Gujarat right-wing groups see a hero in ‘encounter specialist’ Vanzara
Over two months after retired ‘encounter specialist’ DG Vanzara returned to Gujarat to a hero’s welcome, the controversial ex-IPS officer continues to receive rousing receptions across the state.
About 60 members of the little known Abinav Bharat Rashtravadi Hindu Sangathan – led by 33-year-old Amit Koladiya – are now preparing to hold a motorcycle rally in Amreli district on Sunday, at the conclusion of which they plan to facilitate the former police officer.
A key accused in the Ishrat Jahan and Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter cases, which resulted in the killing of seven people, 61-year-old Vanzara is nothing short of a hero for this two-year-old group. Koladiya and his friends, who call themselves Godsevadi, plan to put Vanzara on weighing scales – balancing out 85 kg of his weight with coins amounting to anywhere between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. The money would then be donated to a gaushala (cow shelter).
This is the third felicitation function held for Vanzara in as many weeks, ever since he returned to Gujarat after spending eight years behind bars after his arrest in April 2007. At these events, usually held by little-known Hindu nationalist groups, he narrates his side of the encounter stories – much to the thrill of his doting audience.
The officer, who is known as a ‘supercop’ among his admirers for leading six encounters as the head of the Anti-Terrorist Squad, tells HT, “Our release has vindicated those who always had faith in the Gujarat police. I go to remote places and inform people of the truth behind the encounters, telling them how we have become victims of politics.”
All the six police officers accused in the encounter cases have been granted bail over the last one and a half years.
As Vanzara cannot make overnight journeys on weekdays, when he is required to present himself at the Gandhinagar CBI office, the longer tours are reserved for Sundays. When asked if he intends to join politics in the near future, the officer said he was only “trying to take the truth to the people”.
Meanwhile, Vanzara – who stays in Gandhinagar – continues to court controversies through word and deed. At a recent function in Surat, he placed a garland of toy guns and pens on a Sardar Patel statue. Later, at a felicitation function attended by nearly 2,000 people on June 23, he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “would not have been alive if the Gujarat police hadn’t carried out encounters”.
While moderates balked at his views, Vanzara’s followers couldn’t agree more. “We are followers of Godse, not Gandhi. If slapped, we will not offer the other cheek. We will slap them back. What Vanzara did was completely justified,” said Koladiya.
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