The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Togadia spits fire at BJP meet

New Delhi, Sept. 27: Praveen Togadia was the guest of honour at a special meeting of the BJP’s minorities’ cell, flown in especially from Ahmedabad presumably to “cajole” Muslims to forsake their “obduracy” on Ayodhya, make peace with Hindus and learn to live happily thereafter.

That is what members of the BJP’s cell had in mind when they invited the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) general secretary to address the meeting on Independence, Ayodhya and the minorities.

Instead, at the predominantly Muslim gathering at Constitution Club — he admitted this was the first occasion he directly addressed the community — Togadia said: “I don’t like Muslims, I cannot like anyone who disputes my belief in the Ramjanmabhoomi.”

He did not spare Mahatma Gandhi. “We don’t want any brotherhood. Our role model is not Gandhi though I was born in a village close to his birthplace. It is Chhatrapati Shivaji. Only old men in their 70s and 80s remember Gandhi.”

BJP and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were also pulverised in the verbal rampage.

When another speaker, Maulana Naeem Ahmed interjected to correct a statement, he was shut up by Togadia who told him he may be a “dharmacharya” (religious head) but he had no business to butt in.

If the BJP’s minorities’ cell wanted the occasion to kickstart another round of talks between Muslims and Hindus, Togadia said that was not possible. Not until Muslims apologised for the “demolition” of the Ram temple, now that the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) report supported the VHP’s claim of the existence of a temple, withdrew the title deed litigation from the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, relinquished their allegiance to “Muslim invaders” and accepted Rama, Krishna and Shiva as their ancestors.

Ahmed, who had spoken before Togadia, took the mike again and asked him to end his minority-bashing if he really wanted to make peace. “I wish to state that Islam does not say mosques should be built by demolishing other places of worship and forcibly acquiring land belonging to others. Such a mosque will have no sanctity. If you read Mughal history correctly, you will realise that for every mosque the Mughals built, they also constructed a temple for the sake of communal amity and peace. Hindus cannot leave India and settle somewhere else. So too the Muslims. So if they are destined to live in one country, they should live in peace. And since we shared a common platform today, it was highly improper of you (Togadia) to make such comments.”

A stone-faced Togadia refused to speak to the media and left in an official vehicle, escorted by his security guards.

Some Muslims in the audience, which comprised mostly of BJP members, heckled party general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who sheepishly said the meeting was supposed to be a forum to exchange ideas “freely and frankly”.

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