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Hindu radicals bigger threat than LeT: Rahul
WikiLeaks cables on India trigger political blame game
Tribune News Service & Agencies

Washington/New Delhi, Dec 17
In what has come as a major embarrassment for the Congress and triggered a political storm, a leaked American diplomatic cable reveals that Rahul Gandhi had told US Ambassador to India Timothy J Roemer that growth of ‘radicalised Hindu groups” posed a bigger threat to the country than militant groups like the Laskhar-e-Toiba (LeT).

The charismatic Congress leader, who is tipped as the future Prime Minister, also referred to the tensions created by some of the more polarising figures in the BJP such as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, the cable released by WikiLeaks said.

Rahul was sharing his views with Roemer at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence in July 2009 in honour of visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Responding to the Ambassador’s query about LeT’s activities in the region and immediate threat to India, Gandhi said although there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India's indigenous Muslim community, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community,” the cable notes

The BJP and the RSS immediately launched a scathing attack on the Congress, adding to political sparring that has paralysed Parliament and pushed policymaking into limbo.

Later in the day, the Congress General Secretary issued a statement that said not only saffron terror but all forms of terrorism posed threat to India.

“Terrorism and communalism of all types is a threat to India. We need to remain vigilant against acts of terrorism of all kinds, no matter who commits them,” he said.

The Congress’ initial reaction was that the expose was a conspiracy. “Let us verify the truth. May be there is some conspiracy behind the pattern with which this all is being done,” AICC media in charge Janardan Dwivedi said.

“We will respond to it after verifying the facts... There is no reason to react in an excited manner,” party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvti said. Springing to Rahul’s defence, another party spokesman Manish Tewari said: “The views of Rahul Gandhi are those of the Congress”.

Singhvi also dismissed BJP’s criticism that Rahul’s remarks impinged upon India’s strategic security and fight against terrorism.over the issue.

Earlier, turning the heat on the Congress-led UPA, the BJP said its scion had, in one stroke, given leverage to terror propagandists in Pakistan and compromised India’s strategic interests.

“Rahul has, in one stroke, given leverage to the terror groups operating from Pakistan and certain segments of the Pakistan establishment. If he, despite the Mumbai attacks, thinks a fringe radical Hindu group is a bigger threat, he is acutely ignorant of India’s problems,” BJP national spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

In veiled references to another AICC General Secretary Digvijay Singh’s recent remarks that slain Maharashtra ATS chief probing the Malegaon blast had feared for his life, the Sangh Parivar wondered how the senior Congress leadership was vying to project Hindus as terrorists.

“There’s a virtual race among senior Congress leaders to back the jehadi terror and label Hindus as terrorists. This is shocking. So is the fact that someone who nurses lofty political ambitions goes on to discuss his country’s internal matters with the US Ambassador. This is a diplomatic blunder,” RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said as the Congress’ catchphrase of “saffron terror” returned to haunt the party, already struggling to keep the 2G Spectrum ghost off its back.

The timing of the release of cables has put the Congress, which was readying for its plenary session, in more trouble. Party spokesmen, who were to brief the media about the “gala event”, were in dilemma on how to react to the WikiLeaks release.

Rahul vs RSS

This is not for the first time the Rahul has commented on sensitive issues, infuriating the BJP and the RSS. In October, he described the RSS as “fanatical”, saying it was no different from banned terror outfit SIMI and that both hold “fundamentalist” views.

“I know only that both SIMI and the RSS are fanatical and hold fundamentalist views,” he said at a press conference In Bhopal. When pointed out that the radical Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) was a proscribed outfit, which was not the case with the RSS, the Nagpur-headquartered right-wing group, Rahul was quoted as saying that this did not matter much for him.




Widespread torture in J&K, says Red Cross

London, December 17
Indian security forces fighting a 20-year insurgency in Kashmir beat suspects, subjected them to electric current and tortured them with water in widespread human rights abuses, the Red Cross told the US embassy, according to a leaked diplomatic cable.

Coming at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year, the 2005 cable, released by WikiLeaks, documents systematic prisoner abuse for confession by Indian police and paramilitary forces. The cable is based on 177 visits the International Red Cross made to detention centres in Kashmir and elsewhere between 2002 and 2004.

It said that among 1,491 detainees that the Red Cross staff met, more than half reported “ill-treatment”. Of the 852 cases the agency recorded, 171 detainees said they had been beaten, while the rest (681) said they had been subjected to one or more of six forms of torture -- 498 (electricity used), 381 (suspended from the ceiling), 294 (muscles crushed in their legs by prison personnel sitting on a bar placed across their thighs), 181 (legs stretched by being "split 180 degrees"), 234 (tortured with water) and 302 (sexual cases).

The Red Cross said that it had raised the issue of prisoner abuse with the Indian government for more than a decade, but because the practice continued, "it is forced to conclude that the GOI condones torture”. Though the allegations relate from 2002 to 2004, they are likely to ruffle feathers in the Indian government, which bristles at any external involvement in Kashmir, which it considers an integral part of the country.

Nonetheless, the situation was "much better than it was in the 1990s", officials said. There were no longer cases of security forces indiscriminately raiding villages and detaining their inhabitants, they added.

ICRC spokesman Alexis Heeb said the organisation was looking into the matter, but would not comment on the contents of the diplomatic correspondence as that was an internal communication between the US embassy in New Delhi and Washington.

Ten years ago, the ICRC said, there were some 300 detention centres, but there are now “a lot fewer”. The organisation had never, however, gained access to the “Cargo Building”, the most notorious detention centre, in Srinagar, the report said. The abuse continued, they said, because “security forces need promotions,” while for militants, “the insurgency has become a business”.

For his part, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that the allegations related to a period before his government took power and that he did not condone torture. “I am not getting into anything more than the fact that these transcripts or these leaks pertain to 2005. You can do your own maths as to what regime was in power at that time. All I am saying is that as far as this government is concerned we do not condone torture. We never have, we never will,” the National Conference leader said.

Meanwhile, according to a secret American cable of 2007, the embassy strongly argued against issuing a visa to Kashmiri leader Usman Abdul Majid, militant turned counter insurgent who was also a minister in Mufti Mohammad Saeed’s government.

“Usman Abdul Majid is a leader of the pro-GOI (government of India) Ikhwan-ul-Musilmeen paramilitary group, which... is notorious for its use of torture, extra-judicial killing, rape, and extortion of Kashmiri civilians suspected of harbouring or facilitating terrorists,” says the cable dated June 4, 2007 and marked secret. Majid was invited by the US Institute of Peace (USIP) — a Washington-based think tank to attend events beginning June 7. — Agencies





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