Yogi Sikand


As you might have heard the Gujarat High Court yesterday acquitted all the 12 accused, including main accused Ashgar Ali, in the Haren Pandya murder case. The high court lambasted the investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) saying the agency had botched up the investigations leading to enormous waste of time. Some years ago, I did a detailed interview with Haren Pandya’s father, Vithalbhai Pandya, on Haren Pandya’s murder. I am sending it to you below as it provides important points about this case.


Vithalbhai Pandya is the father of the slain former Gujarat Home Minister, Haren Pandya. In this interview with Yoginder Sikand he talks about his struggle against Gujarat’s Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who, he believes, was the man behind his son’s murder three years ago. He also reflects on the anti-Muslim carnage of 2002 in Gujarat and the dangerous rise of Hindutva fascism, which he sees as a sin against Hinduism.


Q: Whom do you hold responsible for Haren Pandya’s death?


A:. I am convinced and have reason to believe that Narendra Modi, whom I call a psychic mass killer, was the person behind Haren’s death. Haren, my only son, was found dead in Ahmedabad on 26 March 2003. He was just 42 when he was killed. From day one I have been insisting that Haren was murdered on the orders of Modi and that is was a politically motivated crime arranged at Modi’s behest. The CBI investigation into his murder is, I have been repeatedly alleging but to no avail, not being conducted in a transparent manner, free from political interference. My appeals about this continue to go unheeded. A fair investigation can only happen when Modi is removed from the office of Chief Minister, which he continues to occupy even three years after launching a deadly carnage that took the lives of more than 3000 innocent Muslims. As in Haren’s murder case, justice remains a far cry for the Muslim victims of the genocide.


Q: Some people claim that Haren Pandya was killed by some Muslim youth. What do you feel?


A: The claim that the instigators of my son’s death were some Muslim youth from Hyderabad is, I believe, completely false. It is a sly way of denying Modi’s hand in the affair and to shift the blame onto hapless Muslims and to spread anti-Muslim hatred. The case of my son’s death should be carried out in public because the public has the right to know the truth. But, the inquiry is being conducted in camera, and I think this is simply in order to save Modi’s skin. Haren was a victim of Modi’s political intrigue and innocent Muslims should not be arrested, harassed or blamed, as they have been, for his killing.


Q: If, as you claim, Modi was behind Haren’s death, why do you think he wanted him out of his way?


A: Modi saw Haren as a major challenge to his authority and viewed him as his main political rival. He may have felt that by doing away with Haren he could silence all other rivals, within and without the BJP, because they would be too scared to speak out against him. There was growing dissatisfaction in BJP ranks in Gujarat with Modi and so the message that was probably sought to be sent out was that those who dared to speak out against Modi would meet the same fate. Modi detested Haren for his uprightness. When Haren was the state revenue Minister he took stern action against land-sharks, including some of Modi’s cronies, who had illegally acquired properties worth crores of rupees and this Modi could not stomach.


Another factor behind Haren’s killing, I believe, was his clear-cut moral position on the murder of thousands of Muslims following the burning of the train carriage in Godhra on 27 February 2002. Haren believed that the Godhra incident should be limited to Godhra alone and should not be used, as Modi did, to spread murder all over Gujarat. He was opposed to Modi’s use of the Godhra incident to launch an anti-Muslim genocide and to garner Hindu votes. He was vehemently opposed to Modi’s fascist agenda. He told me, in great anguish, that he heard of a confidential meeting apparently held by Modi and attended by some ministers, senior bureaucrats and police officers on 27 February 2002, in which, he said, Modi instructed police officials to remain inactive in the face of the anti-Muslim carnage that was launched with active state connivance the next day. Haren very specifically mentioned before the Iyer Commission that Modi had set off this anti-Muslim genocide. Modi did not like Haren’s opposition to the genocide. Haren told me that Modi asked him to apologise but he refused to. This further added to Modi’s hatred for Haren and made him, I believe, conspire to have him killed.


Q: But if Haren was against Modi’s anti-Muslim policies, as you say, then how come he chose to remain in the BJP, because the BJP is known for being anti-Muslim?


