The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Riot victims seek Rs 8-cr damages

Ahmedabad, June 13: Relatives of those killed in the Gulbarg Society massacre on the day riots broke out in Gujarat after the Godhra train carnage today filed a compensation suit against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia and the ruling BJP.

The nearly Rs 8-crore suit comes in the middle of an ideological battle within the Sangh parivar over the direction the BJP would take after L.K. Advani’s comments in Pakistan that sought to give the party a moderate turn.

Jakia Jafri, the widow of former Congress MP Ehsaan Jafri, and 20 others claimed damages in individual suits filed in a local court in the second such instance of demanding compensation in a riot-related case.

Thirty-nine people were killed (36 are missing and presumed dead) in the massacre at Gulbarg Society, an upmarket housing complex in Ahmedabad, in an attack allegedly instigated by VHP leaders on February 28, 2002, a day after the train burning.

Earlier, Jakia Jafri had served a legal notice on Togadia and the BJP, demanding Rs 70 lakh as compensation for the damage, destruction and trauma caused by the VHP’s bandh call on that day to protest against the Godhra incident.

Togadia and the BJP did not reply to her legal notice, prompting the relatives of the dead to go to court. Five of the 26 families which lived in the complex could not file suits as they have migrated from Ahmedabad.

Today’s petition names Togadia, the VHP international general secretary, and local leaders of the Bajrang Dal as the accused who allegedly instigated crowds to attack minority-dominated areas.

Togadia said he was not aware of the suit, but added: “If they are challenging me legally, we will respond legally.”

The charge against the VHP leader is that his “utterances” incited some people to the extent that they went on a rampage, killing, destroying and pillaging, said Tanvir, Jafri’s son.

Tanvir said as the leader of the VHP, Togadia had given the bandh call that was supported by the local units of the BJP and the RSS, provoking communal tension.

Earlier, relatives of two non-resident Indians who were killed while on a visit to Gujarat at the time had filed a compensation suit, in which they named chief minister Narendra Modi.

Legal experts here said such compensation suits are not new. Bombay High Court and Kerala High Court have upheld demands for damages caused by bandh calls.

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