman Farooq Bhana, Arrested

Absconding for more than 14 years, Farooq Bhana, one of the main conspirators in the 2002 burning of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra  which resulted in the death of 59 innocent Hindus and triggered communal riots across Gujarat, was arrested by Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) yesterday. As per multiple sources, Bhana was Secretary of the District Congress Committee at the time.

As per this Zee News report

“Farooq Bhana is the fourth absconding accused to be arrested for the horrific incident in Godhra, about 125 km from Ahmedabad, where Sabarmati Express was set afire on February 27, 2002, by a mob killing 59 passengers. The ghastly train attack had triggered widespread riots in Gujarat in which over 1,000 people were killed.

Last year, Kasam Ibrahim Bhamedi, who was part of a mob which pelted stones at and broke window panes of the S6 coach of Sabarmati Express before it was set ablaze, was arrested by the ATS. Other accused Kadir Abdul Gani and Hussain Suleman Mohan were also apprehended in 2015.

In February 2011, a special court had convicted 31 persons for the train burning incident. Out of the 31, eleven were awarded death penalty, while 20 were given life term.”

Another report gives more details about Bhana’s arrest-

“Based on a specific tip-off, an ATS team nabbed Bhana at a toll plaza near Kalol town of Panchmahal district when he was coming to Godhra from Mumbai to meet his son, Inspector General (IG) of ATS J. K. Bhatt told a press conference here.

Primary investigation has revealed that Bhana went to Pakistan, probably using a fake passport, after the incident and then came back to India ten years ago and started living in Andheri (East) suburb of Mumbai.

“Bhana was on the run since 2002. He was a corporator of Polan Bazar area of Godhra when the incident took place. It is alleged that on the night of February 26, Bhana and others held a meeting at Aman Guest House near the railway station as part of their conspiracy to set ablaze the S-6 coach of the train,” said Bhatt.

During the meeting, Bhana communicated a specific instruction of Maulana Husain Umerji to set ablaze the S-6 coach, for which, other co-accused collected 140 litres of petrol from a nearby petrol pump and stored it inside the guest house, said Bhatt. Maulana Umerji, who was arrested as the alleged mastermind behind the incident, was later released, as no ‘concrete evidence’ was found against him during the trial.

“Those who attended the meeting include one Salim Panwala, who used to do black marketing in railway tickets, guest house owner Abdul Razak and another corporatorBilal Haji among others. As decided in the meeting, the coach was set ablaze by a mob of around 1,000 at platform no.1 at around 7:45 AM,” said Bhatt.

“Bhana was living in a slum area of Andheri (East) in Mumbai since last ten years. Before that, he has joined Tablighi Jamaat and travelled from one place to another in religious congregations, mainly to hide his identity and evade arrest. We also learned that he went to Pakistan during this period,” said Bhatt.

According to Bhatt, Bhana changed his name to ‘Shaikh Umar’ and started working as property broker in Mumbai. He even took small contracts of civic body. To hide his identity, he even grew a beard after the incident.”

Last year, 4 absconding accused in the heinous crime were arrested from Godhra and Jhabua in Madhya Pradesh, after they managed to evade police arrest for thirteen years. According to ATS officials, 13 accused are still absconding. “We have names of three to four while the identity of the others have yet to be established. We have issued red corner notices for two, including Salim Panwala,” added an ATS official. Salim Panwala, one of the key conspirators, is believed to be hiding in Pakistan.

While the Gujarat ATS must be lauded for this arrest of one of the main conspirators of the Godhra train burning atrocity, authorities must also bring to book those who provided a cover and gave shelter to Farooq Bhana in Mumbai.

The Godhra Conspiracy

As per the trial court judgement convicting 31 accused for the Godhra train carnage –

“[26] Conspiracy came to be hatched on the previous day i.e. 26-2-2002 during the meeting held in Aman Guest House between the conspirators Haji Bilal, Faruk Bhana, Abdul Rajak and Salim Panwala.

[27] As per the plan, Abdul Rajak Kurkur and Salim Panwala both had gone to Kalabhai Petrol Pump on moped scooty on 26-2-2002 at about 10.00 p.m. taking with them other conspirators Salim Jarda, Shaukat
Ahmed Charkha @ Lalu, Imran Ahmed Bhatuk @ Sheru, Hasan Ahmed Charkha, Mehbub Khalid Chanda and Jabir Binyamin Behra in a Three Wheeler Tempo No. GJ-6 U- 8074, and purchased 140 litres loose petrol in 7 different Carboys and then, stored it behind Aman Guest House, in the house of Abdul Rajak Kurkur. Thereafter, a meeting of these conspirators was again held in the Room No.8 of the said Aman Guest House.

[29] As per the said instruction the assailants by turning disk of ACP situated on the outside of the Coaches, stopped the train near ‘A‘ Cabin.

