Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Friday lashed out at his key rival Rahul Gandhi at a rally, alleging that the Congress vice-president defamed Muslims by suggesting some Muzaffarnagar riot victims were being cultivated by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.
“Instead of levelling allegations at an entire qaum [community],” Mr. Modi said in Jhansi, “he should disclose the names of those who were in touch with the Inter-Services Intelligence.” “If he cannot do that, he should render a public apology to all Muslim youth.”
Mr. Modi’s effort to position himself as a defender of young Muslims against terror-related slurs comes against the backdrop of allegations he was personally complicit in faked encounters, as well as the pogrom of 2002.
Mr. Gandhi had sparked off a still-snowballing controversy on Thursday, saying that an intelligence official told him that the ISI had made contact with a group of 10 to 15 Muzaffarnagar Muslims who had lost kin in the riots. His remarks were made at a rally in Indore.
However, Uttar Pradesh Additional Director-General of Police Mukul Goel had said the authorities “have no such information.”
Mr. Modi criticised intelligence officials for sharing classified information with a Member of Parliament. “The nation wants to know why intelligence services are reporting to him and why they are giving input for his speeches,” he said.
These allegations were mirrored, almost word-for-word, by Uttar Pradesh’s Urban Development Minister Mohammad Azam Khan – ironically himself alleged by the BJP to have been involved in the riots. He said Mr. Gandhi “should reveal the names of the youths who were in contact with Pakistan’s intelligence agency or else he should apologise to Muslims.”
Influential clerics, including Maulana Kalbe Sadiq, Maulana Abdul Iran Miyan Farangi Mahal and Maulana Saif Avbas Naqvi, condemned Mr. Gandhi’s statement.