Pravin Togadia goes 'missing', claims threat to life: How VHP poster boy became a 'nuisance' for BJP govt in Rajasthan
Though Praveen Bhai Togadia, the firebrand VHP leader, is no longer a boy, the Rajasthan government has every reason to feel it has been harassed by him.
Cow lovers and fans of VHP leader Praveen Togadia will love this delicious coincidence. In khaanti (pure) Rajasthani, the word togadia means a calf. But unlike a cow, which is universally revered, a togadia is considered to be something of a nuisance.
Cattle owners often complain that togadias are unruly, undisciplined and always eager to break away from their tether to feast on the mother's milk. When let loose, they jump around, create a ruckus and fall in line only when beaten with a stick.
For Rajasthanis, there is a local saying for mischievous, disruptive boys that sums up the character of a calf: 'Togadia jiya udham kare, naache (Creates ruckus, dances like a calf)'. Another saying compares good runners with them: 'Togadia jiya bhaaje (bolts like a calf)'.
Though Praveen Bhai Togadia, firebrand VHP leader and self-proclaimed son of gau mata (cow) is no longer a boy, the Rajasthan government has every reason to feel it has been harassed by him, just like an unruly calf that just won't stay tethered to the long rope of law.
The latest togadia-esque incident happened on Monday when Praveen Bhai disappeared for almost 11 hours and resurfaced in a hospital in Ahmedabad, claiming he had become unconscious on a road a few hours after the Rajasthan police threatened to arrest him.
Only Togadia can tell us how a person under 24x7 Z-security cover can disappear in a city like Ahmedabad. According to his followers, he was arrested by the Rajasthan police and later abandoned, once the issue snowballed into a controversy and his supporters started protesting in Gujarat.
The other version, of course, is less flattering to Togadia. According to sources in Rajasthan police, Togadia had been evading summons from a local court for almost 15 years. In 2002, he had defied prohibitory orders to hold a rally in Gangapur town of Rajasthan, where a curfew had been imposed following communal riots.
In spite of the curfew, Togadia had appeared in Gangapur riding bikes across the mountainous terrain of the region, wearing a turban and local attire. But, his daredevilry did not impress the court. Once he was booked by the cops, the court issued several warrants demanding his appearance. Since then, he was on the run. On Monday, after years of playing the cat-and-mouse game, he was tracked by Rajasthan cops in plain clothes. Fearing arrest, according to sources, he had become incommunicado.
Now, why would the poster boy of Hindutva fear cops in a state run by the BJP? For that, we need to go further back into history.
In 2002, Togadia, unruly as a calf, was carrying out a programme of trishul deeksha across north India. In a bid to arm Hindus, he was going from place to place, distributing tridents. When he threatened to hold a trishul deeksha in Rajasthan's Ajmer, the then Ashok Gehlot government warned him against it, calling trishuls banned weapons whose distribution was a crime. Yet, Togadia defied the order and distributed tridents to local youth.
The police did not arrest him at first. The officers felt that perhaps Togadia had done a bit of nautanki by distributing wooden trishuls covered with silver foils. But, after watching the video footage of the event, he was arrested while coming out of a restaurant after lunch and put behind bars.
Togadia spent almost two months in jail. By all accounts, his jail yatra was miserable. During hearings, he would often complain that mosquitoes bite him at night and don't let him sleep. To this, the judge had famously replied asking him why did he commit acts that allowed mosquitoes to feast on his blood.
A few months later, when he was released, Togadia was welcomed like a hero by the top BJP brass. When the BJP won the next election, the case against him was withdrawn.
Later, as political grapevine goes, he fell out with Narendra Modi and, thus, became a pariah for the BJP leaders. No wonder, the case against him in Rajasthan, in spite the BJP being in power, is still alive.
Togadia now religiously avoids Rajasthan. Perhaps, the memory of Rajasthani mosquitoes still haunts this son of gau mata. And, at the sight of Rajasthani cops, his first instinct is to bolt, like a true togadia.
Around 60-70 people, including 13 children, were at the children's hospital in the building at the time of the incident
Gujarat Anti-terrorism Squad team detained Setalvad on Saturday from Mumbai in connection with a case on her NGO, which gave baseless information about the 2002 Gujarat riots to the police
All four were allowed to go after questioning on Wednesday, officials said, without disclosing why they were detained