A: Not all people in the BJP are ncecessarily communal. Haren certainly was not. When Haren was the Gujarat Home Minister in Keshubhai Patel’s government, some fanatic VHP and Bajrang Dal elements started hounding Christians in the Dangs but he mediated and solved the situation. Yes, although Haren was with the BJP, I, as his father, know that he had no hatred for Muslims. In the anti-Muslim carnage that Modi engineered Haren saw to it that no Muslims were killed in his area. Haren did not believe in the same version of hate-driven Hindutva as Modi does. His understanding was of what is called samrasta, equality of people of all faiths. True, Haren was with the RSS, but, unlike many other people in the RSS, VHP and Bajrang Dal, he was not a fundamentalist. He believed in the “Integral Humanism” of Deendayal Upadhyay, who, some people say, was killed by Hindu fundamentalists as they found him a stumbling block in their political designs.


Q: How did leaders of Hindutva organisations, such as the RSS, react to Haren’s murder?


A: Advani, who presents himself as a die-hard Hindutva leader, tried to prejudice the investigation into my son’s death by what I believe to be falsely claiming that the Pakistani ISI or the gangster Dawood was responsible for it. I told Advani that he was responsible, in a way, for Haren’s death. He had kept quiet and had allowed the BJP in Gujarat to be monopolised by a single Ravana—the bloodthirsty dictator Modi. When he came for the condolence meeting after Haren’s death I told him he was shedding crocodile tears. This was because the real culprit was Modi, Advani’s henchman. Vajpayee, too, supported Modi and did not condemn him for Haren’s death. The BJP government was also responsible for this by deliberately failing to provide Haren with security although Haren suspected that Modi was conspiring to take his life. Several other senior RSS and BJP leaders maintained a stony silence on Haren’s death, thus appearing to support Modi’s criminality.


Q: So, how do you characterise these Hindutva organisations. After all, Haren was also a member of the RSS.


A: There are some balanced and sensible people in these organisations, but many of them are driven by hatred and a thirst for power, for which they are misusing the Hindu religion. I was an activist of the RSS myself but now I don’t believe in its ideology. The Sangh Parivar have become a gang. They are not really concerned about the poor. Nor are most of them genuinely concerned about Hinduism. Some of them may be good people as individuals, but now, as a group, they are very different. Many of them are just immoral, power-hungry people who can stoop to any level.


So, I don’t believe in the sort of Hindutva that Modi and Advani preach, because it is predicated on hatred. I believe that all people, irrespective of religion, are human beings. Any ideology that teaches us to hate other communities is a sin in God’s eyes, and that is precisely what people like Modi and Advani are doing. What fascists who claim to be defenders of Hinduism are doing is a great crime according to the Hindu religion. Murdering innocent people is a major sin. These people are the greatest enemies of Hinduism.

They are not religious in the true sense of the term. Advani’s own daughter-in-law has come out with a statement that Advani does not believe in the Hindu religion. Hence, it is obvious that people like him are simply using Hinduism to get Hindu votes. How can God forgive them for this crime?


Q: If, as you say, Modi was responsible for your son’s death, how do you think he should be dealt with?


A: Modi, as is well known, has been responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Muslims in Gujarat. I also believe that he was responsible for the murder of my son. In that case, shouldn’t he be punished in the same way as those who are sentenced for murder? What Modi has done, being responsible for the murder of more than 3000 people, is an enormous sin in the eyes of God. Justice demands that he should meet the same fate that he has meted out to the thousands of people who have lost their lives. But that has not happened. The law has not been allowed to take its course. The thousands of Muslims whose relatives were killed in the carnage and I as well, as Haren’s father, have been deliberately denied justice and Modi continues to rule as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. What sort of democracy is this? If Modi’s fascist dictatorship remains unchecked and if he goes unpunished, I fear the cancer that he is breeding will spread all over India. Modi is worse than mass murderers like Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia. His government should have been dismissed a long time ago if we are serious about democracy and justice. If I had my way, I would have sought international summons issued against him for his crimes against humanity.


