Jaipur, April 15: He might have defied prohibitory orders and the ban on trishuls, but for the Ajmer district administration and jail authorities Praveen Togadia is a VIP and needs to be given special comfort and protection.
Ever since the VHP leader was picked up near Gegal police station, 16 km from Ajmer, they had been putting their best feet forward. After all, the VIP had been on his way to Jaipur after meticulously performing his “job” of distributing trishuls, so what if it meant defying the Ashok Gehlot regime.
“Sir, aap ko taklif to zaroor hogi, lekin aap ki giraftari ke aadesh hain (Sir, I know it will be uncomfortable for you, but I have orders for your arrest). Will you prefer your car or will come in my car'” asked Ajmer SP Saurav Srivastava after blocking the way of Togadia’s car.
The VHP leader jumped into the police vehicle. But his mobile was not confiscated: he was allowed to keep in touch with his ‘comrades’ and media persons.
A day later, when an Ajmer court remanded him in two days’ judicial custody, additional police superintendent and inspector Balraj Khosla rushed to inspect the surroundings of Ajmer Central Jail.
That done, ward 10 was hurriedly white washed and readied to receive Togadia and his aides. The floor was then carpeted with a new wall-to-wall dhurrie. Four mattresses, white bed sheets and foam pillows were provided so that the VIP didn’t have a bad night.
But jail superintendent M.L. Chauhan has denied that Togadia and his aides were given any VIP treatment. He claimed the jail did not have any special facilities. Togadia, however, enjoys Z-category security, given to VIPs facing terror threat.
With Togadia’s bail plea scheduled for hearing tomorrow, Rajasthan today downed its shutters in response to the VHP’s bandh call to protest his arrest. Markets and trading centres in most cities and towns were closed.
The police rounded up VHP state president Jagannath Gupta and state BJP spokesperson Kali Charan Saraf for defying prohibitory orders but released them in the evening. About a 1000 VHP-BJP activists were put in preventive custody across the state. About 150 VHP workers were arrested in Jaipur. The VHP spokesman said the total number of arrests touched 2,500.
A.K. Jain, IG (law and order) claimed today’s bandh was peaceful and no violence had been reported from any part of the state. But cases under the Arms Act had been registered against BJP legislator Madan Dilwar and two associates in Baran for taking out a procession and displaying tridents, he added.
Eighteen VHP-BJP activists had been sent to judicial custody, 15 in Bhilwara and three in Ajmer for defying the trishul ban, he said.
In Jodhpur, Gehlot’s home city, the bandh was total as also in Bhilwara, Udaipur, Ajmer and Chittorgarh. Reports of a mixed response came in from Kota, Jaisalmer, Sikar, Bikaner, Jhalawar and Alwar. In Dholpur, the response was poor.
The VHP’s bandh call had been supported by the Sangh parivar, including the BJP. State BJP president Vasundhara Raje had appealed to party workers and the people to make the bandh a success.
In view of the BJP’s support, the state government had sounded an alert throughout the state. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 were clamped in all major cities and towns. Additional police forces were deployed in 11 highly sensitive districts.
Preventive arrests began last night itself.