Islamic Terrorism in India

Most Muslims are not terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims

Two Godhra accused in Pak, say they want to return home

Posted by jagoindia on August 6, 2008

Two Godhra accused in Pak, say they want to return home
Saurav Kumar, August 05, 2008, Indian Express

Gujarat Cases Speaking to The Indian Express from Karachi, Paanwala and Ibrahim deny charges; they are being sheltered there, say police

Vadodara, August 4: At least two accused in the 2002 Godhra train burning case, who have been evading arrest, are now in Pakistan.

The Indian Express managed to speak to Salim Ibrahim Badam alias Paanwala, against whom there is an Interpol alert, and Ibrahim Dhantiya alias Kachuka in Karachi.

While police sources say that Paanwala and others enjoy patronage in Karachi, they deny it. When contacted, their families in Godhra claimed they have not been not in touch.

But a source said: “By now they have Pakistani passports and IDs. Getting a Pakistani passport is easy. Fleeing to Pakistan was a panic reaction but they know that if they come back, the police here won’t spare them.”

Rakesh Asthana, then the Baroda Range IG and in-charge of the Special Investigation team probing the Godhra train incident, says: “If they are in Karachi, then it proves what we have been saying all the time. Unfortunately, we cannot do anything there, it is up to the government in Pakistan now.” Police officials also say more red-corner notices can be issued if substantive information comes from Karachi.

“I want to come back tomorrow but they (police) will not leave me,” Paanwala told The Indian Express over phone from Karachi.

“Pakistan is a dangerous place. You have guns and cartridges available everywhere. I want to come back but I will not get justice,” said Ibrahim Dhantiya.

Gujarat police have long suspected that Paanwala and some others in the Godhra train burning case had fled to Pakistan. Paanwala, who used to have a paan shop near the Godhra railway station and would sell gutkha on trains, was named by the police in the chargesheet as one of the main conspirators who planned the fire that burnt coach S-6 of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002.

Like all 141 accused in the train burning case, Paanwala was booked under POTA. Speaking from Karachi, he said: “I had nothing to do with the train burning incident. I am being hunted for no reason. The police at that time were making anybody forcibly say anything in an affidavit. I did not have any other way (except run away).”

When a permanent arrest warrant was issued against him in 2004, Paanwala decided to flee to Pakistan. “I moved around the country, often begging on the streets of different cities. Then in 2005, I decided to go to Pakistan,” he said.

The Gujarat police suspected that Paanwala fled to Pakistan by going to Afghanistan and then crossed over. But Paanwala had a different version. “I went to Delhi, lived there for 15 days, took a visa and went to Pakistan. I crossed the border at Attari by train. Check the records there and you will find my name,” he said.

Ibrahim, a small-time trader, claimed he, too, took the same route. “Which coach have I burnt? I have done nothing. My enemies trapped me in a false affidavit,” he said.

Ibrahim said he went to Pakistan on an Indian passport visa-stamped by the Pakistani consulate in Delhi in August 2004. Both Paanwala and Ibrahim claimed they knew four other Godhra accused were in Karachi but pleaded ignorance on their whereabouts.

In Karachi, they said, life had been tough. In an irony of sorts, Paanwala now works as a labour in a timber yard and Ibrahim sells gutkha.

Paanwala said: “I earn around Rs 5,000 with difficulty. I pay Rs 2,000 rent here. Karachi is more expensive than Bombay. My visa has expired and I leave almost under hiding here.”

Paanwala has three children and his wife works as a maid, cleaning dishes, to make ends meet. “I couldn’t even come for my daughter’s wedding last year,” he said.

Ibrahim said: “The day Godhra happened I was on my way to Kandla port. I used to be a scrap-dealer there. I came back 10 days after the incident.” He has six children. “One of my sons wanted to study but now I can’t fund his education. He is in Class XI and wants to be an engineer.” His eldest son, 23, supports the family by working as a truck-cleaner. — With Anupam Chakravartty

What’s the case against them

• Main chargesheet in Godhra train burning case filed on May 23, 2002; 16 supplementary chargesheets later

• Of 141 accused, 106 arrested, four died, rest absconding

• Chargesheet names Paanwala as member of ‘core group’ that also had Maulvi Umerji, Razzak Kurkur, Bilal Haji, Farooq Bana. It is alleged they met at Aman Guest House in Godhra on February 26 to plan the attack on karsevaks returning by Sabarmati Express the next day

• Maulvi Umerji and Razzak Kurkur arrested, Bana and Paanwala are absconding

• Police made futile bid to arrest Paanwala from Fatema mosque in Godhra on February 18, 2004. They had shoes on as they tried to enter the mosque. This led to a clash with people there. Paanwala escaped, not seen since then

• Ibrahim has been charged with murder, acts of terror under POTA

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