Hindu right-wing groups forced a Muslim businessman to sell off his property and move out of a posh locality in Bhavnagar in Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, media reports said on Wednesday.
The Indian Express said the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) brokered the deal between a real estate firm and scrap dealer Aliasgar Zaveri for the sale of his bungalow on December 30, 2014.
The paper said he had bought the house in the Sanatorium locality of Bhavnagar, around 200km from state capital Gandhinagar, in January last year, when Modi was the chief minister of the state.
Gujarat was rocked by widespread communal riots in 2002 which had left over a thousand people dead across the state. Modi’s government was accused of doing little to stop the violence though he was later given a clean chit by the Supreme Court.
Modi became the Prime Minister in May last year after leading the BJP to a comprehensive victory in the Lok Sabha elections.
Rights activists say that after the BJP government came to power at the Centre, right-wing Hindu groups have been targeting minority communities and their institutions, pointing to attacks on missionary schools and churches besides programmes like ‘ghar wapsi’ which aims to re-convert people of other faiths to Hinduism.
The Indian Express report said, a couple of months after Zaveri bought the bungalow, “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.”
Pravin Togadia, a firebrand VHP leader, asked residents of the locality in April last year to attack Zaveri’s office “if he did not give up the bungalow within 48 hours,” the report said.
“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,” the report added.
Zaveri, according to the report, refused to comment on the issue.
The paper quoted SD Jani, president of VHP’s Bhavnagar city unit, as saying: “Due to our agitation, the vidharmi (one from another faith, Zaveri) realised he would not be able to settle in and eventually gave in.”
One of partners in the real estate firm was quoted as saying that the sale of the house was not “distress selling” by Zaveri.