Why is Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) International President Pravin Togadia fearful for his life in BJP-ruled Gujarat? This million rupee puzzle is defying an answer as the sequence of events that unfolded in the second fortnight of January indicate something amiss in the saffron brotherhood.
VHP leader Dr Pravin Togadia mysteriously disappeared on January 15 from the VHP office in Ahmedabad causing consterned cadres to take to the streets leading to stray incidents of violence. He reappeared in a city hospital in an unconscious condition the same evening.
The next day, Togadia went public alleging an attempt to muzzle his voice for raising issues like the construction of the Ram temple, resettlement of Kashmiri Pundits, curbing cow slaughter and ensuring right price for farmers. Known for his fiery temperament and speech, Togadia was tearful in his interaction with media persons. He said he had gone into hiding fearing an ‘encounter’ by the police.
News of the VHP leader’s disappearance for more than eight hours created an uproar. The confusion became worse when the police said Rajasthan police had reached the city to execute an arrest warrant against Togadia under Section 188 (disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) but returned empty handed as they could not find him at his residence.
Togadia said, “I was performing my puja when someone rushed in to ask me to leave my office immediately as a team of Rajasthan police and Gujarat police were on their way to kill me in an encounter.” Togadia said he left his office, informing the guard provided as part of his Z-plus security. “I stopped an autorickshaw and with a VHP worker went towards Thaltej area of the city. I connected with Rajasthan home minister and chief minister, who told me they were not aware of any Rajasthan police team having left the state to arrest him. They said they would have known if that was the case and so fearing the worst, I switched off my mobile phones to avoid being traced,” he added.
He said he contacted his lawyers in Rajasthan to get the arrest warrant cancelled. “However, they said that it would be difficult. I decided to fly down to Jaipur. However, when I was in an auto-rickshaw to the airport, I felt dizzy and fell unconscious. I have no recollection after that,” he said.
Togadia said though he did not fear death or an encounter, he had to protect himself. “Old cases are being reopened in different states to arrest me and stifle my voice by seeking to send me from one jail to the other,” he said. He blamed Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for being behind these attempts and claimed they had even resorted to threatening the team of doctors he had prepared to work for the Hindu cause.
The twist in the tale came hours after Dr Togadia’s media interaction when the Ahmedabad police contradicted him. In a statement, JK Bhatt, Joint Commissioner of Police, Ahmedabad Crime Branch Togadia was never unconscious and was awake when the ambulance was called to take him to the hospital at 8 pm and that his movement from morning to evening was a planned one.
The next day, on January 17, when the prime minister was in Ahmedabad hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Togadia went public levelling charges of conspiracy against Modi while speaking to media persons on his release from the hospital. He also charged police officer Bhatt with harassing VHP workers at the behest of the national political bosses in Delhi. “In the last 15 days, how many times has this officer spoken to the PMO?” he asked, demanding that the call details be made public.
Togadia’s reference was to the unconventional move by a police officer to contradict a national leader of an organisation which is part of the country’s Sangh Parivar, even if not directly in the governance of the country. He alleged that over 20 people from the Crime Branch had descended on his close associate (Ghanshyam)at 2 am and whisked him away to pressurise him to speak against him (Togadia).
The Crime Branch cops did not come clean either. They first said they were forming teams to investigate his disappearance but later came out with a statement that almost stated that he had faked his disappearance.
Togadia was direct in pointing fingers at the prime minister, perhaps the first Sangh Parivar organ head to do so. “I would like to urge my old friend not to embark on a journey that would lead to the murder of democracy. Is this Crime Branch or a conspiracy branch. I propose to initiate legal action against the Crime Branch which is releasing selective videos to TV channels to spoil my image. I want to inform the country that similar videos of RSS leader Sanjay Joshi were made 13 years ago. I shall make known the names at the right time,” he warned.
There are many questions. Why did Gujarat police which did not have guts to take on a drunk deputy chief minister’s son trying to board an international flight and turned back by the airlines, go overboard trying to contradict Togadia? This could not have been possible without clearance from either the chief minister or home minister. Interestingly, not a single BJP leader turned up to call on Togadia during his hospitalisation. Why? Obviously, there were bigger names at work. One may disagree with Togadia’s line of thought, but he remains a dedicated Sangh cadre-man who has devoted his life at the cost of his roaring medical practice to the VHP.
Even the thought that he would resort to theatrics for the sake of publicity is anathema. How come that decades-old cases are springing to life after Togadia was re-elected to his post for a fresh term. Someone somewhere desperately wants him out of the way. Who and why? And therein hangs a tale.