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India: ’Police Can’t Arrest Togadia’

by Subhash Gatade, 9 February 2013

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sacw.net - 10 February 2013

’Police Can’t Arrest Togadia’

The police might have registered a case against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia for his provocative speech in Bhokar town on January 22 but it’s nowhere close to arresting him. Mail Today had reported on Thursday that while the police had filed an FIR against Togadia for his speech, they will not arrest him until the state government gives a go ahead.
On Friday, Home Minister R. R. Patil said "It is the prerogative of the concerned investigation officer whether to arrest him or not. As government we don’t interfere in such matters." Police officials from Nanded said they would be able to arrest Togadia only after the state allows it as it was a "political decision"
(Police can’t arrest Togadia, Mail Today, 9 th Feb 2013)

I.

Mr Praveen Togadia, the international secretary general of VHP (Vishwa Hindu Parishad) is sitting pretty. It has been more than a week that a FIR has been filed against him for his alleged hatespeech in Bhokar town but since then there has been no progress. A newsitem which appeared in a leading daily mentioned in the beginning describes the game of ping pong which is going on between the police officials and the home minister over l’affaire Togadia.

Any layperson knows well that all such exercises are part of delaying tactics used by people who matter. As far as the Maharashtra police is concerned it has not covered itself with glory while dealing with communal elements is concerned. The video clip of communal riots in Dhule wherein its personnel were found to be engaged in violence and arson as well as looting leading to their arrest has demonstrated how the rot runs deep. The ministers’ sudden waking up to ’prerogative of police official’ seems another way of sugarcoating not taking any decision on this issue.As expected all those media people, who had froth on their mouth when they went hammer and tongs against Owaisi for his hatespeech, have maintained a careful silence this time.

It appears that with all his years working with VHP Mr Togadia has learnt the tricks of the trade well. For him police filing an FIR seems to add further ’halo’ to his cause celebre which helps consolidate his core constituency. It was not for nothing that he lambasted at the Kumbh within few days of this latest FIR that such cases were an attempt by ""vote-greedy political people." to engage him in legal tangles. According to him such cases were not against himself but ..[a]gainst all Hindus who respect their culture and history and have the aspiration to grow with access to better education, jobs, bank loans for setting up businesses and land,"

Anyone who has closely followed Togadia’s activities since last few years would know that this is not for the first time that he has targeted minorities and cases have been filed against him. It was only last month that Hyderabad police had filed case against him for allegedly making inflammatory statements during his visit to the city during December last year over the Bhagyalakshmi temple row. In his speech he is reported to have said that if the Hindus were stopped from performing puja at Bhagyalakshmi temple abutting Charminar, Hyderabad would be turned into Ayodhya.Last year he had given a hate speech against Muslims in Rajouri which had led to tension between the members of two communities. A case was promptly registered against him on March 6, 2012 under section 153 A, but here also police did not arrest him following political pressure. (Togadia’s hate speech in Rajouri, Friday, 08 Feb 2013 at 09:50, PDP questions CM’s silence, demands VHP leader’s arrest, Rising Kashmir News).

Or sample his interview to ’Goan Observer’ few years back (Panjim, 9-15 Oct. 2004) wherein he had likened Muslims and Christians as Rahu and Ketu - demons in Hindu mythology :

In his interview with Sunaparant at the Mahalsa temple, Pravin Togadia is reported to have labelled the Muslims as Rahus and the Christians as Ketus. Togadia told Sunaparant that Lord Mahalsa had destroyed the demons Rahu and Ketu. But they had been reborn as Muslims and Christians to destroy Hinduism. The collorary being that it is the obligation of all fanatical lunatic fundamentalist Hindus to destroy the Rahus and Ketus, meaning the Muslims and Christians.

To be fair to Mr Togadia, it needs to be underlined that as far as giving hatespeeches are concerned he is not the only luminary from the Hindutva Brigade. There are many of his ilk who at times appear more vociferous in their attacks on minorities.A decade ago an editorial in a leading daily had this to say about numero uno in VHP namely Mr Ashok Singhal.One can recall that it was the time when we had witnessed worst ever communal carnage in a state in post-independence times with due connivance of the people in power :

..[T]here is a grumpy old rabble-rouser who leads the VHP. He hit the headlines recently when he described the Gujarat carnage as “Hindu awakening”. He was adding a footnote to his comrade Pravin Togadia’s declaration that the nation should prepare for a “final settlement” of the Muslim “problem”. Several such inflammatory ‘announcements’ were made, including one which said that Indian Muslims deserved the refugee camps. This was when one lakh plus Muslims were living in sub-human conditions in Gujarat, including in graveyards.

Once again, Ashok Singhal is spewing venom. In a Nazi-like speech, he has termed the Gujarat events as a “successful experiment”, warning that this would be repeated all over India. He is happy that whole villages had been “emptied of Islam” and Muslims were compelled to take refuge in camps.This was a victory for Hindu society, he said. Surely, if anyone can defame Hinduism - which stands for peace, tolerance and pluralism - this man and his outfit heads the list.

Ashok Singhal has ceased to be a mere nuisance factor. He is a threat to any democratic, secular, modern society. His speeches reek of xenophobia, and his moral high ground seems nothing but a product of perverse sickness. If Mr Vaiko can be put behind bars for his support for the LTTE, or if SIMI activists can be booked for putting up provocative stickers, what stops the NDA government from booking this man who is openly inciting mob violence against Indian citizens?
(The Hindustan Times (India), September 5, 2002, Editorial, BOOK THIS MAN)

II.

