Saturday, November 24, 2012

End of road for Bajrangi?

Gujarat EDN
DNA 30AUG2012

DNA Correspondent
Babu Rajabhai Patel, better known as Babu Bajrangi, has been the face of the 2002 Gujarat riots ever since his name emerged in the Naroda Patia case, the largest massacre of the minority community in the aftermath of the killing of 59 karsevaks at Godhra railway station on February 27, 2002.

The former worker of the Bajrang Dal, a youth organisation of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), is facing the maximum heat in the case for leading a mob that killed 97 people during the wee hours of February 28, 2002. Since the trial of the case has begun, he spends most of the time attending court and preparing his defence. He has tried to avoid controversy. He also meets well-wishers and sometimes makes posts on Facebook getting in touch with close friends.

As many as 15 independent witnesses, victims and a few police personnel have deposed against Bajrangi which has put him in the category of the top accused in the case.

According to the witnesses,

Bajrangi, who resides half kilometre from Naroda Patia, shouted slogans and lead and instigated the mob which gathered near Noorani Masjid. Houses in Kashiram, Hussainnagar and Jawannagar chawls were looted and burnt. The mob burnt alive few of the victims.

Babu Patel was unknown till the incident happened but right from the beginning of the probe he emerged as the key conspirator. However, he succeeded in getting bail from the court. The Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) tried to put him behind bars by filing a plea to cancel his bail but failed as the high court rejected the plea a year ago.

A big time land broker, Babu became known as Bajrangi because of his aggressive activities with the Bajrang Dal. He had joined the saffron brigade as a young lad in a bid to serve Hindutva. Until he emerged as the key accused, he was a powerful figure in his community whom people went to for help.

Sources close to Bajrangi claimed that he had formed an organisation in 2000 called Navchetana and 'rescued' almost 1000 Hindu girls from converting to Islam.

He was president of the city unit of Bajrang Dal. Later disowned by the Bajrang Dal, he joined the Shiv Sena. He landed in big trouble when he owned up responsibility in a sting operation conducted by a national level magazine. He admitted before a hidden camera that he felt like Maharana Pratap after killing Muslims.

The court then took the testimony of Ashish Khetan, a journalist who conducted the sting operation. Bajrangi was also 'rescuing' Hindu girls who were to marry Muslims or members of another caste.