Saturday, June 4, 2011

VHP ‘hand’ in Gujarat’s murder weapons

VHP ‘hand’ in Gujarat’s murder weapons
Indian Express, 09April 2002


One of the representative images of the carnage in Gujarat was that of a young man in a sleeveless T-shirt, saffron band across his forehead, brandishing a sword.
After several hauls of such weapons and more than a month of violence, police officers say they believe there was an organised distribution of swords, in some cases possibly within a few days of the Godhra carnage.
Almost all the swords seized were brand new, and bore the same marking, indicating manufacture in the Sirohi district of Rajasthan.

And, while their leaders remain vague on details, Bajrang Dal activists told The Indian Express distribution was on till at least 10 days ago.

Police officers who made the seizures in the Vejalpur, Shahpur, Maninagar, Vatva, Kalupur and Gomtipur police station areas of Ahmedabad said rioters could have obtained the swords through two sources: at diksha samaroh functions organised from August-December 2001 by the VHP and the Bajrang Dal; and from workers of the two organisations in the first few days of the post-Godhra violence.

IAS officers call off meetGandhinagar: The Gujarat IAS Officers’ Association which had scheduled a meeting here today called it off amid reports that was pressure from the state government. The meeting was called to ‘‘discuss the present scenario in the state and do introspection into the role of bureaucracy in the trying times.’’ Association chief and senior IAS officer Vijay Ranchan said it was postponed and would be convened some other day.Some officers said they believed that swords were still being distributed in Hindu areas ‘‘for protection of life and property against Muslim attacks.’’ Carrying of swords ‘‘capable of being used for carrying out physical violence’’ is prohibited under Section 37 of the Bombay Police Act. Convictions could lead to jail terms ranging from four months to a year.

VHP joint secretary Jaideep Patel denies any distribution of swords ‘‘in the last few days’’, but admits that swords and trishuls are routinely distributed to volunteers.

‘‘We’ve been distributing these weapons since 1985; trishul diksha samarohs and Bharatiya abhyans are a constant process,’’ he said. ‘‘Nobody has objected, not even the police.’’
Patel said the weapons ‘‘were not for creating terror or causing injury’’.
Haresh Bhatt, VHP vice-president for Gujarat, said, they are meant to be used ‘‘purely in self-defence against Muslim attacks. Do you think when they attack, we want our men to stand empty-handed and get killed?’’
Bhatt refused to say if sword distribution was still on for fear of ‘‘alerting Muslims’’.

‘‘But,’’ he said, ‘‘there is nothing wrong. Swords and trishuls are not weapons, these are divine instruments used by our gods.’’

Police officers have a different view of the tempered, well-sharpened steel. Holding up one confiscated sword, a police officer said, ‘‘Look, most of them are more than four feet long. They slice through flesh on touch. Just touch the edge to a man’s throat and he will die.’’

Requesting anonymity, an officer said there was no doubt the distribution was well-organised. ‘‘Some of the men arrested during seizures said that during the trishul diksha samaroh last November, swords were given to any volunteer who paid Rs 200,’’ he said.

Senior officers are unwilling to come on record about the extent of the seizures and the arrests made. All Deputy Commissioners V.M. Parghi and B.S. Jebaliya, whose areas saw much violence, would say was that seizures and arrests were made but they did not have details.

In contrast, lower-level VHP and Bajrang Dal leaders are ready to speak about weapons distribution. Prakash Shivnani, a Bajrang Dal leader of the Naroda area — where the Naroda Patia carnage took place — boasted, ‘‘In the last 10 days I have distributed more than a thousand swords to Hindus. I don’t find anything wrong. Now, Muslims may retaliate, and we have to be ready.’’

Asked where he got the swords from, Shivnani said, ‘‘Earlier we used to get it from the Dudheswar area in Ahmedabad, but now we get it from Rajasthan.’’

He also said that now the organisation did not charge volunteers for the swords.
In the Karanj area in the heart of the city, too, swords were distributed just a few days ago.
Said a resident of Marwadi Ni Dhel, ‘‘Just three days back our VHP leader distributed 200 swords.’’
He said he took three: ‘‘One for me, one for my father, and one is in reserve.’’


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