(This interview appeared on March 12, 2002)
It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots
Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad
In a startling revelation, Professor Keshavram Kashiram
Shastri, 96-year-old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the Vishwa Hindu
Parishad, told rediff.com that the list of shops owned by Muslims
in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself.
Shastri was replying to an allegation that shops in
Ahmedabad were looted on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in
advance and that the violence was not a spontaneous outburst against the
carnage in Godhra.
A scholar of the Mahabharat and a highly respected
literary figure of Gujarat, Shastri said in a tape-recorded interview, "In
the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in
Asked why they did it, he responded, "Karvun j pade,
karvun j pade (it had to be done, it had to be done). We donít like
it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind." He said the
rioters were "kelvayela Hindu chokra" (well-bred Hindu boys).
He said there were two reasons for the inactivity of
the Ahmedabad police during the rioting. "They feared death," he said
simply. "And some of them were Hindus who thought, let the mob do whatever
He agreed that the atmosphere in the city now is so
charged that if he were to go to the Muslim-dominated Kalupur area of
Ahmedabad, he would not come back alive.
He admitted that people had been burnt, mosques razed,
and shops looted, but argued that all that had been done in a "frenzy".
Shastri agreed that violence was not the answer to
violence, but remarked, "These things [non-violence] look good in
the shastras. Our boys were charged because in Godhra women and
children were burnt alive. The crowd was spontaneous. All of them were not
VHP people. The Waghri community (a scheduled caste) didnít even know the
victims of Godhra, but they have done an amazing job! They are not our
members. In villages all these people who were angry are not our people.
They are angry because Hindutva was attacked. This is an outburst,
a tremendous outburst that will be difficult to roll back."
He said the situation could get aggravated and bigger
riots were possible. "There will be a war," he said. "So much poison has
spread that itís difficult o contain it now."
Asked how he, a scholar and a litterateur, could
condone innocents being burnt alive, he remarked, "The youngsters have
done even those things which we donít like. We donít support it. But we
canít condemn it because they are our boys. If my daughter does something,
will I condemn it?
"We donít believe that the boys have done something
wrong, because this was the result of an outburst. But we do feel that
they should not have gone so far. But thatís an afterthought. We needed to
do something. Itís said that snakes that are not poisonous should keep the
enemy away by hissing once in a while."
He agreed that in Hindu philosophy, such actions are
sinful, "but itís done! Now we should work for peace. Because India canít
afford such disturbances."
The Ahmedabad police have so far arrested 977 persons
on charges of rioting, looting, burning and killing people in response to
first information reports filed by the victims and relatives of the dead.
According to the police, the search for looted goods
has been quite successful. In many colonies and slums, looted stuff has
been found abandoned on the roads by rioters fearful of being caught.
According to a police source, a legislator in Ahmedabad
has sought police protection because the relatives of those arrested have
been nagging him day and night to get them out.
A senior police officer told rediff.com that the
arrested boys are now blaming local leaders and saffron activists. "Our
boys did it because the mobs and leaders supported it. Now how can you
arrest them?" say the relatives of the rioters.
According to Shastri , "The VHP has formed a panel of
50 lawyers to help release the arrested people accused of rioting and
looting. None of the lawyers will charge any fees because they believe in
the RSS ideology."