The Nanavati Shah Commission

The Nanavati Shah Commission investigating the burning of the Sabarmati Express that triggered the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat has cleared the state’s chief minister Narendra Modi (who was also chief minister then) of any wrong-doing.Political opponents of the BJP, however, were quick to deride the probe’s conclusions and also imputed motives to the timing of its release.The growing frequency of terror attacks has given an opening to the BJP to argue that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is soft on terror. BJP has made terror and inflation key electoral issues, ahead of elections to the key states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.The post-Godhra riots had tainted the otherwise impressive administrative record of Modi and was considered an impediment in his playing a more prominent role at the national level. The Nanavati panel’s report, tabled in the Gujarat assembly, claims that the attack on the train carrying Hindu devotees on 27 February 2002, in which 58 people were killed, was a “preplanned conspiracy”. The first part of the report has virtually cleared Modi, saying there was no evidence to incriminate him or any member of his cabinet in the ensuing communal violence when Hindu mobs attacked pockets of Muslims in Gujarat.An estimated 1,169 Muslims died in the riots.The commission is yet to submit the second part of its report.
The findings contradict the conclusions of another panel headed by justice (retd) U.C.
Banerjee, set up by railway minister Lalu Prasad, which stated that the fire was accidental and that there was no evidence to suggest that it was planned.“People will not believe that Modi is innocent. He is a communal virus centre and has been disallowed to travel abroad. Had he been punished for his crime, no youth would have turned terrorist today,” Prasad said.
According to the report tabled in the assembly, two persons, Raza Kurjur and Salim Panwala, had executed a conspiracy to kill the Hindu pilgrims who were returning from Ayodhya, where some pro-BJP mobs had razed a 16-century mosque in December 1992, that was hatched at the house of Moulvi Umerji. Congress members in Gujarat assembly staged a walk out alleging foul play.

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