SURAT: Former IPS officer D G Vanzara, accused in a string of fake encounter cases, on Sunday stirred a controversy when he put a garland with a toy pistol around the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at a rally organised by his supporters in Surat.
The incident triggered sharp reactions from Congress as well as the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) whose members removed the garland after Vanzara had left the venue. Vanzara, a key accused in the alleged fake encounter killings of Ishrat Jahan, Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati, was in Surat to attend the rally. Before the rally, he put a garland, having a pen and a toy pistol tied to it, around Sardar Patel’s statue.
When asked about the rationale behind offering such a garland, Vanzara told reporters that it was a “symbolic tribute” to Patel’s contribution to uniting hundreds of princely states after independence.
“It was Sardar Patel who had convinced more than 665 princely states to join the Union of India after independence. Though a majority of states got convinced and acceded, some like Junagadh and Hyderabad raised their head in protest. In such a scenario, Sardar kept aside his pen and took up the gun,” he said.
Vanzara said the pen in the garland is a “symbol of wit”, and the pistol of “power”.
“Sardar Patel used both of them (pen and pistol) to build a united India. That is why we have garlanded Patel’s statue with pen and a (toy) gun to pay tribute to this great leader,” the retired IPS officer said. However, the incident drew criticism from various quarters.
Condemning the act, former Congress MP and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Memorial Society chairman Dinsha Patel demanded an apology from Vanzara.
“I strongly condemn such an act. I believe that whoever did this must apologise to the people of India,” said the veteran Congress leader.
PAAS, fighting for the cause of reservation for Patels, also demanded an apology from Vanzara even as its workers removed the garland.
“Vanzara has insulted a great leader. He has also hurt the feelings of Patel community. Sardar Patel always walked the path of peace and never advocated violence. We have removed that garland having the (toy) pistol and put a garland of flowers. We have also demanded an apology from Vanzara on the whole issue,” said Surat PAAS convener Nikhil Savani.
On April 8, Vanzara landed in Ahmedabad after the CBI court relaxed his bail conditions and allowed him to enter and stay in Gujarat. Since then, Vanzara has been felicitated by his supporters at such rallies in different parts of the state. He had also not ruled out joining politics.