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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 January 2005, 13:44 GMT
Indian papers ask train fire questions
Godhra train
The train fire was the trigger for state-wide riots
Indian newspapers reflect the controversy whipped up by the inquiry into the 2002 train fire that killed 59 Hindus and triggered religious riots in Gujarat state.

Papers say the truth about what caused the fire has become clouded by cynical political partisanship after the investigation's findings were made public this week.

The investigation, ordered by the federal railway minister, said the fire at Godhra was accidental.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is in power in Gujarat, has always said the train was deliberately set on fire by a Muslim mob.

The Indian Express said the truth about the train fire "continues to be held hostage to politics".

The newspaper called the latest investigation report a "mixed blessing".

"The [report] probably has raised enough questions to cast doubts on some of the wilder conspiracy theorists that surrounded Godhra," the paper said in an editorial.

But the newspaper wondered why there was an "unseemly haste" to reveal its "interim" findings.

The paper also wondered why the findings were announced ahead of a key state election involving political leaders involved with and mentioned in the investigation.

The Hindustan Times also found the timing of the report "suspicious".

But the paper said that the report was important for it "has firmly placed the possibility of an accident into the public debate of what still remains a mystery".

The Asian Age called the report "good work".

"It is imperative, however, to ensure that the findings of the [report] are not reduced to political rubble but are taken on board as the basis for further investigations into not just the carnage, but the pogrom that followed," the newspaper said.

The Pioneer, however, was scathing about the report.

Referring to the report's findings that the train was not set alight by a mob, the paper says it is hard to believe the passengers developed "a collective suicidal urge and immolated themselves".

The paper says "fatal, mass self-hypnosis would appear to be the only conclusion", if the "bizarre" report is taken to its logical conclusion.

The Hindu said that the "substantive logic of the report can be commented upon only when it is made public".

"While a murderous conspiracy cannot still be ruled out, it does seem, on the basis of what we know so far, that the Gujarat government is barking up the wrong tree," the newspaper said.

The Hindustan Times' editorial 'Charred by politics' is less sure.

In the end, it says: "All this suggests that it may never be possible to determine the entire truth."

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