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It had to be done, VHP leader says of riots
By Sheela Bhatt in Ahmedabad
|In a startling revelation, Professor Keshavram Kashiram Shastri, 96-year-old chairman of the Gujarat unit of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, told rediff.com that the list of shops owned by Muslims in Ahmedabad was prepared on the morning of February 28 itself.
Shastri was replying to an allegation that shops in Ahmedabad were looted on the basis of a list prepared by the VHP in advance and that the violence was not a spontaneous outburst against the carnage in Godhra.
A scholar of the Mahabharat and a highly respected literary figure of Gujarat, Shastri said in a tape-recorded interview, "In the morning we sat down and prepared the list. We were not prepared in advance."
Asked why they did it, he responded, "Karvun j pade, karvun j pade (it had to be done, it had to be done). We don't like it, but we were terribly angry. Lust and anger are blind." He said the rioters were "kelvayela Hindu chokra" (well-bred Hindu boys).
He said there were two reasons for the inactivity of the Ahmedabad police during the rioting. "They feared death," he said simply. "And some of them were Hindus who thought, let the mob do whatever it wants."
He agreed that the atmosphere in the city now is so charged that if he were to go to the Muslim-dominated Kalupur area of Ahmedabad, he would not come back alive.
He admitted that people had been burnt, mosques razed, and shops looted, but argued that all that had been done in a "frenzy".
Shastri agreed that violence was not the answer to violence, but remarked, "These things [non-violence] look good in the shastras. Our boys were charged because in Godhra women and children were burnt alive. The crowd was spontaneous. All of them were not VHP people.
The Waghri community (a scheduled caste) didn't even know the victims of Godhra, but they have done an amazing job! They are not our members. In villages all these people who were angry are not our people. They are angry because Hindutva was attacked. This is an outburst, a tremendous outburst that will be difficult to roll back."
He said the situation could get aggravated and bigger riots were possible. "There will be a war," he said. "So much poison has spread that it's difficult o contain it now."
Asked how he, a scholar and a litterateur, could condone innocents being burnt alive, he remarked, "The youngsters have done even those things which we don't like. We don't support it. But we can't condemn it because they are our boys. If my daughter does something, will I condemn it?
"We don't believe that the boys have done something wrong, because this was the result of an outburst. But we do feel that they should not have gone so far. But that's an afterthought. We needed to do something. It's said that snakes that are not poisonous should keep the enemy away by hissing once in a while."
He agreed that in Hindu philosophy, such actions are sinful, "but it's done! Now we should work for peace. Because India can't afford such disturbances."
The Ahmedabad police have so far arrested 977 persons on charges of rioting, looting, burning and killing people in response to first information reports filed by the victims and relatives of the dead. According to the police, the search for looted goods has been quite successful. In many colonies and slums, looted stuff has been found abandoned on the roads by rioters fearful of being caught.
According to a police source, a legislator in Ahmedabad has sought police protection because the relatives of those arrested have been nagging him day and night to get them out.
A senior police officer told rediff.com that the arrested boys are now blaming local leaders and saffron activists. "Our boys did it because the mobs and leaders supported it. Now how can you arrest them?" say the relatives of the rioters.
According to Shastri , "The VHP has formed a panel of 50 lawyers to help release the arrested people accused of rioting and looting. None of the lawyers will charge any fees because they believe in the RSS ideology." (rediff.com) q
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