Ahmedabad, Nov. 27: Girish Rawal, the man the VHP loved to hate, is dead.
The 82-year-old, who lost his wife Sudha in the train massacre at Godhra and then his son Ashwin in the communal frenzy that gripped Gujarat last year, died of cardiac arrest at 3 this morning.
He is survived by his daughter-in-law Belaben, grandaughter Khusboo and his estranged elder son Hiresh, who performed the last rites. Ironically, among those who offered condolences this morning were a few local VHP activists.
In the last few months, Rawal had locked horns with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, criticising it for its “hate politics”. Less than a fortnight ago, he and four other family members of Godhra victims from Janata Nagar Ramol had sought police protection, saying they feared trouble from the VHP cadre who “might harm them”.
This was after the outfit’s general secretary, Praveen Togadia, alleged at a prayer meeting that Rawal was playing into the hands of “Muslim conspirators” and directed VHP workers not to allow Mumbai-based human rights activist Teesta Setalvad to enter Gujarat.
Setalvad’s non-government organisation Citizen’s for Justice and Peace had been providing legal assistance to Rawal and families of riot victims.
Last month, Rawal had created an embarrassing situation for both the VHP and the ruling BJP when he and the other family members of Godhra victims urged the Supreme Court to shift all riot cases outside the state.
Rawal and the others boycotted the VHP-sponsored prayer meeting at its headquarters on November 16. “They dumped us. We were left to fend for ourselves,” said Bharat Panchal, who like Rawal chose to stay away from the meeting. The meeting came two days after the Railway Claims Tribunal ordered compensation to families of 34 Godhra victims.
Rawal also blamed 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.
Earlier, in Mumbai, Rawal had described the train carnage as “politically motivated” and alleged that the VHP had used them for political gain.
VHP state general secretary Dilip Trivedi said he felt sad for the family of Rawal who “was dedicated to the cause of Hindutva”, though, till evening, he had not heard of Rawal’s death.
Every member of Rawal’s family, Trivedi claimed, was a “strong” VHP sympathiser. His son was murdered by rioters just because he happened to be an active VHP worker in the area, he added.
While offering condolences to the bereaved family, Trivedi said he had requested Rawal, at least twice, after the death of his wife and son to shift from Janata Nagar Ramol to a safer place and that all arrangements had been made. But Rawal had declined the offer.