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Rush to clear Pandya name

Ahmedabad, July 18: Haren Pandya’s father today rushed to clear his son’s name after a witness told a panel probing the Gujarat riots that the former home minister instigated a mob that attacked his house on February 28 last year.

Dr Yunus Bhavnagari, a dentist from Paldi, had yesterday made these allegations in his deposition before the Nanavati Commission probing the post Godhra violence.

The slain BJP leader’s father, Vitthal Pandya, has issued a statement that his son “was not at all involved in any communal riots” and that he was not a fundamentalist. A copy of the statement was submitted to the panel that is conducting hearings at Shahibaugh. State counsel Arvind Pandya and Justices G.T. Nanavati and K.G. Shah cross-examined Bhavnagari for 45 minutes.

Bhavnagari, Pandya claimed, might not have understood that his son was a selfless social worker. Chief minister Narendra Modi “wants to defame Haren’s good name because of selfish political reasons”, alleged the former home minister’s father.

Pandya said his son had rushed to the spot immediately after he received a message. “But he did not go there to instigate the mob but to pacify them. It was his duty to go there as he represented the Ellisbridge constituency,” the elder Pandya said, adding that his son “had many Muslim and Christian friends”.

Bhavnagari admitted before the commission that this was the first time that he had named the former home minister as one of those he had seen outside his residence. However, he did not explain why he had not mentioned Pandya’s name in any of the three complaints, including an FIR, he filed after the incident.

The government advocate claimed that by dragging the former home minister’s name into the controversy, Bhavnagari wanted cheap publicity.

Bhavnagari stood by his version that he had opened fire “in self-defence”. But the government advocate who cross-examined him sought to prove he had opened fire to take revenge and not as an act of self–defence.

The government advocate pointed to Bhavnagari’s claim that he had opened fire after his son was shot at. He pointed out that Bhavnagari, a doctor, opened fire from his revolver instead of attending to his son who was hit in the chest by a bullet.

After the mob snatched his .22 revolver, Bhavnagari fired from his .32 revolver that killed two persons and left three injured, the advocate pointed out. “Now this is not an act of self-defence but retaliation,” he said.

The advocate questioned the sequence of events narrated by Bhavnagari, who claimed that police did not reach the spot till 5.30 pm. But police record shows that a wireless message was received at 3.38 pm, saying two mobs were about to clash in Paldi, said the advocate.

Bhavnagari was asked how if he had opened fire at 4.30 pm, the two persons killed by bullets fired from his revolver were declared dead in V S Hospital at 4.10 pm.

The advocate refuted Bhavnagari’s claim that his son, Dr Amir Bhavnagari, received a bullet injury because of firing by the mob. The forensic report clearly established that Amir Bhavnagari was hit by a police bullet. The police had fired to quell the mob.

Bhavnagari, a sharpshooter who has been president of the Ahmedabad Rifle Club and won over 50 medals, showed no sign of nervousness though he could not defend the sequences of incidents narrated by him nor explain why he had not named Haren Pandya in his complaints registered with the police and the National Human Rights Commission.

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