Modi claims to be a protector of Hinduism but all this is just a trick. He curries favour with Hindu religious leaders to get Hindu votes, but he has no real faith in God his heart. A decade ago, the well-known scholar Ashish Nandy met Modi when the latter was an RSS-pracharak. Nandy then wrote an article in the ‘Seminar’ journal describing Modi as ‘a textbook case of a fascist and a prospective killer, perhaps even a future mass murderer’. And that is a fact. Last year I sent a letter to the President of India, Abul Kalam, in which I quoted Modi as declaring that ‘Every Muslim of this country is a traitor and expected terrorist’. I asked the President what he, as a Muslim, had to say about this. I urged him to take stiff action against Modi for this inhuman and anti-national statement and for the genocide of Muslims that he had engineered. But no action has been taken. Such is the state of this so-called ‘democratic’ country that claims to be the largest ‘democracy’ in the world.


Q: The burning of the coach of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra, which was used as an excuse by Modi and Hindutva outfits to launch a genocide of Muslims in Gujarat, has been much discussed. What do you feel actually happened at Godhra on that day?


A: It has been proved that the train carriage was not set on fire by a mob from outside. No inflammable liquid, contrary to what Modi and RSS leaders and others have alleged, was thrown from outside the train. So, the fire must have started from inside the train. Maybe this was an accident but, who knows, it may have been a pre-planned strategy to justify the genocide of Muslims. In an affidavit presented in October 2004 before the committee that investigated the burning of the coach I pointed out that Modi had delivered a very provocative speech to the so-called ‘kar sevaks’ going to Ayodhya. When they were returning from Ayodhya, these fanatics, fired by pseudo-religious frenzy, began shouting anti-Muslim slogans and harassing a Muslim girl at Godhra station. This must have been designed before hand and it resulted in a fracas with some Muslims outside. This was intentionally done, I believe. I argued in my affidavit that the chain was deliberately pulled by the so-called ‘kar-sevaks’ at Signal Falia, a Muslim-dominated locality, so that chaos and violence could be unleashed. I asked in the affidavit why it was that some relatives of politically significant so-called ‘kar-sevaks’ were said to have been asked to get down at a station just before Godhra? Obviously, therefore, at least some of the so-called ‘kar sevaks’ possibly knew about this pre-planned strategy.


Q: How are you keeping up your struggle against Modi and for justice for Haren and for the victims of the anti-Muslim genocide?


A: I am an old man of 77 years, but in order to get Modi thrown out and to heal the terrible wounds that he and his men have inflicted on Gujarat, I stood against Advani, Modi’s protector, in the elections as an independent candidate. Of course I lost the election, because I had no money. But I got around 10,000 votes and used the election as a means to generate support for the demand to have Modi dismissed and punished. In my election campaign, I focussed particularly on the desperate need for inter-community harmony. I went to the sprawling Muslim ghetto of Juhapura, and the Muslims there greeted me and said I was the only Hindu candidate who had bothered to visit them.


I am continuing with this struggle against fascism, not simply as Haren’s father, but as a concerned citizen, as someone worried about the fate of India if fascists like Modi continue to go free despite their enormous crimes. And so today wherever I go I tell people to defeat this fake Hindutva, because this is a crime against Hinduism. Every day I keep sending off letters to people to protest against Modi. I don’t get many responses but I will continue to do this. Ever since Haren’s assassination I have been sending letter after letter to all sorts of ‘important’ people, including the Gujarat governor, the National Human Rights Commission, the Supreme Court and even the Prime Minister and President of India, but I have got no positive response. So, I have lost faith in all our talk about ‘democracy’ and ‘justice’.


Because of Modi, Gujarat is now standing on the shoulders of mrityudeva, the god of death, who will continue to shriek unless Modi and his ilk are brought to justice. I have decided to fight till my last breath against Modi, Advani and people like them, who are continuing to use religion to spread murder and hatred. Maybe in this world they will not be punished, but God will certainly punish them after death. But we must see that such people receive the punishment they deserve for their crimes in this world as well.

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