It is getting increasingly harder for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to convince sceptical voters that it poses no threat to Muslims, after Pravin Togadia, president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, a sister organisation, was caught on camera talking about how to prevent Muslims from buying property in Hindu-dominated areas.
“Muslims have been buying Hindu properties at throwaway prices. How do you stop this?” As a solution, he offers, “You put pressure on the government to enforce the Disturbed Areas Act the way we have in cities like Ahmedabad.”
The circumstances in which he spoke are also controversial. Togadia had joined a group of Hindu activists outside the residence of a Muslim man in Bhavnagar, Gujarat, who were calling for the man’s eviction.
“If he does not relent, go with stones, tyres and tomatoes to his office. There is nothing wrong in it. Killers of Rajiv Gandhi have not been hanged … there is nothing to fear and the case will go on,” Togadia told the charged-up gathering, the Times of India reported.
While not a part of the BJP itself, the VHP and the BJP are both part of the Rashtriya Swayamsevakh Sang, a right-wing Hindu nationalist organisation formed in the early 20th century. There is significant overlap between the organisations, and their core political ideology remains the same.
It may also be troublesome for the BJP that the incident took place in the home state of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is already suspected by many for his role in the 2002 Gujarat riots that killed at least a thousand people, mostly Muslims.
After the riots, Ahmedabad, Gujarat’s biggest city, was segregated along communal lines, with Muslims settling to poor, ghettoised shanty towns away from the Hindus.
India’s Election Commission took notice of the video, and demanded a copy before making a decision. Condemning Togadia’s statements, Congress leader Rashid Alvi said, “I think Togadia should be given treatment. He should be hospitalised.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2014.