Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hardliner who bragged about violence and then went underground

Gujarat EDN
IE 30AUG2012

In 2004, he had proudly introduced himself as “Myself Babu Bajrangi, prime accused in the Naroda Patiya case”. More recently, he has been turning his face away from cameras and could be reached only after clearing a three-tier personal security cordon.
Babubhai Rajabhai Patel, better known as Babu Bajrangi, and who faces his fate in court, has been consistent only as a Hindu hardliner. President of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad's youth outfit Bajrang Dal for many years, he quit both the dal and the VHP in 2007-2008 over ideological differences with senior leaders. He then joined the Shiv Sena, but even that was short-lived.
It was in fact the hardline Hindutva he followed that led to his split from the VHP and the dal. Others were then opting for a softer line in the wake of severe criticism over the 2002 riots.
Bajrangi is accused of leading and instigating mobs in Naroda Patiya. In a Tehelka interview, he once claimed that he had slit open the stomach of a pregnant woman. He has been convicted of murder and conspiracy.
Bajrangi, now 52, is a wealthy Kadva Patel from Kutch and runs a construction and land deals firm in Naroda. One of his more intriguing initiatives is Navchetan, an organisation that he runs purely to break inter-community marriages, especially between Kutchhi Patel girls and boys from other communities. He tries and convinces them to return to their parents.
One of the best known of such breakups was that of Reema Sompura, a Gujarati girl who had eloped with Mumbai-based Anthony Rebello in 2003. Bajrangi brought her back, claiming to have rescued her, and was charged with abducting her. The couple got back together finally. Bajrangi is believed to have “rescued” around 2,000 such Hindu girls.
He heads the Kutchi Patel Samaj in Naroda, representing one of its rich and influential communities.
Bajrangi, who was out on bail till the conviction, went underground after the Tehelka tapes went on air with him detailing the Naroda Patiya murders in 2007. If one tries meeting him at his Naroda office, one has to leave one's mobile phones outside and even one's bags are thoroughly checked for “hidden tapes and cameras”. He has rarely met journalists since the tapes went public.
Ranchodbhai Bharwad, the VHP's state general secretary, said, “Babu Bajrangi has not been with us for almost 15 years. He has no role in the VHP.”