As police from two BJP-ruled states looked for him, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s International Working President Pravin Togadia went “missing” for most of Monday only to be found “unconscious” in an Ahmedabad park later in the evening. While the Gujarat police reported Togadia, a Z-plus category protectee, as “untraceable”, a Rajasthan police team was in the city to execute an arrest warrant even as VHP members took to the streets claiming the latter had arrested him.
The Rajasthan police confirmed a team was in Gujarat to execute an arrest warrant, but said they were unsuccessful. Director General of Police O P Galhotra clarified Monday evening that the reports of Togadia’s arrests by Rajasthan police were “totally untrue and baseless”.
Togadia, 61, an oncologist himself, reportedly went missing from the VHP headquarters in the Paldi area of Ahmedabad Monday morning, was found mysteriously at Kotarpur, close to the Ahmedabad airport. He was then taken to a private hospital in Shahibaug in a “semi-conscious” state, caused by hypoglycemia, according to doctors attending to him.
Scores of VHP activists took to the streets Monday evening after reports of Togadia’s arrest and continued sit-ins even after a Gujarat police statement that he had gone “missing”.
Protests were reported in Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Bhuj among other places in the state where the protesters tried to block highways and targeted public buses. Dozens of protesters were detained by the police.
A perplexed VHP claimed there was “no political angle” to the whole developments but was confused if there was a conspiracy to it. “ We will come to know about it only after speaking to Togadiaji,” Surendra Kumar Jain, international joint general secretary of VHP told The Indian Express.
According to Jain the case against Togadia was 12-years-old when the VHP leaders had held a march violating the police orders. “There were 16 people who were charged but all the15 except Togadiaji had taken bail. The Rajasthan police often comes to serve the warrant and this time when they came, they could not find him. That’s when Gujarat police got involved. Gujarat police had five search teams and they found him lying unconscious,” Jain said.
Patidar quota leader Hardik Patel reacting to the development took to Twitter to question how had the Z plus protected Togadia gone missing. “Inspite of Pravin Togadia ji going missing why is the state home minister quiet? Why has his security guard not been suspended? Why are VHP and BJP leaders not concerned?”
Togadia’s position in the VHP was on shaky ground last month after the election to the post of VHP International President was put off indefinitely. The International Working President, a post which Togadia has held for years, is nominated by the elected VHP president. The election was put off after two contenders emerged and no consensus could be reached by the VHP’s trustees.
It began at the Sola police station at noon when VHP activists sat outside after reports that a team of Rajasthan police with an Ahmedabad police team went to his house which falls under the jurisdiction of this police station.
Togadia reportedly asked his guards to leave him around 1 am and return by 2.30 pm Monday, according to Gujarat police. The 108 ambulance service claimed it got a call about a a “well-built” man lying unconscious.
The Chief Operating Officer, GVK EMRI (108) ambulance service Jashwant Prajapati told The Indian Express, “We got a call around 8.20-8.30 pm saying that a well built man was lying unconscious. The caller later identified Pravin ji. He was found at Kotarpur near Noble Nagar . He was unconscious when we found him. We have given all the details of the caller to the police as investigations are on in the matter”.
Dr RM Agrawal, president of Chandramani hospital in Shahibaug, where Togadia was taken by the ambulance said, “He is diabetic because of which he has fallen and lost consciousness. It is a case of hypoglycemia. When he was brought to the hospital his sugar was just 30 .He is better now. Though a bit confused and weak he has regained his senses. There are no injuries on the head or any other body part. We will carry out further investigations soon. He does not remember what happened to him and once he is fine he will be able to recall what happened”.
Togadia’s family was on its way to the hospital the doctor said.
The Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB) officials also rushed to the hospital to meet Togadia and said they would wait for his medical condition to improve. They said that also trying to find out about the man who called the emergency service.
After he was found, Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCB) Deepan Bhadran said that probe is on to find out every detail of the case. A senior officer said that apart from DCB probe another investigation was underway to investigate how Togadia was found at Kotarpur.
Mukesh Malkan, the Gujarat RSS Sanghchalak said in a statement, “RSS is concerned over the incident surrounding international working president of VHP Pravin Togadia. Hope the police and government would bring immediate solution. Request to all activists to have patience and peace”.
Joint Commissioner of Police J K Bhatt, DCB, said that at 10 AM Togadia was last seen by a Special Reserve Police constable Vikramsinh who was guarding him as part of Z plus security cover.
Officers from Sawai Madhopur’s Gangapur City police station in Rajasthan confirmed the arrest warrant. Deepak Ojha, Station House Officer of Gangapur City police station, said that a team under an Assistant Sub Inspector had gone to Ahmedabad to arrest Togadia. “The case pertains to violation of section 144 (unlawful assembly) in 2002 and a local court had taken cognisance of the case in 2015. Subsequently, his summons were issued by the court about 6-7 months ago and now an arrest warrant was issued.”
(With inputs from Gopal Kateshiya)