The Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) today arrested Farooq Mohammad Bhana, alleged to be the main conspirator of the Godhra train burning case who was absconding since the incident in 2002.
On the morning of February 27 2002, 59 people died in a fire inside the Sabarmati Express train near Godhra railway station. The victims were mainly Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya where they attended an event held by the VHP at the disputed Babri Masjid site.
According to ATS officials, Bhana was a corporator in Godhra when the incident took place. To evade arrest, he then moved to Mumbai where he became a property broker.
"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 today. He was the key conspirator of Godhra carnage," an ATS official said.
In the FIR, Bhana was charged with conspiracy to put the S-6 coach on fire during a meeting with others accused at the Aman Guest House near Godhra Railway Station.
He, along with another corporator Bilal Haji, allegedly instructed the others accused to put the train coach on fire as per the instruction received from Maulana Umerji, who was arrested as a mastermind behind the incident but was later released.
A court had convicted 31 Muslims for the incident and conspiracy for the crime, although the actual cause of the fire is yet to be proven conclusively.
An inquiry commission headed by Justice Nanavati was set up by Gujarat government to investigate the train burning. It concluded six years later in 2008 that the fire was arson committed by a mob of about 2000 people.
Later, another commission under Justice UC Banerjee appointed by the Centre stated that the fire was an accident. The panel was later held to be unconstitutional by the court.
The Godhra train burning is perceived to be the trigger for the violence that followed in which nearly 1000 Muslims were killed while Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat.