Fourteen years after a frenzied mob torched a coach of Sabarmati Express train at Godhra station, killing 59 kar sevaks, the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) today arrested Farooq Mohammad Bhana, a key accused in the carnage that sparked riots in the state.
Based on a specific tip-off, an ATS team nabbed Bhana at a toll plaza near Kalol town of Panchmahal district when he was coming to Godhra from Mumbai to meet his son, Inspector General (IG) of ATS J K Bhatt told a press conference here.
According to Bhatt, 55-year-old Bhana was one of the key accused who allegedly hatched the conspiracy to burn the S6 coach of the train at Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.
Primary investigation has revealed that Bhana went to Pakistan, probably using a fake passport, after the incident and then came back to India ten years ago and started living in Andheri(East) suburb of Mumbai.
“Bhana was on the run since 2002. He was a corporator of Polan-Bazar area of Godhra when the incident took place. It is alleged that on the night of February 26, Bhana and others held a meeting at Aman Guest house near the railway station as part of their conspiracy to set ablaze the S6 coach of the train,” said Bhatt.
During the meeting, Bhana communicated a specific instruction of Maulana Husain Umerji to set ablaze the S6 coach, for which, other co-accused collected 140 litres of petrol from a nearby petrol pump and stored it inside the guest house, said Bhatt.
Maulana Umerji, who was arrested as the alleged mastermind behind the incident, was later released, as no concrete evidence was found against him during the trial.
“Those who attended the meeting include one Salim Panwala, who used to do black marketing in railway tickets, guest house owner Abdul Razak and another corporator Bilal Haji among others. As decided in the meeting, the coach was set ablaze by a mob of around 1,000 at platform no.1 at around 7:45 AM,” said Bhatt.
59 kar sevaks, who were returning from Ayodhya, had lost their lives when the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express was set ablaze at Godhra Railway Station, which triggered large scale riots in the state in which around 1,000 people, mostly of minority community, were killed.