One of two men, sentenced to life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast, returned home to Bharuch two days ago to a hero’s welcome by a large crowd that included office-bearers of the BJP and VHP.
Bhavesh Patel (40) of Bharuch and Devendra Gupta (42) of Ajmer, handed life terms by a Jaipur court in August 2017, were granted bail last week by the Rajasthan High Court after their lawyers argued that the men had been convicted on the basis of “human probability… circumstantial evidence… conjectures”.
Three persons were killed and 15 others injured in the dargah blast. Accompanied by his brother Hitesh and others who had gone to Jaipur to complete the bail procedure, Patel was welcomed at the Bharuch railway station on Sunday by a large crowd. Clad in saffron clothes and calling himself Swami Muktanand, Patel went in a procession from the Swaminarayan temple in Dandiyabazaar to his house in Hathikhana area.
People carried him on their shoulders while others showered him with rose petals, burst crackers and even invited a DJ to the celebration — all the way to his home where his parents were waiting for him.
In the welcome procession were BJP’s Surbhiben Tamakuwala, president of the Bharuch municipality, councillor Marutisinh Atodariya, VHP’s Viral Desai and local RSS members — Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta are former RSS members.
Asked about her presence in the crowd, Tamakuwala said: “I received a message on a WhatsApp group and I went there. I don’t know Bhavesh Patel, and I don’t want to speak on this subject.”
Atodariya said: “Hathikhana area falls in my ward, and I have known Bhavesh since childhood. We came to know that Bhavesh had changed his ways and had become a Swami in jail. He was returning home, so I was present and felicitated him.”
Viral Desai, VHP south Gujarat spokesperson, said: “I received a call from Bhavesh’s brother Hitesh on Saturday. He said bail had been granted and that they would be reaching Bharuch on Sunday afternoon. We started preparations for a welcome ceremony. He was one of my close friends and was associated with the RSS.”
“Bhavesh told me that during his stay in jail, he read many religious books and had become a monk and changed him name from Bhavesh Patel to Swami Muktanand. I was glad to hear it and I congratulated him,” Desai said.