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Godhra train blaze accidental: Banerjee Commission

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 3 (UNI) Dealing a major embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, the Justice U C Banerjee Commission today held that the February 27, 2002 blaze in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra that claimed 59 lives and triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat, was ''accidental'', trashing the Sangh Parivar's ''conspiracy theory' that claimed it was hatched against Hindu pilgrims.

In its final report presented to Railway Board Chairman J P Batra at Rail Bhavan here this evening, the committee, which was subsequently upgraded to a Commission by the Union Cabinet, reiterated that the fire was ''accidental'' and ''not a deliberately attempted'' incident.

''I have scanned all evidences anew after presenting the interim report. Some new evidences have also come,'' Justice Banerjee told reporters.

After receiving the report, Mr Batra said he would examine it.

Accusing the Gujarat Police of not cooperating with the Commission, Justice Banerjee said his final report was a reiteration of the earlier conclusion that the blaze was ''accidental'' in nature.

Reacting to the report, Mr Lalu Prasad said it was evident that the Godhra train blaze was '' just an accident.'' The final report also pointed out that neither the then Railway Minister Nitish Kumar nor any official of the Railway Board had visited the spot.

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.

The report comes as a rebuff to the Gujarat Police which had claimed that the people 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.

"With the elimination of the 'petrol theory', 'miscreant activity theory' as well as the ruling out of any possibility of 'electrical fire', the fire in S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express can at this stage be ascribed as an 'accidental fire'," the Commission said in its January 17, 2005 interim report presented to the then Railway Board Chairman R K Singh.

On February 26 last year, Mr Lalu Prasad had tabled the two-volume interim in Parliament immediately after he presented the Railway Budget, 2005-06


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