Barely a year after he bought a bungalow in a predominantly Hindu neighbourhood of Bhavnagar, prompting Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Pravin Togadia to ask neighbours not to allow him to move in, a Muslim businessman was forced to sell it off with functionaries of Hindu Right-wing groups brokering the deal.
Scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri had bought the bungalow in Bhavnagar’s posh Sanatorium area on January 10, 2014. But under pressure from Hindu neighbours, VHP and RSS, Zaveri, a Bohra Muslim, sold his bungalow to real-state firm Bhumiti Associates on December 30, 2014.
Bhumiti Associates, a partnership firm of three Jains, razed the bungalow a few months ago.
“Zaveri tried many things to gain a toehold in the area. He suggested renting the bungalow out to Hindus but we rejected it. He also tried to give it to a firm for shooting a film, but we did not allow that. Meanwhile, we were in touch with real-estate developers. Having realised that neighbours would not relent, he agreed to sell it,” a senior RSS functionary who lives nearby and was among those leading the protests, said.
Sanatorium near Meghani Circle is a Hindu-dominated locality. Out of around 150 bungalows, only four have Muslim owners. Out of the four, two migrated to the Shishoo Vihar area after the 2002 riots. Two months after Zaveri bought the bungalow from hotelier Kishoresinh Gohil for Rs 49 lakh, Hindu residents of the area started protesting, saying the food habits of Muslims may offend them and that it could open the floodgates for the entry of other Muslims into the area.
They started holding Ram Darbars, gatherings at which they would play Hanuman Chalisa and bhajans on a music system, outside the bungalow every evening. They invited Togadia to their darbar on April 19, 2014. Togadia reportedly asked residents to attack Zaveri’s office in Bhadevadi Street if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours.
Following the alleged hate speech, Togadia was booked for inciting communal passions and police were deployed at the bungalow. Zaveri, who lives in a Muslim-dominated area, could never move in.
Zaveri refused to comment on the development.
“He (Zaveri) wanted to get rid of it. We got the plot at market rates. I can assure you, it was not distress selling on his part,” said Chetan Kamdar, one of the partners of Bhumiti Associates. While Bhumiti Associates said the deal did not involve any political or religious group, RSS and VHP leaders said they had facilitated it.
S D Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, said: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.”
With the plot having gone to Jains, Hindu residents of Sanatorium are relieved. “Many of the present residents migrated from Muslim-dominated Prabhudas Talav to Sanatorium two-three decades ago. Now, if Muslims follow us here, our lives will become difficult due to their food habits and other customs,” said a retired teacher who lives in Sanatorium.