Bhavesh Patel, convicted in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah blast case, was welcomed warmly amid celebrations in Bharuch by local people and members of the VHP, RSS and BJP after being released on bail.
A trial court had earlier sentenced him to life imprisonment. However, later, Rajasthan High Court granted him bail last week.
Patel had donned a turban along with saffron robes and his relatives revealed to the crowd that during his jail time, he had become a monk and changed his name to Swami Muktanand.
He was welcomed warmly by members of the outfits, including BJP-ruled Bharuch Municipality’s president, Surbhi Tamakuwala.
“VHP, RSS and BJP members along with hundreds of people welcomed him as he walked towards his residence at Hathikhana Bazar from nearby Swaminarayan temple, where he went to offer prayers after his arrival here,” Viral Desai, spokesperson of south Gujarat unit of the VHP, said.
“Only after he came here that we learnt that he has already become a monk of an akhada, and has changed his name to Swami Muktanand. When he went to jail he was like any another common man,” Desai said.
Bharuch BJP councillor Marutisinh Atodariya said, “A large number of members of the municipality were present to welcome him.”
Desai disclosed Patel has been associated with the VHP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since his younger days. He had also served as RSS’s Bharuch unit’s office-bearer.
Social activist Nishant Varma said a hero’s welcome to a convict by members of a political party is “unacceptable” and should be termed as “anti-national”.
“A person who is a convict, even if he comes out on bail, cannot be given a hero’s welcome,” he said.
“Anyone who adopts the name of a swami on his own…at least the akhara swamis and self-styled swamis are hypocrites. He might have been granted bail, but the lower court has pronounced him a convict,” Varma said.
On October 11, 2007, a blast at the Dargah of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti in Ajmer at the time of Iftaar in Ramadan left three pilgrims dead and 15 others injured.