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Thursday, 28 February, 2002, 11:08 GMT
Eyewitness: Indian train attack
Victims
The are real fears of an upsurge of communal violence
Survivors of Wednesday's massacre on a train carrying Hindu activists from the disputed holy site of Ayodhya back to Gujarat have been struggling to come to terms with the aftermath.


Someone pulled me out of the compartment and then I saw my father's body being taken out. He was covered in black.

Sixteen-year-old Gayatri Panchal
And in Gujarat itself, angry Hindus seeking revenge have gone on the rampage, attacking and looting Muslim businesses.

Feelings in the city of Ahmedabad are reported to be running very high and the police imposed a curfew in some areas.

"There is a fire inside us. Our blood is boiling," said Mangal Behn, a resident of the Hindu quarter of the old city.

Fears are now mounting of a repeat of the nationwide rioting that flared in 1992 after Hindu hardliners tore down the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, vowing to replace it with a temple.

Train horror

Shocked survivors of the train attack are trying to come to terms with what happened.

Sixteen-year-old Gayatri Panchal saw her father and two sisters die in front of here after the attack.

"We were sleeping and I opened my eyes when I felt the heat. I saw flames everywhere. My mother was in flames, her clothes were on fire," she said.

She said someone pulled her out of the compartment - but it was too late to save her father whose blackened body was pulled out later.

When Neelkanth Bhatia boarded the Sabarmati Express on Wednesday morning, he had no idea of the horrors that lay ahead.

Mr Bhadia and his fellow passengers - mostly Hindu activists - were travelling from Ayodhya to Gujarat, when a stone-throwing mob attacked the train, leaving over 50 people dead.


I saw people putting their hands and heads through the windows trying to escape. It was a horrible sight

Rakesh Kimani, eyewitness
"The train stopped at Godhra station. Somebody pulled the chain and forced it to stop," said Mr Bhatia.

"People started throwing stones at the train. The attack continued for 30-45 minutes. Then they set it on fire - I don't know how."

"None of us could get out of the train and run, as the attackers were continuously throwing stones."

Some managed to escape with minor injuries. Mr Rhadia was one of the lucky ones.

"I put my head out of the window and then jumped after breaking one of the window rails," he said. "My trousers caught fire, and my legs have been burnt."

'Huge ball of fire'

But many others were not so lucky. "We've been through hell. We still don't know the fate of many passengers who were with us," said Sanjay Kumar.

Sections of the train quickly became an inferno, and hours after the attack police were still pulling charred bodies from the blackened carriages.

"I heard screams for help as I came out of the house. I saw a huge ball of fire," said Rakesh Kimani, who lives near the scene.

A police officer examines a wrecked carriage
Four carriages were set alight by the mob
"I saw people putting their hands and heads through the windows trying to escape. It was a horrible sight," he said.

The exact cause of the attack is unknown, although witnesses claim the attackers were Muslims angry at Hindu nationalist chants coming from the train.

Many of the passengers were Hindu activists, travelling from Ayodhya after lending their support to a controversial plan to build a temple at the site of a 16th century Muslim mosque.

Most of the activists were headed for the train's last stop, Ahmadabad.

When they eventually arrived in Ahmadabad, the passengers were met by a crowd of 2,000 chanting Hindu nationalists, who condemned the attackers.

Anxious relatives were among the crowd. Leelaben had come to the station to look for her 25-year-old son, Prahlad Dhobhi. She broke down in tears when he did not get off the train.

"I am praying that he's safe," she said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Satish Jacob
"All the bodies had been very badly burnt"
The BBC's Jill McGivering
"The death toll is rising"
Dileep Padgoanjar, Times of India
"The problem in Ayodhya has to be settled in the courts or through dialogue"
See also:

26 Feb 02 | South Asia
Vajpayee firm on Ayodhya
25 Feb 02 | South Asia
Militants converge on Ayodhya
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