..[T]he fanatics who spread violence in the name of religion are worse than terrorist and more dangerous than an alien enemy....
Excerpts from the Supreme Court judgement on ’Best Bakery Case’ April 12, 2004

You spit venom against a section of people who are equal members of the republic, you challenge the constitution, you talk of ’final solution’ and in the end go scot free. This has become a norm in a state which does not forget to talk of committment to secularism day in and day out. Definitely it is not that provisions in law have been left unambiguous so that no action can be taken against such rabblerousers, but it is they who seem to lord over our lives.

Under Indian Law promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion is a recognized criminal offence. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) prescribes criminal prosecution for “wantonly giving provocation with intent to cause riot” (section 153); “promoting enmity between different groups ongrounds of religion” (section 153A); “imputations, assertions prejudicial to national integration” (section 153B); “utteringwords with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person” (section 298); “statements conducing to public mischief” (section 505 (1), b and c); and “statements creating or promoting enmity, hatred or ill-will between classes (section505(2). Section 108 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, inaddition, allows an Executive Magistrate to initiate action against a person violating section 153A or 153B of the IPC."

The “Guidelines to promote communal harmony” issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs in October 1997 also point at the precise responsibility of the state machinery to deal with potentially inflammatory statements in the context of communal tension.Guideline 15 states that “effective will needs to be displayed by the district authorities in the management of such situations so that ugly incidents do not occur. Provisions in section 153A,153B, 295 to 298 and 505 of IPC and any other Law should be freely used to deal with individuals promoting communal enmity”. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which India ratified in 1979, affirms that “Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”.
The presence of clear provisions in the statue books is no guarantee that they would be ever used.

Coming back to Mr Togadia, the state has always appeared especially more accomodative. As pointed out by Ms Teesta Setalvad

..[b]oth the Nanded investigations as well as the Malegaon probe have pointed to the indoctrination/inspiration provided by high profile rabble rousing leaders of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad Dr Praveen Togadia and Giriraj Kishor, in exhorting youngsters towards these acts, both individuals having allegedly visited Nanded on the eve of the blasts in 2006. The ATS has been wary of drawing them into the chargesheet as accused or witnesses however. (Full Investigate Hindutva Terrorists Role, People’s Democracy, 9 th Feb 2009)

Lt Col Purohit, one of the key accused in many cases of Hindutva terror had also claimed in a narco test that he had met Praveen Togadia in a hotel in Bombay. When the investigations in the Malegaon bomb blasts were on, there were reports that Togadia, the international secretary of VHP had funded Abhinav Bharat. According to CNN-IBN :

New Delhi: In a sensational development in the Malegaon blast case Lieutenant Colonel Srikant Prasad Purohit has claimed that Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia was involved in funding Abhinav Bharat.
Abhinav Bharat is being investigated in connection with blast of September 29 in Malegaon in which at least six people were killed.

Lt Col Purohit, who has been arrested for masterminding the blast, reportedly claimed that Togadia provided the organisation with some funds to start out.
The claims were reportedly made while the Lt Col was being interrogated by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

He revealed that he received a call from a man who called himself the VHP’s Maharashtra chief to say that Togadia wanted to know who was investigating the Nanded blasts case.

However, Togadia has denied his involvement with Abhinav Bharat. He said the allegations are unfounded, criminally defamatory, malafide and politically motivated.
(With inputs from Sumon K Chakrabarti) Purohit claims Togadia funded Abhinav Bharat , CNN-IBN Published on Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 11:45, Updated on Mon, Nov 24, 2008 at 12:53 in India section)

With the tragic death of Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare in the 26/11 terror attack, who had rather singlehandedly unearthed the pan India network of Hindutva terror, further investigations were abandoned midway and could not be taken to their logical conclusion. The one who took charge of ATS, Maharashra after Karkare’s demise had no immediate interest in reaching the kernel of the case. And the continued dilly dallying of the Congress led UPA government on this issue - wherein pawns in this game have been apprehended but the patrons of this terror turn in Hindutva politics still remain at large - seems to be a godsend opportunity for all masterminds involved.

As of now the possibility of justice being done in the case of hatespeeches by Mr Togadia look very very dim. The UPA government is not bothered that it would be charged with adopting double standards or the same question would haunt it for times to come ’now-that-owaisi-is-in-jail-how-about-praveen-togadia’ (http://kafila.org/2013/01/09/now-that-owaisi-is-in-jail-how-about-praveen-togadia-mahtab-alam).

Perhaps in this grim situation it would be soothing to remember that a decade ago public protests led by organisations like PUCL , MKSS and others had pressurised the then Gehlot government to not only to bring the VHP led Trishul Deeksha programme - distribution of Trishuls wherein sharp three bladed daggers were distributed in different parts of the country.-under the purview of the Arms Act but also prosecute leaders like Togadia who had been making communal hate speeches in the Trishul distribution ceremonies. It was part of a broader campaign which had gained in pace and stridency since the Gujarat massacre in the year 2002. With growing grassroot pressure the state government ultimately took some steps (8 th April 2003) to rein in the VHP and also bring the VHP Trishul under the purview of the Arms act.

To protest this move by the state government the VHP declared that it would defy this order and would organise a trishul deekha programme on 13 th April which would be led by Praveen Togadia. The government in a countermove raided the office of VHP and confiscated 650 trishuls from its premises.When Togadia openly violated the arms act on 13 th April by organising a programme he was immediately arrested where he remained for around week till he was sent back home.

It is worth recalling that all his claims before arrest that there would be massive protests if he was sent to jail remained only on paper. He had also promised that he would not take seek bail. Nothing of that sort happened. Neither were there ’massive protests’ nor did the government decided to release him unconditionally.He meekly submitted his bail application and was immediately released on bail.