Rajesh Ramachandran, TNN Aug 9, 2003, 11.50pm IST
NEW DELHI: The Congress has been going to town over Best Bakery and other instances of the Narendra Modi government’s complicity in the anti-Muslim violence which shook Gujarat last year.
But when it comes to the involvement of its own party cadre in the killings, 10 Janpath maintains a deafening silence. Even when confronted by a long-standing ally from the freedom movement days, the Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind.
According to the JUH, “most Congress corporators” and some Congress leaders of Gujarat had actively participated in last year’s riots.
Mahmood As’ad Madani, JUH general secretary told The Times of India: “We wrote letters to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, gave a list of Congress leaders involved in the riots, asked her to take action against them but to no avail.”
On April 29, 2002, for example, the JUH received a list of 25 Congress leaders from its Gujarat chapter, which was promptly forwarded to her. This included a former Congress minister, a sitting MLA and a former MP.
Then on August 20, Madani reminded Gandhi: “Similarly our appeal forwarded to you in respect of involvement of Congress MLAs, corporators and workers in Gujarat carnage along with the list of culpable names remains disregarded.”
When contacted by TOI, Ambika Soni, in-charge of Gandhi’s office, said she was not aware of the correspondence. Ahmed Patel, Gandhi’s political secretary, to whom copies were marked by the JUH was not available for comment.
The JUH insists it had accurate information from the ground. For instance, its Gujarat branch had written to the police commissioner of Vadodara city on March 21 that, “After the Godhra incident an urgent meeting of the activists of the BJP, VHP, RSS and Bajrang Dal was held under the leadership of Yogesh Patel (MLA)… Chinnam Gandhi (Congress corporator)… They had alloted the activists their jobs, they made a plan and instructed the activists to carry out this work without any fear and told them that they would get full support of police officers.”
The Gujarat JUH had mapped the Congress leadership even at the district level. Mehsana and Patan districts’ list has 8 names of Congress leaders including local MP Atmaram Patel as having played a “negative role.” A fax message sent on May 1 from Mehsana has this against Patel’s coloumn: “Still has not come to help Muslims; taking sides in favour of a criminal person of Sardarpur and Ladoi village.”
A list of 15 from Anand is headed by a secretary of Gujarat youth Congress. But to be fair to the Congress and the JUH, the report is all praise for the “positive role” played by Patan MP Pravin Rashtrapal.
JUH secretary N A Farooqui says: “The Congress has committed sins of omission and commission during the riots. Former MP Ehsan Jaffri had called up Sonia Gandhi for help. She didn’t take a strong stand in her subsequent visit to Gujarat. The local bodies were mostly headed by the Congress which could have done a lot for relief and rehabilitation, but it was all left to the NGOs.”
Though Farooqui maintains that the JUH “has not severed its relationship” with the Congress, the party’s ambivalence has led to debates within the Muslim intelligentsia over which political formation is best placed to defend the country from the danger of communal division.