The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Godhra families

Ahmedabad, Nov. 17: A day after Praveen Togadia blamed a “Muslim conspiracy” for their absence from a VHP-sponsored prayer meeting, Girish Rawal and four others sought police protection today.

Apprehending trouble from the VHP, Rawal wrote to police commissioner K.R. Kaushik seeking protection for his family and those of the four others, all living in Janata Nagar Ramol, once a stronghold of the outfit.

“As we are opposed to Togadia and his outfit, we fear trouble. Especially, after we chose not to attend the prayer meeting at its headquarters (yesterday), top VHP leaders are upset with us and we fear they might harass us,’’ Rawal wrote.

Rawal, 82, had lost his wife in the train carnage of February 27, 2002, and his son — the chief of a local VHP unit — in the riots that followed. He said he felt uneasy about VHP workers visiting his house over the last two days.

“First, they came to take us to the prayer meeting. Late last night, they came again to enquire why we did not attend the meeting,” Rawal said. “We know their mindsets. They are people who cannot take no for an answer. We have a young daughter-in-law and a granddaughter. They are scared anything might happen to them.”

Rawal added the families who boycotted the meeting could no longer take a chance. “The VHP cadre may harm us,” he said.

VHP state general secretary Dilip Trivedi said Rawal’s apprehensions were baseless but anyone was free to seek police protection. Rawal, he added, has a guilty conscience because he knows he was instigated by Setalvad.

Togadia yesterday claimed Setalvad had instigated Rawal and the four others, earlier staunch supporters of the VHP.

“We are here to serve people like Rawal. We have been instrumental in getting him compensation (awarded by the Railway Claims Tribunal to families of 34 Godhra victims). He should realise we are here to protect him, not threaten him,” Trivedi said.

Last month, after Rawal filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking transfer of all riot cases out of Gujarat, Setalvad’s NGO, Citizens for Justice and Peace, had urged Ahmedabad police to provide him and the four others protection.

The police chief had agreed but Rawal and the others had turned down the offer, preferring to opt for it only when they felt intimidated. “It is time we get police protection as we feel insecure and fear trouble,’’ Rawal said.

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