Godhra, 1984 Sikh riots similar: Nanavati
NEW DELHI: Throwing light on an important aspect of the Gujarat riots, Justice G T Nanavati, heading the inquiry commission into it, on Tuesday said the mob behaviour at Godhra and other places in Gujarat appears to be similar to the one witnessed during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“The behaviour of the mob at Godhra during the carnage in February this year and that during the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi appears to be similar,” said Justice Nanavati, who is also heading the one-man commission to probe into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The commission is expected to start from November 20 recording of evidence of the passengers who were travelling on the Sabarmati Express on the day of the incident, the retired Supreme Court judge said.
At least 58 people, including 25 women and 15 children, were killed and 43 others injured when a violent mob set on fire four coaches of the Sabarmati Express carrying Ram sevaks from Ayodhya on February 27.
Asked about the progress made in the inquiry into the riots, Justice Nanavati said, “Extensive work has been done and sufficient evidence has been collected in regard to the Godhra incident.”
“We have examined officials from the railway, the Railway Protection Force, local administration and the police. We need to examine the passengers of the train and after such examination the gathering of evidence would be complete,” he said.
Asked whether the witnesses faced any kind of threat or difficulty in expressing their views before the commission, Justice Nanavati said it was more an apprehension entertained by the media.
“The recording of evidence is going on absolutely peacefully and there is no threat of any kind to any witness for coming to give his evidence,” he said adding, “Wherever required, the commission will provide adequate protection to the witnesses.”
“If at all any witness has any fear in coming forward to give evidence, he can give his statement in confidence,” he said.
The commission, also comprising retired Gujarat High Court Judge Justice K G Shah, has divided its work into three categories - relating to the Godhra carnage, the riots in Ahmedabad and the riots in other parts of the state.
The commission decided to deal with the incidents which took place in Ahmedabad last due to the high number of incidents that took place there in the aftermath of the Godhra attack, Justice Nanavati said.
Asked what was his prima facie opinion on the evidence collected so far, the former apex court Judge said, “It will be improper to give any prima facie opinion till the inquiry is completed.”
He said all concerned, including the government, was cooperating in the work of the commission and “any opinion regarding negligence or lack of effort on the part of the authorities during the riots can only be found out after careful scrutiny of all the material and evidences.”
Giving six more months for completion of the work of the commission, Justice Nanavati said two to three months would be required to probe into the incidents of riots across the state and a similar period would be required for the incidents in Ahmedabad.
“We will record the evidence of those who can throw light on the incident and the manner in which it happended. It is not necessary for us to meet the politicians,” he added.
Asked whether the public hearings of the commission would go on during the election period, Justice Nanavati said the election period and the work of the commission do not affect each other and hence, the work of the commission would go on.
The commission hoped to complete the recording of evidence with respect to Godhra incident within a month’s time, he added.
He said one major handicap with all commissions of inquiry was that people do not easily come forward to give evidence on their own. —PTI