The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Mumbai cracks whip on VHP

Mumbai, Oct. 30: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad is at the receiving end of a Praveen Togadia- and Jhajjar-induced outrage.

While the Maharashtra government has banned all speeches by the VHP leader in the state, students, women and cultural groups have come together to begin a campaign against the outfit from tomorrow.

Already angered by Togadia’s alleged remarks against Sonia Gandhi, the Congress-led government has gone a step further, directing police to probe charges of stockpiling of the arms by the VHP in its city offices. VHP workers had assaulted National Students’ Union of India activists with swords and tridents recently when they turned up at the outfit’s Grant Road office to protest against Togadia’s remarks. The Congress lodged a complaint with the police that the VHP kept arms in its offices.

The Network for Women in Media, which has joined various non-political groups in the anti-VHP protests and has organised a demonstration in front of the VHP office, blamed the outfit for the Jhajjar lynchings and the attack on the NSUI activists. “The lynching was bad enough, but what was worse was VHP leader Giriraj Kishore’s statement that the life of a cow is more important than that of human beings,” said an activist. Five Dalit youths were beaten to death recently for allegedly skinning a cow.

But the VHP is defiant. “It is utter nonsense that our offices are full of arms,” Mumbai unit general secretary Mohan Salekar said. “The government can check our offices if it wants but it has to have the same yardstick for other religious groups.”

The VHP is ready to take on the government regarding the ban on Togadia’s meetings and is going out of its way to organise meetings for him. It has asserted that it will go ahead with the “scheduled” meetings that have him as speaker. “In fact, even the BJP is with us on this,” Salekar said.

The BJP, however, is playing safe. “Togadia did not say anything that was wrong, his statements have been misinterpreted,” party spokesman Prakash Javdekar said. But he hastened to add that though the BJP was with Togadia, it would neither help the VHP organise any functions in the state nor take part in them.

The state government has long been talking about a ban on the Bajrang Dal and the VHP. The home ministry had recently said speeches by VHP leaders would be banned in the state following minor riots in Pune and Nagpur. The government says the riots followed Togadia’s remarks against Sonia.

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