The Telegraph 17 November 2003
Togadia fumes as Godhra victim kin stay away
Ahmedabad, Nov. 16: What was supposed to be a prayer meeting, organised by the VHP for Godhra victims, ended with Praveen Togadia lashing out at the minority community.
The meeting, at the outfit’s headquarters this evening, came two days after the Railway Claims Tribunal ordered compensation to families of 34 Godhra victims.
But conspicuous by their absence were the families of Girish Rawal and four others from Janata Nagar Ramol who had recently lashed out at the VHP’s “hate politics’’. They have filed a case against the outfit.
Eighty-two-year-old Rawal lost his wife in the train carnage of February 27, 2002, and his son, who was the president of a VHP unit in Janata Nagar, in the riots that followed. Rawal has filed a petition in the Supreme Court asking for all riot cases to be transferred outside Gujarat.
The families kept away from the meeting to show their resentment towards the manner in which the VHP treated them.
“They dumped us. We were left to fend for ourselves,” an angry Bharat Panchal, who like Rawal chose to keep away from the prayer meeting, said.
VHP general secretary Togadia, obviously irked by their absence, had an explanation ready. “Dr Girish Rawal has fallen prey to a Muslim conspiracy,” he said.
As for the “conspiracy”, Togadia blamed Mumbai-based human rights activist, Teesta Setalvad. He said Setalvad, “who has married a Muslim man”, was behind the “conspiracy” to malign the VHP. The best way to do this was to brainwash the family members of the Godhra victims and that is what she has done in Rawal’s case, he alleged.
Togadia also put an international angle to this “conspiracy”, saying that the effort to malign the VHP was being financed by the Arab world. Money was being pumped in from there to give legal assistance to set the Godhra accused and conspirators free and get innocent VHP workers punished, he said.
Till midnight, a group of VHP workers tried to persuade Rawal and the family members of other Godhra victims to attend the prayer meeting. “They tried every trick but I told them nothing doing. I have made up my mind. Now I know you guys,’’ Panchal claimed to have told the VHP workers who came to his house after 18 months.
“They reminded us that it was because of the efforts of the VHP that we will be getting compensation from the railways,” Panchal said. “Are you so ungrateful?” he was asked.
When VHP workers requested Rawal to attend the prayer meeting, he asked them why they had not bothered to visit his house when they seemed so concerned about his son’s death.
Togadia has now instructed VHP workers to oppose any plea to transfer riot cases outside Gujarat and ensure that Teesta Setalvad does not enter the state.
The VHP leader has also ordered his workers not to speak to reporters, especially he said those of the English-language press, as they were opposed to the VHP and may be working for Setalvad.
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