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How Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Wire, defended heinous killers and slandered victims of the Godhra carnage

It is very necessary to bring out these writings of these self-styled secularists, so that people can see through their game of whitewashing Muslim fanaticism in the Delhi 2020 riots now.

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Author of the book “Gujarat Riots: The True Story” which gives all the details about the 2002 Gujarat riots - Godhra and thereafter.

The 2020 Delhi riots saw many killings of Hindus and attacks on Hindus. Muslims too were killed in the riots. But, as expected, the Leftists tried their best to whitewash the fanaticism of Muslims, downplay or deny the attacks on Hindus, and tried to project the riots as a ‘genocide’ of Muslims. NDTV went to the extent of trying to deny that the man who fired 8 rounds and showed a pistol to a Police constable was named Shahrukh, and instead tried to call him as ‘Anurag Mishra’. Leftist propaganda outlets like The Wire, Scroll, etc. tried their best to similarly deny or downplay the attacks on Hindus by Muslims.

Nothing surprising. On 27 February 2002, a mob of 2000 Muslims burnt to coal 59 Hindus, including 25 women and 15 children in Godhra at the densely Muslim populated Signal Falia area at 7:48 am. This event was as clear as anything could be, it was a well-planned attack which partially failed since the train was 4 hours late. Even such a horrific massacre of people including children (including babies and toddlers) was not enough to melt the heart of the ‘seculars’ who tried to blame the dead victims & defend the heinous killers. Vir Sanghvi was one man whose conscience was troubled due to that. He wrote in his article “One way ticket” immediately after Godhra (even before any riots had taken place):

“Some versions have it that the kar sewaks shouted anti-Muslim slogans; others that they taunted and harassed Muslim passengers…Basically, they condemn the crime; but blame the victims…Why have we de-humanised them [the dead kar sewaks] to the extent that we don’t even see the incident as the human tragedy that it undoubtedly was and treat it as just another consequence of the VHP’s fundamentalist policies? The answer, I suspect, is that we are programmed to see Hindu-Muslim relations in simplistic terms: Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer. When this formula does not work – it is clear now that a well-armed Muslim mob murdered unarmed Hindus – we simply do not know how to cope. We shy away from the truth – that some Muslims committed an act that is indefensible – and resort to blaming the victims…Not only does this insult the dead (What about the children? Did they also have it coming?), but it also insults the intelligence of the reader…There is one question we need to ask ourselves: have we become such prisoners of our own rhetoric that even a horrific massacre becomes nothing more than an occasion for Sangh Parivar-bashing?”

The above words by Vir Sanghvi show precisely how the Leftists will never blame Muslims for anything since their minds simply cannot see Muslims as anything but victims. Therefore, in case of the Delhi 2020 riots, they will blame Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma, BJP, anyone they can, but not those who actually brutally killed police officers Ratan Lal and Ankit Sharma.

Of course, there were convictions of 31 Muslims for Godhra on 22 Feb 2011 by the trial court (giving death to only 11 & life imprisonment to 20) and convictions of all 31 upheld by the Gujarat High Court in October 2017, reducing the penalty to life imprisonment for everyone. Even before that, it was plain common sense that Muslims burnt the train, on the basis of statements of witnesses and survivors, to anyone with an iota of intellectual honesty. There was a Judicial confession by an accused in February 2003, in which he admitted that Godhra was a well-planned attack, and he had himself taken part in it. A judicial confession is a conclusive proof. Though he later retracted his confession in August 2003, his judicial confession before a judge in court in February 2003 removes all possible doubts anyone can ever have about Godhra.

The Times of India reported on 7 February 2003 – “Zabir Bin Yamin Behra has given the Godhra carnage case a new twist and stunned everyone by accusing Maulana Hussain Umarji of hatching the conspiracy. He has also confessed his own involvement in the case…Besides having a hand in the burning of the coach, Behra confessed to removing ornaments and valuables of passengers, when the mob attacked the train.”

In this report, The Times of India forgot to mention that this confession was to court, i.e. a judicial confession, which it mentioned in another report. He also confessed to looting ornaments and valuables of the passengers before burning the train, thereby proving the testimony of 16-year old Gayatri Panchal who survived the attack and said exactly the same, as correct.

This judicial confession was a conclusive proof, which should have been mentioned repeatedly by the media post February 2003 whenever reporting on Godhra.

When they could not blame Muslims for such a clear & horrific, heinous act like Godhra, will they ever blame Muslims for other incidents which are not so clear, like riots in Delhi? To understand the reality of The Wire, let us see what its founder editor Siddharth Varadarajan wrote on Godhra.

He implied in August 2004 that the post-Godhra riots would have happened even without Godhra! He wrote:

“Far from being a spontaneous mass reaction to the attack on the Sabarmati Express at Godhra the day before in which 58 Hindu passengers died, the killings across most of Gujarat seemed scripted. So well chosen were the targets that it is almost as if there was already in place a plan to do something dramatic as part of the ongoing Ayodhya agitation, probably in order to polarise the state on communal lines in the run-up to state elections that the BJP might have had some difficulty winning on the basis of its actual performance.

