Sabarmati Express carnage: Key accused held after 14 years

AHMEDABAD,MAHESH LANGA:A key accused in the Godhra train burning case of 2002, Farooq Bhana, who was on the run for more than 14 years, has been arrested by Gujarat Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS). Mr. Bhana is accused as one of the masterminds of the ghastly attack on Sabarmati Express in which 59 Hindu activists returning from Ayodhya charred to death when a train bogey was set on fire.

The inside of the S6 coach of the Sabarmati Express.

The incident had triggered widespread communal riots in the state in which over 1,200 people were killed in 2002. The accused was arrested on his way from Mumbai to Godhra. In Mumbai, he worked as a property dealer after he disappeared from Godhra where he was also a municipal councilor in the local civic body.

Mr. Bhana would be handed over to the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT), which probed the case as per the Supreme Court’s instance.

According to an ATS official, Farooq Mohammad Bhana was one of the key accused, who hatched the conspiracy to burn the train at Godhra Railway Station on February 27, 2002.

“Based on a tip-off, we nabbed Bhana at a toll plaza near Kalol town of Panchmahal district when he was going to Godhra from Mumbai,” thr ATS official added.

In the FIR, Mr. Bhana was charged with conspiracy to set the S6 coach on fire during a meeting with other accused, at the Aman Guest House near Godhra Railway Station.

Along with another councilor, Bilal Haji, he allegedly instructed others to set the train coach S6 on fire.

In February 2011, the trial court convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others, holding that incident as a “pre-planned conspiracy.”

The death penalty was awarded to 11 convicts; those believed to have been present at a meeting held the night before the incident where the conspiracy was hatched, and those who, according to the court, had actually entered the coach and poured petrol before setting it afire. Twenty others were sentenced to life imprisonment.