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Tehelka versus Nanavati Commission report

Tehelka versus Nanavati Commission report

Publication: The Hoot
Date: October 1, 2008
URL: http://www.thehoot.org/web/home/story.php?storyid=3366&pg=1&mod=1&sectionId=1&valid=true

They refuted the Nanavati Report with their sting camera footage, much of which had already been shown in November last year on Aaj Tak. But DIPU SHAW finds holes in Tehelka's version.

Two days after the Nanavati-Shah Commission gave a clean cheat to Narendra Modi, Tehelka organized a press conference to publicly deny the claims of the Commission. The latest issue of the weekly magazine also rebuts the Nanavati Report in great detail.

The Nanavati Commission had submitted the first part of its report on Godhra to Chief Minister Narendra Modi on 18th September, 2008. The report was tabled in the assembly a week later.

The Nanavati Commission findings state that the burning of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002 was "a pre-planned conspiracy, not a spontaneous act of mob fury." It makes it plain that 140 litres of petrol was procured from a nearby petrol pump certified by Ranjitsingh Patel and Prabhatsingh Patel, two attendants at the petrol pump. This was then used to burn Coach S-6, the subsequent day.

The magazine labeled the Nanavati report as "extremely controversial" and called its findings a "manufactured theory".

Tehelka, which claims to have conducted an exhaustive investigation in 2007 on the Godhra incident raised questions about the authenticity of the Nanavati Report at a press conference at Women's Press Club recently and also does so in its latest issue.

Tarun Tejpal, editor in chief of Tehelka and his team of investigative journalists however had nothing new to offer. They refuted the Nanavati Report with their sting camera footage, much of which had already been shown in November last year on Aaj Tak.

Tarun Tejpal accuses the Godhra police of "staging this conspiracy" while he calls the outburst "a spontaneous action" in the latest issue of his weekly magazine. He claims that his team investigated to find out that the attendants of the petrol pump were bribed to say that they had sold 140 litres of petrol to Muslim hawkers. And that Tehelka has even caught Ranjitsingh Patel on sting camera "admitting that the chief investigating officer had paid him and Prabhatsingh Patel Rs 50,000 each to falsely identify some Muslims as conspirators."

The camera footage that Tehelka showed at Women's Press Club and also distributed to other media persons recently in support of their argument however does not make the editor's claims clear.

The latest issue of the weekly magazine details their argument how the Nanavati Commission report is "manufactured".

The Tehelka version of the story

The Sabarmati Express carrying many karsevaks arrives at the Godhra station at 7.43 am on 27 February, 2002. At first there is a minor feud between few karsevaks and a tea vendor over payment of money for the tea that they had bought.

Then one karsevak tries to abduct a Muslim girl from the platform. This leads to rumours that Muslims have been abducted and taken aboard the train. The feud gets bitter and ends with the burning of coach S-6.

When I asked Tarun Tejpal how such a huge crowd assembled at the station in such short interval and how did they manage the inflammatory material to set the coach on fire, he did not have a convincing answer. (It must be remembered that the train had first stopped for only about five minutes at the station when the crowd had gathered).

"Throw a stone at somebody and see how many people assemble," said the veteran journalist in his defence.

Within five minutes a mob of "more than 1000 Muslims had gathered and started pelting stones at the train," (according to Tehelka's own reports) seems an a bit unconvincing. Since Tehelka puts the outburst as spontaneous, prior preparations for the burning or assemblage of the crowd was out of question.

Loopholes in the story

The report by Ashish Ketan (Manufacturing a Conspiracy, Cover Story, Tehelka, Saturday 11 Oct, 2008) quotes few of the passengers in the Sabarmati Express to prove the same point - that there was a quarrel between the karsevaks and tea vendor at the station. A minor feud over the price of few cups of tea (only few karsevaks had bought tea) definitely does not lead to the burning of a train.

The other and more important argument that the report gives is that one of the karsevaks had tried to abduct a Muslim girl. The report however does not provide any evidence. It is unlikely that no one in the station saw this incident though they saw the small feud between a tea vendor and the few karsevaks. The "ordinary passengers (not the karsevaks)" travelling in the Sabarmati Express who are otherwise incessantly quoted to testify that there was feud between a tea vendor and few karsevaks and that there was stone pelting do not bear testimony to the attempted abduction of a Muslim girl which is likely to grab more eyeballs.

The report also quotes the Muslim girl, Sophia Bano. She says that she was caught by one man from behind but was left as soon as her mother raised an alarm - An incident which is not testified by anyone else. But raised such hue and cry that a mob of 1000 Muslims gathered instantaneously.

Both these incidents (the tea vendor feud and the attempted abduction) took place within four minutes (between 7.43 am and 7.47 am) according to Tehelka's own cover story report and its graphical illustration of the events. And within the same time interval the huge mob of 1000 Muslims had gathered.

The report disputes the use of any inflammatory material for the burning of Coach S-6 because the eyewitnesses that the Nanavati Commission has are the karsevaks. The forensic reports in this case will be of greater help than mere claims of those who "did not see the inflammable material."

Eyewitnesses absent ?

Kakul Pathak, media cell convenor of the BJP in Godhra and Murli Mulchandani, the vice-president of the Godhra Municipal Corporation were two of the key eyewitnesses for the police. Tehelka claimed that it caught both of them admitting on camera that they were not even present at the station on the day of the incident. The video that was shown to the media persons in support of this argument, also there on the website, was however too unclear to deduce anything from it. The rest of the videos that had the other eyewitnesses "admitting that they were not present at the scene of the incident," were out of sync. It made it difficult to deduce anything from it.

Tarun Tejpal when asked why the video was out of sync, reasoned that it was captured by hidden cameras and the Tehelka team "only showed what they had investigated". He further added that "we are a group of only four or five reporters who are committed to truth."

Justice Nanavati is after money?

Tehelka claims that Justice Nanavati is after money as told to its "undercover reporter by Gujarat Government's Special Prosecutor, Arvind Pandya". One must remember that it is the same justice Nanavati who inquired into the anti- Sikh violence following the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi in 1984. On the basis of the Nanavati report, two Congress leaders, Mr Sajjan Kumar and Mr Jagadish Tytler were put in the dock. Mr Tytler was even forced to resign from the Union Government.

- Contact: conciusdipu@gmail.com

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