If Godhra hadn’t happened, would it have been necessary to invent it? I don’t know, but the Godhra incident itself is so shrouded in mystery that it is almost as if the official narrative which emerged within minutes and hours of the train being consumed by fire is an invented one, conveniently conjured up to provide the “rationale” for the pogrom which had simultaneously been ordained.”

To what extent can one go? Denying the bitter truth that Muslims roasted the train in Godhra, and implying that maybe post-Godhra would have happened even without Godhra! And calling the riots a ‘pogrom’ ignoring attacks on and killings of Hindus completely!

This was not the first time that Varadarajan did so, he wrote a similar article on 22 August 2004 in The Hindu. In that he said:

“When the Gujarat police arrested former tea vendor Usman Abdul Gani “Coffeewala” earlier this month, the Special Investigating Team probing the incident in which 58 persons were killed outside the Godhra station two years ago, described him, rather predictably, as a “key accused” in the case. For the record, Coffeewala is now the 18th “key accused” in the case, allegedly a crucial part of the improbably large “inner circle” that hatched a “jihadi conspiracy” to kill activists of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad a few days before the Sabarmati Express pulled into Godhra on the morning of February 27, 2002….For the Sangh Parivar, Godhra is where it all began — the spark that lit the fire which ended up taking the lives of as many as 2,000 Muslims.

…Two years on, the police cannot offer a credible account of how coach S-6 caught fire. They are clueless about what flammable substance caused the death and destruction that morning. And their description of the events simply does not square with the evidence that is accumulating before the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry.

Indeed the deliberate politicisation of the incident has led to the sacrificing of conventional investigative techniques.

Questions and leads raised by forensic evidence (that the flammable liquid could not have been thrown in from outside, for instance) and eyewitness testimonies are being ignored.

Is this just in case the investigation ends up deviating too much from the official script?

Which is of a “conspiracy” that was “pre-planned” to such an extent that three days before the Sabarmati Express left Faizabad, Maulana Umerji was able to divine that the ticketless kar sevaks would be boarding S-6 and no other coach.

…Based on eyewitness testimony, what is indisputable is that a mob consisting of residents from the nearby Muslim locality of Signal Falia, as well as individuals who might have run after the train from the station, stoned S-6. Several passengers also testified that burning rags were flung at the coach.

…If the eyewitness testimony is correct and no one from the mob boarded the train to pour petrol or any other flammable liquid, how did the fire start? Could the burning rags have ignited the fire, a possibility that the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) report discounts? And what accounts for the thick, black, acrid smoke which many S-6 passengers remember more than the fire? Is there a design flaw in the construction of Indian railcars that makes them fire prone? Was some flammable material already present in the coach, like gas or kerosene, which caught fire inadvertently? Was there an agent provocateur on board bent on causing maximum damage?

Instead of asking these questions, the SIT is insisting on going ahead with its conspiracy theory. Even if a POTA court convicts many of those accused — on the basis of confessions by approvers such as Zabir bin Yamin Behra — of taking part in the attack on S-6, if not being part of the “jihadi conspiracy,” the overall evidence is so contradictory that these convictions are likely to get vacated on appeal.”

Thus he refused to blame Muslims for Godhra and said: “Two years on, the police cannot offer a credible account of how coach S-6 caught fire” as if that is was unknown, while it was clear that Muslims set it afire, and he insulted the dead karsewaks by calling them as ‘ticketless travellers’.

Besides, he lied that 2000 Muslims were killed in the post-Godhra riots, exaggerating the numbers to more than double, and as if no Hindu was killed while more than 250 Hindus also died even after Godhra. See the desperate mental gymnastics tried to be played by Varadarajan here, to somehow refuse to accept that Muslims burnt the train. The police of course offer a credible account of how coach S-6 caught fire-Muslims poured petrol in the coach and then set it afire & surrounded the train from all sides to prevent the Ram sewaks from escaping. The only one who cannot offer a credible account of how the coach caught fire is Varadarajan, who simply cannot accept that Muslims burnt the train, though he accepts that they stoned the train.

In January 2005, the Banerjee Committee appointed by Lalu Yadav gave its interim report on Godhra, and as expected whitewashed the heinous crime of Muslims by resorting to malicious lies, calling it an ‘accident’ without explaining why the Ram sewaks did not run out of the train if the fire was accidental, if there was no mob of Muslims surrounding the train. This Lalu appointed committee’s report was used by Lalu in the Bihar Assembly elections in January-February 2005. Lalu Yadav and his party RJD went to an extent to which even U C Banerjee did not go. He campaigned in Bihar in public rallies saying “BJP-RSS men burnt 59 to coal in Godhra, accused Muslims of doing so.” (Of course, karma hit Lalu, and he could never win Bihar again after that. In 2015 he won with JD(U) support, but that government lasted only 1 and half years, and his party could not get the Chief Minister’s post, which went to Nitish Kumar.)

