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Gehlot trains gun on shakhas

Jaipur, April 24: Cracking down on Praveen Togadia was the first step. Now it’s time to target the fountainhead.

Encouraged by its “success” in putting legal riders on the VHP leader — who was arrested for defying a ban on distribution of trishuls — the Rajasthan government has decided to turn its attention to the head of the Sangh parivar, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

The Ashok Gehlot government has decided to ban RSS shakhas in all public premises, including government-owned educational institutions and parks.

State home minister Gulab Singh Shaktawat said though the law prohibited holding such drills, it has so far not been enforced.

But now, the government has made up its mind to enforce the prohibition in letter and spirit. However, the ban does not and would not apply to shakhas held on privately-owned premises, the minister clarified.

The government has already issued verbal orders to state officials in this regard. A formal order is expected soon. The officials have been instructed to immediately stop shakhas on public property and ensure that they are not held in future, Shaktawat informed.

However, the minister said that so far no formal complaint regarding such misuse of public places had come to him.

But he warned that the moment he receives such a report, action would be taken immediately. Public places like parks and school grounds cannot be used for private purposes without formal official permission, he added.

Shaktawat conceded that a large number of lower level officials have not been taking steps to stop shakhas on government premises and this has been going on for years.

He said the matter was brought to his notice by forest minister Bina Kak, who saw such a shakha being held in the Ashok Vihar deer park, run by the forest department. Shaktawat said the minister approached him to know whether this was legally permitted.

When the home minister said this was against the provisions of the law, Kak immediately instructed officers of her department to stop the shakha, as no permission had been granted to the RSS. Moreover, she asserted, the shakhas would have also disturbed the wildlife.

When told about the Rajasthan government’s move, a spokesman of the Sangh asserted that such shakhas were being held in public parks for years and that they had not received any official objection.

The spokesman made it clear that the shakhas would continue to be held as usual.

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