Ali Asghar Zaveri, a Muslim businessman who had purchased a sprawling bungalow in Bhavnagar’s Krishna Nagar in 2014, has finally let go off his prized property, under duress from the VHP. Prasanna Zore reports on how the VHP went about its task.
It’s been almost a year now since Ali Asghar Zaveri, a Bohra Muslim scrap dealer in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar city, was hounded out by activists from the Vishwa Hindu Parishad from Krishna Nagar, a plush, predominantly Hindu, locality in the heart of the city after he bought a bungalow in the area.
Zaveri sold the prime property, which he had bought from Kishoresinh Gohil for Rs 49 lakh, to Bhumiti Associates at “market rates”, claims Chetan Kamdar, one of the partners in Bhavnagar-based firm.
Zaveri confirmed to Rediff.com over the phone that the deal was done a couple of months ago but would not reveal the rate at which the bungalow was sold.
Ask him if he sold the bungalow under duress from the VHP and other right-wing organisations in Bhavnagar that had violently campaigned against him in April 2014 and Zaveri hangs up on you.
Repeated attempts thereafter only meet with ‘the phone number you are trying to reach is not available or has been switched off' recorded message.
Kamdar, however, said that Bhumiti Associates purchased the bungalow from Zaveri in December 2014 at market rates.
He and his partners plan to build a swanky residential complex on Zaveri’s bungalow and an adjoining contiguous plot that they purchased from another seller.
“As of now we have got total floor space index of 42,000 square feet,” Kamdar told Rediff.com, while assuring that the project would be up for sale by April 2017. He, however, refused to comment on the actual deal size his firm entered into with Zaveri and the other seller for the adjoining plot.
Advocate S D Jani, president of the VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, that Zaveri disposed of the bungalow at a good profit to Bhumiti Associates.
“It was not a distress sale at all and there was no pressure from us to dispose of the bungalow dirt cheap,” Jani said.
Jani, along with Kiritbhai Mistry, general secretary, VHP, Saurashtra, who had spearheaded the campaign against Zaveri “after a plea from the locals of Krishna Nagar”, said that Zaveri’s plot admeasured 35,000 square metres (1 square metre = 10.7639 square feet).
However, the actual size of Zaveri’s plot could not be independently verified.
Kamdar refused to disclose the actual size of the combined plots.
During the height of the agitation against a Muslim’s entry into Krishna Nagar, Jani and Mistry had called VHP International working president Dr Pravin Togadia to campaign for Zaveri’s ouster from the locality.
While Dr Togadia attended one such Ram Darbar in front of Zaveri’s gate, Jani said the allegation that the latter asked locals to attack Zaveri’s office in Haluriya Chowk, where he stays, was absolutely baseless.
Both Jani and Mistry told Rediff.com that their campaign to drive Zaveri out of Krishna Nagar bore fruit because of their stridency and they, along with the locals of the area, were happy about it.
“The residents come to us whenever such an incident occurs,” Mistry said about how the VHP gets involved in such ousters. “We don’t go to them. They realise the hazards of a Muslim’s entry into a Hindu locality,” Mistry added, “and so they come to us for help. We just do our job.”
Jani, however, makes it a point to insist that they don’t have anything against Muslims per se. As an example, he refers to the presence of a Muslim family who has been residing in Krishna Nagar for the last 30 years.
“We don’t have any problems with Muslims who have already settled here. It is the new ones who we don’t trust,” Jani said.
Mistry observes that in the neighbouring area of Prabhudas Talav a lot of Hindus sold their properties to Muslims and the area has now become a Muslim ghetto.
“We don’t mind them moving to Prabhudas Talav but their entry into other Hindu dominated areas would be welcomed with Hanuman Chalisa and Ram darbars,” Jain says, describing the methods the VHP advocated to drive Zaveri out of his bungalow when he went there to take charge last April.
Image: The locked gate of Arihant in Bhavnagar's Krishna Nagar that Ali Asghar Zaveri finally sold after the VHP protested his ownership in a Hindu locality. Photograph: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com