[30] Then immediately, Abdul Rajak Kurkur and absconding accused Salim Panwala taking with them a Carboy containing petrol proceeded towards ‘A‘ Cabin on a Red coloured M-80 Bajaj moped scooty.

[32] Mehbub Yakub Mitha @ Popa, Mehbub Khalid Chanda, Ayub Abdulgani Patliya, Yunus Abdulhaq Ghadiyali etc. went near Coach S-2 with weapons and started breaking window glasses ect. and also thrown a burning rag inside the said Coach S-2.

[33] Abdul Rajak Kurkur and absconding accused Salim Panwala went near Coach S-6 and poured petrol from the broken window, just near the closed door (towards engine/front side) of the Coach S-6.

[34] Mehbub Ahmed Yusuf Hasan @ Latiko who had with him a big knife (Chharo for cutting meat) first made holes on the upper part of the Carboys and then, cut the canvas vestibule of Coach S-7, situated between the Coaches S-6 and S-7 (corridor).

[35] Mehbub Ahmed Hasan and Jabir Binyamin Behra climbed up the said corridor place and by use of force with kicks etc, opened the eastern side sliding door of Coach S-6.

[36] Mehbub Ahmed Hasan @ Latiko, Jabir Binyamin Behra and Saukat Ahmed Charkha @ Lalu then entered into Coach S-6 from the said sliding door with Carboys containing petrol.

[37] Absconding accused Saukat Lalu opened the East-South corner door of the Coach S-6, from where the remaining three i.e. Imran Sheru, Irfan Bhobha, Rafiq Bhatuk entered in the Coach with Carboys and poured petrol.

[38] Ramjani Binyamin Behra and Hasan Lalu were throwing petrol from the outside of the Coach, towards windows.

[39] Hasan Ahmed Charkha @ Hasan Lalu put on fire coach S-6 by through burning rag (kakdo).

[42] If there was no plan at all, it would have not been possible to gather muslim persons with deadly weapons within five to six minutes and to and to reach near ‘A‘Cabin on the railway tracks.

[47] Godhra is known for its past history of communal riots.

[48] For Godhra, this is not the first incident of burning alive innocent persons belonged to Hindu community.”

The prosecution in the case had said, “The petrol Cans which were stored at Aman Guest House were taken in a loading rickshaw, near the “A” Cabin and the bogey was set on fire by putting burning rags inside the compartment and through broken windows by the miscreants. Few culprits had forcibly entered into the compartment by cutting open the vestibule and petrol was emptied in that compartment. The passengers were terrorized by beating them and pelting of stones and were prevented from coming out from the burning compartment, provocative slogans were shouted from the loudspeaker from a nearby mosque (“Pakistan Zindabad”, “Hindustan Murdabad” and “Hindu Kafiro ko Jala dalo”, i.e. burn the Hindu unbelievers) to arouse passions in the violent mob. Fire tankers were prevented from going near the place of the incident.”

11 of the 31 convicted were given death penalty, while the other 20 were given life imprisonment. The verdict has been appealed and the case is still pending in Gujarat High Court. Those who were awarded capital punishment are Bilal Ismail Abdul Majid Sujela alias Bilal Haji, Abdul Razak Mohammad Kurkur, Ramjani Binyamin Behra, Hasan Ahmed Charkha alias Lalu, Jabir Binyamin Behra, Mehboob Khalid Chanda, Salim alias Salman Yusuf Sattar Zarda, Siraj Mohammad Abdul Meda alias Bala, Irfan Abdul Majid Ganchi Kalandar alias Irfan Bhopo, Irfan Mhammad Hanifabdul Gani Pataliya and Mehbub Ahmed Yusuf Hasan alais Latiko.

The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the carnage, had also concluded that the fire in the S-6 coach was caused by throwing petrol inside it. “The burning of the coach S-6 was a pre-planned act. In other words there was a conspiracy to burn the coach of the train coming from Ayodhya and to cause harm to the ‘kar sevaks’ travelling in it,” the report submitted to the government in September 2008 had said.

The Congress Connection

Many of the key conspirators and others accused in the Godhra train carnage have a Congress connection, a fact which was mostly suppressed in mainstream media coverage of the gruesome incident.

  • Farooq Bhana, secretary of the district Congress committee
  • Salim Abdul Ghaffar Sheikh, president of the Panchmahal Youth Congress
  • Abdul Rehman Abdul Majid Ghantia, a known Congress worker
  • Haji Bilal, a known Congress worker
  • One of the main accused Mohammad Hussain Kalota, acquitted for ‘lack of evidence’, was an independent president of Godhra corporation but had been district convener of minority cell of Congress for 6 years before that. Kalota had even given an ad in a Gujarati paper on May 10, 2001, thanking Congress for getting him elected per another old news item.

Here are the names of the 59 victims murdered in cold blood on that day –

The tweets below sum up the various omissions and commissions in the narrative surrounding the Godhra train carnage and subsequent riots –

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