Remarks on Muslims by Pravin Togadia, VHP, trigger new controversy

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Remarks on Muslims by Pravin Togadia, VHP, trigger new controversy

File pic of VHP leader Pravin Togadia

Bhavnagar, Gujarat: On camera, at a gathering in a house in Bhavnagar in Gujarat, Pravin Togadia is seen offering advice on how to prevent Muslims from buying property in areas where Hindus are in the majority. "We should have it in us to take the law in our own hands in an area where we are a majority and scare them," Mr Togadia says.

Mr Togadia, a leader of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad or VHP, denied making hate remarks. "Some people gathered and told me that Muslims are forcibly throwing us out, I asked them to take help of the police. The story is not about Muslims getting thrown out; it is about Muslims forcing Hindus out of their houses," he said today.

The VHP is a key constituent of the Sangh Parivar, an umbrella of Hindu nationalist organisations that includes the BJP, whose Meenakshi Lekhi today said, "Togadia is not in the BJP. Those who speak without thinking and those who distort words both must be condemned." (Full Coverage: India Votes 2014)

The ideological parent of the BJP, the RSS, first said Mr Togadia's remarks were being misreported but later stressed that it disapproved of any discrimination on religious or caste lines. (India Votes: Candidates | Schedule)

Bhavnagar Superintendent of Police M S Pawar said that the police has begun its enquiry into the alleged remarks made by Mr Togadia. He also said that the police is collecting statements from people who were present at the alleged meeting. An action taken report will be submitted to the Election Commission on Tuesday, Mr Pawar added.

The Congress has complained to the Election Commission against Mr Togadia's remarks. The Commission has said it will investigate the controversy.

The footage from Bhavnagar shows Mr Togadia declaring, "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 Disturbed Areas Act makes it tough to sell property to a member of the minority community in a neighbourhood to prevent communal tension and people who are in the minority from making distress sales.

Mr Togadia tells the gathering that another option is to occupy a Muslim's property by force and knit the owner in a legal case that could take years to resolve.

Though Mr Togadia was once close to Narendra Modi, the Gujarat Chief Minister who is now running for prime minister, over the last few years their equation has been a fractious one.
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