Vishwa Hindu Parishad international general secretary Pravin Togadia appeared before the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team here on Monday and was questioned for over three hours.
Dr. Togadia arrived at the SIT office with a retinue of “saints and sadhus.” A large number of VHP activists kept singing “ram dhun” and also raised periodically pro-Hindu slogans while Dr. Togadia was inside answering questions.
When he came out of the office, he avoided giving direct replies to what transpired inside, but gave a few samples of the questions that he considered “silly.” He also made a brief speech, attacking the Congress government at the Centre, the “so-called secularists” and “pro-Muslim non-government organisations” and others for their “pronounced anti-Hindu” stance.
He also threatened to “teach a lesson at an appropriate time” to Zakia Jaffrey, the wife of the slain former Congress member of the Lok Sabha, Ehsan Jaffrey, whose petition before the apex court led to the formation of the SIT, the Mumbai-based social activist, Teesta Setalvad, who supported Ms. Jaffrey in filing the petition, and others helping the “anti-Hindu cause.”
He also questioned the constitution of the SIT and demanded action against its chairman R.K. Raghavan, who had made a public statement that Ms. Jaffrey's petition before the apex court was his “bible” to act.
He wondered why no special investigation team was formed to probe the “conspiracy” by Muslims to burn alive 57 “Ram bhaktas” in the Sabarmati Express train on the outskirts of the Godhra station. “Why only SIT for the post-Godhra riots?” he asked and said there was no one to help the cause of the Hindus in India. “The so-called secularists and the NGOs toeing their line have all together conspired to harass the innocent Hindus,” he said. “We will teach them a lesson at an appropriate time,” he said.
Among the questions he was asked was whether he had come to Ahmedabad during the communal riots in 2002. His reply was “where else would I go? To Pakistan?” The subsequent question asked was who all he met during his visit and he replied, “I met crores of Hindus. I met sadhus. If I don't meet them, should I meet Imam Bukhari?” He claimed the SIT had nothing substantial to ask him. “What is there to ask me?” he said.
He alleged that the entire SIT operation was a part of large-scale “conspiracy” against the Hindus. “We have only God with us, and no one else. But we will still give a fitting answer to all this,” he said.
Dr. Togadia's appearance before the SIT ended a near month-long suspense over his response to the SIT summons. He was summoned last month by the SIT, but on the last day of his scheduled week that ended on April 24, Dr. Togadia sent his advocates to the SIT to question its authority about summoning him and to give in advance the questions they intended to ask the VHP leader. The advocates also reportedly wanted to hand over the SIT investigating officer some written statement of Dr. Togadia, but the SIT refused to entertain the advocates or to accept his statement. As the stalemate about his appearance continued, he informed the SIT officials on Sunday that he would personally appear before it on Monday to answer questions.
He was the second key witness to be questioned in connection with the communal riots after Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who was questioned by the SIT for over nine and half hours in two sessions last month.
The SIT has also questioned several others, including the former and the present home ministers, some former ministers and senior police and other officials, besides the VHP and BJP leaders in connection with Ms. Jaffrey's petition. She had named Mr. Modi and 62 others as the accused in the 2002 riots.