Haunted forever by images of death

Panchal sisters lost a prime part of their youth struggling to cope with a tragedy that had befallen them. Gayatri Panchal was 16 when she was travelling in the S-6 coach of Sabarmati Express with her two sisters and parents on February 27, 2002. Tragedy struck when the train was attacked. In the inferno, she lost all her family members who were travelling with her. She somehow scrambled out alive.

After going through the traumatic moments, Gayatri was brought back to her home in Ahmedabad where three other sisters were waiting for the family members to come back. With none to fall back upon, the four sisters had to go through agonising times. Gayatri not only had to live with the haunting memories of the past but also an uncertain future.

“It was like a nightmare. I saw my parents and younger sisters die in that carnage. At home my sisters were waiting for us to return. Just didn’t understand what was happening. My eldest sister Komal is barely a year elder to me. And the remaining two sisters much younger,” recounts Gayatri. Komal got married recently while Gayatri is studying law. The sisters haven’t been following the trial in the case but believe harshest punishment should be given to those convicted. “We do realise that nothing is going to get us back our parents and sisters, but at least a harsh punishment can send a signal that such heinous acts will not be tolerated,” says Gayatri.

Some distance away, Sardar Vaghela battles a lack of a sense of justice. He lost his son Rajesh in the carnage, who left behind a young wife and a six-year-old son. He feels aggrieved by the acquittals claiming that all the accused should have been punished. And like Gayatri, he also believes that the harshest punishment should be handed down to those convicted. “We know how we have spent the last nine years. We have been financially crippled and continue to suffer.”

Another victim Bharat Panchal is happy that the verdict has been delivered and some found guilty. He believes that the conviction could bring in a sense of closure for those impacted by the incident. “The punishment could mean we could move on with our lives,” says Bharat, who lost his wife, Jyoti, in the carnage.

Ghosts of Godhra linger

Issues arising from verdict

Law prevailed, justice denied

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