Lalu realized the backfiring of his whitewashing the Godhra carnage, and hence kept quiet when the final report of the Banerjee Committee came in 2006. (“Railway Minister Lalu Prasad has this time around refused to comment, saying he would make his comment only after studying the report”- Outlook in March 2006) At that time, the whole UPA backed Lalu, after this report of Banerjee, CPI (M) leader H S Surjeet openly said that this shows that Muslims did not burn the train in Godhra, etc. The Congress Party fully supported Banerjee’s report.

Lalu did so in a heinous crime like Godhra, and Lalu is a media hero even today, there is and was no outrage in any of the ‘seculars’ for Lalu doing this. In fact, there was only relief and gratitude to Lalu for having whitewashed the heinous crime of Muslims. Papers like The Tribune and journalists like Khushwant Singh supported the claim of U C Banerjee and said it was an accident.

After the release of the Banerjee report on 17 January 2005, on 23 Jan 2005 Siddharth Varadarajan wrote in The Hindu:

“Nevertheless, the burden of evidence gathered so far definitely does not seem to support the pre-planned conspiracy theory of the police. Mr. Justice Banerjee and the Hazards Centre experts aver that the fire was most likely caused by an accident, though there is no doubting the fact that coach S-6 was stoned by an angry mob.

That there was an accidental fire at the same time an angry mob was throwing stones from outside might seem like something of a coincidence. Perhaps it was the panic induced by the stoning which made an accident more likely — a half-smoked cigarette thrown down carelessly, a stove used for making tea not turned off properly.

By now all narratives agree that a fracas broke out on the platform between aggressive karsevaks and Muslim vendors. A Muslim girl was molested by them.”

Siddharth Varadarajan, thus, again refused to blame Muslims for Godhra despite knowing fully well that it could not have been anything but pre-planned. He again slandered the dead karsewaks by alleging that they ‘molested a Muslim girl’, and ignored completely that 15 children and 25 women were among the killed people, including babies and toddlers. Varadarajan further lied that there could have been a stove used for making tea which could have set the fire. This is nonsense and third-class lies. The coach was so crowded that there was no space for any cooking. This was mentioned by survivors. Outlook reported in March 2006 when the final report of the Banerjee committee came:

“…Gayatri Panchal, a resident of Ahmedabad, who survived the incident on February 27, 2002, but lost both her parents in her reaction to the report has said, “The report of the Banerjee Commission is absolutely wrong. I have seen everything with my own eyes and barely escaped myself but lost both my parents.”

Panchal, who has three sisters, said the Banerjee Commission report was not correct as the fire could not have been accidental as no one was cooking in the S-6 coach and it was packed with passengers.“Mobs pelted stones at the coach for long and then threw in burning rags and also poured some inflammable material so that the coach was on fire. I will maintain the same wherever I am called to depose on the matter,” Panchal said.”

This was not the first time that Varadarajan did so, he wrote similar articles in August 2004 in The Hindu and in Outlook. Want to know what Varadarajan reported on the actual days of the violence?

In the 1st  March 2002 issue of The Times of India,  Siddharth Varadarajan wrote,

“While official enquiry will establish the extent to which the attack on the Sabarmati Express was pre-meditated, there can be no doubt about the planned nature of the violence directed against Gujarat’s Muslims on Thursday (28th February)”.

See how much he lies. While it is obvious to anyone with any common sense and intellectual honesty that the Godhra carnage was a well-planned one, with petrol bought in cans one night before, the mob was ready and waiting, Varadarajan says  that it is “official enquiry” which will decide whether the attack on karsevaks was pre-meditated or not. But when it comes to violent reaction of Hindus on 28th February, he takes it in his own hands to pass a judgment that the attacks by the Hindus on Gujarat’s Muslims were “pre-planned” in nature. Obviously, what had been a heinous well-planned crime (of Godhra) was not called a ‘planned’ one, while what had been a clear spontaneous reaction was condemned as a ‘pre-planned’ one. Because their minds can only think: “Hindus provoke, Muslims suffer.”

This news report was carried just two days after the Godhra carnage. The gruesome murders of the karsevaks is mentioned only once in the 450-plus word report and rest of the report is full of gory descriptions of how the Muslims are being brutally killed in the aftermath.

It is very necessary to bring out these writings of these self-styled secularists, so that people can see through their game of whitewashing Muslim fanaticism in the Delhi 2020 riots now. The Godhra carnage is the biggest evidence of the heartless inhumanity of these Leftists, their support to heinous killers, blaming of innocent victims including babies and toddlers, resorting to all sorts of mental gymnastics and outrageous lies to defend the indefensible. Once their acts on the Godhra carnage are understood, all their lies on whitewashing of Muslim fanaticism can be understood easily, not just on 2020 Delhi riots, but in all other cases, such as 1921 Moplah riots, 1946 Direct Action Day killings, 1971 East Pakistan genocide, 1990 Kashmir ethnic cleansing of Pandits, 1990 Hyderabad riots, 1993 Mumbai riots, 2002 Solapur riots, etc.

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Author of the book “Gujarat Riots: The True Story” which gives all the details about the 2002 Gujarat riots - Godhra and thereafter.
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