Crime branch’s dread site to house harmony memorial

Crime branch’s dread site to house harmony memorial

AHMEDABAD: The Ahmedabad crime branch office used to be an ominous address — a fortress-like den lorded over by officers like D G Vanzara, an accused in several fake encounter cases. Countless tales of torture and illegal detentions emerged from the complex in the post-Godhra riots period. But soon, the site of dread and communally charged fear will symbolize harmony.

On July 1, a part of the complex will be opened for public as a memorial to Vasant Rao Hegisthe and Rajab Ali Lakhani, friends who were lynched on the same date in 1946, in pre-Independence riots as they tried to calm a rampaging mob during the Rath Yatra. Vasant was 40 and Rajab only 27. “The killing happened near Khand ni Seri in the Walled City,” said a police official.

The elaborate museum, which will have audio-visual segments and exhibits championing peace, represents an attempt of the crime branch to effect an image makeover. The city’s oldest watch tower, located on the crime branch campus at Gaekwad Haveli in the Walled City, houses the museum.

Police officials said that the museum consists of a ground floor and two other floors and will display photographs of Vasant and Rajab, their bronze busts, and a painting depicting the events of the day of their killing. There will be screenings of a short film outlining their lives. Also on display will be some books written by famous Gujarati writers on the duo’s sacrifice.

“Rath Yatra is scheduled on July 18 and the municipal elections, in the October-November period,” said deputy commissioner of police (crime branch) Deepan Bahdran. “Before those events, the opening of the museum will send a message of communal harmony across the city.”

The crime branch has invited Vasant’s descendants, who live in the Lal Darwaza area, to the opening of the museum. “We have also talked to Subhan Lakhani, a relative of Rajab, who lives in Canada,” said Bhadran. Lakhani has accepted the invitation.

Police officials said they have asked Vasant’s family to donate his blood-soaked shoes for display. A city-based historian, Rizwan Kadri — who has worked with cops in setting up the museum — said Rajab’s family that originally hailed from Limbdi town, about 100 km from Ahmedabad, had migrated to Karachi. They returned in 1936.

“After coming back to Limbdi, Rajab enrolled into Shamaldas College in Bhavnagar,” said Kadri. “However, he did not complete graduation and joined the freedom struggle. At the time, Vasant was in Seva Dal; that his how they became friends.” The idea of creating the museum was conceived by Himanshu Shukla when he was the deputy commissioner of police of the crime branch. He is at present SP operations in ATS.


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