WikiLeaks: Rahul Gandhi’s Hindu terror comment creates row (Roundup)

Friday, December 17, 2010

NEW DELHI - A WikiLeaks cable quoting Rahul Gandhi as saying that “radicalised Hindu groups” may be a bigger danger than Islamist terrorists fetched a quick clarification from the Congress general secretary Friday that both “terrorism and communalism of all kinds” posed major threats to India. The BJP and RSS were scathing in their criticism of his reported comment.

According to leaks of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks, Gandhi, son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and a Lok Sabha member, made his remarks last year to US Ambassador Timothy Roemer.

He reportedly told Roemer that though “there was evidence of some support for LeT (Islamic terrorist group) Lashkar-e-Taiban among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups”.

The Guardian also quoted Gandhi as telling the ambassador that “the risk of a ‘homegrown’ extremist front reacting to terror attacks coming from Pakistan or from Islamist groups in India was a growing concern and one that demanded constant attention”.

The conversation took place in 2009, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was hosting a dinner in honour of visiting Secretary Of State Hillary Clinton.

Reading out a statement on Gandhi’s behalf, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari quoted him as saying that “terrorism and communalism of all kinds are a threat to India” and that “we need to remain vigilant against terrorism of all kinds no matter who commits them”.

Tewari added that “fighting terrorism is the duty of every Indian. The Congress always believes in this”.

Gandhi’s reaction came soon after Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said the Congress would comment on the WikiLeaks cable release about Gandhi’s remarks after verifying its authenticity.

“We will inquire into this matter, verify its authenticity and let you know thereafter,” Singhvi said.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) reacted angrily to Gandhi’s remarks on Hindu radical groups.

“The BJP strongly condemns the statement, which is also irresponsible,” spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

“If at all Rahul Gandhi has a problem like this, he should speak to Indians, in parliament. Sharing it with an ambassador of a foreign country shows how little he knows about Indian problems.”

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was more scathing. RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said it showed Gandhi’s “utter ignorance”.

Singhvi dismissed the BJP criticism as unimportant. “Do people listen to such allegations?” the Congress spokesperson asked.

Rahul Gandhi is quoted to have said to Timothy Roemer - “The bigger threat (to India) may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community”.

His observation came as a reply to Roemer’s enquiry about Lashkar-e-Taiba’s activities in the region, and its threat to India.

AICC General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi said in a release issued on Gandhi’s behalf: “Rahul Gandhi’s view is that terrorism and communalism of all types are a threat to India. We need to remain vigilant against acts of terrorism of all kinds no matter who commits them.”

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