The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Godhra victim’s kin blasts VHP

Ahmedabad, Nov. 15: The long wait for compensation has ended for relatives of 34 people who were burnt alive in the Godhra train massacre last year. But one old man is still angry.

Eighty-two-year-old Girish Rawal, who lost his wife when the Sabarmati Express was torched on February 27, 2002, and his 42-year-old son in the riots that followed, has not forgiven the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

Rawal blames the VHP, which filed claims for 38 of the victims, for the delay in payment of compensation because some of those who died were travelling without valid tickets. Fifty-nine people died in the carnage.

Rawal was in the packed courtroom when the Railway Claims Tribunal yesterday ordered that family members of 34 victims be paid Rs 4 lakh each, with 9 per cent interest from the date of filing the claims, within 30 days.

In one case, the DNA report is yet to be received. In three, claims could not be filed as documents to establish the identity of the victims were not available.

The tribunal has already ordered compensation to relatives of 10 victims who were not kar sevaks. About the others who died on that day, some cases are pending while in some, DNA reports have not yet come in.

As the tribunal passed the order, advocates Deepak Shukla and M.B. Shah — who filed the claims nearly 18 months ago on behalf of the VHP — were garlanded by the outfit’s workers who chanted “Jai Shri Ram”. But Rawal refused to oblige.

“I have never praised the VHP and never will,” said the man who has criticised the organisation for neglecting families of Godhra victims and demanded that cases of Godhra and post-Godhra violence be transferred outside Gujarat.

Rawal had also filed a case in the Supreme Court, seeking a ban on the VHP’s “political yatras”. Rawal’s stand had embarrassed VHP leaders.

VHP leader Praveen Togadia had assumed that Rawal would praise his organisation after the tribunal’s order. When told that Rawal wants family members of all victims to be compensated, he lost his cool. “Secularists have bought Rawal,” he thundered.

Rawal retorted by calling Togadia a “liar”. “Why does not he speak to me'” he asked.

Rawal believes the tribunal ordered compensation only after he filed a case in the apex court.

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