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Raging storm over Rahul's remark

Raging storm over Rahul's remark

Author: Pioneer News service
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: April 18, 2007

But Congress stands by heir apparent

The political and diplomatic row kicked by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's claim about his family's role in the division of Pakistan continues to gather momentum both within the country and across the border.

While the Congress sees Rahul's statement as reiteration of a historical reality, party leaders are unable to explain the need for raking up the sensitive past, which could needlessly inflame Pakistani public opinion.

There is a strong feeling that Rahul's statement is a premeditated ploy to please Hindu sentiments after his controversial claim that the Babri Masjid could have been saved had his family been in power in 1992.

However, the initial Muslim reaction to Rahul's statement could be a cause of worry for the Congress. It is baffling why he chose to make such a statement at Badayun which has a significant Muslim population and the local Congress candidate is also a Muslim.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister VP Singh has expressed disagreement with Rahul's remarks and said India had only "helped" in the creation of Bangladesh, which came into being owing to the demand from the people.

"We never caused a split in any country... Bangladesh was created owing to the popular demand... Though we did help in its creation," the Jan Morcha leader told newspersons during a campaign tour of Uttar Pradesh.

Criticising Rahul's comment on the creation of Bangladesh, the BJP said the Congress should accept responsibility for Partition as well.

"We will not object to his (Rahul's) statement that the credit for disintegration of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh goes to his family, if he, his family and his party accept the responsibility for the tragic partition of the country as well," BJP national vice-president Venkaiah Naidu said.

But more than the domestic reaction, Rahul's statement has given an opportunity to Pakistan to question India's intentions during the 1971 war. New Delhi has consistently maintained that India was forced to intervene in what was then East Pakistan after the crisis created by the influx of millions of refugees.

In Islamabad, responding to questions about Rahul's statement, Foreign Office spokesperson Tasneem Aslam said, "Everyone knows what happened in 1971."

She said there have been efforts to destabilise Pakistan and Rahul's statement is clearly an admission for the first time by a scion of a family that was ruling India at that time.

Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, secretary-general, Pakistan Muslim League, and chairman, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has said that Rahul's statement citing the breakup of Pakistan in 1971 as "an achievement of the Gandhi family" shows that the Indian strategy was clear from day one, namely, to partition its neighbour through sponsorship of state terrorism.

India created and armed the Mukti Bahini just as it created and armed the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, he said.

Pakistan's Minister for Population Welfare Shahbaz Hussain has also strongly condemned Rahul's statement. "We strongly condemn his assertion," he said in a statement and urged the nation to forge unity and promote an atmosphere of integrity.

Even as Pakistan continued to fret and fume over Rahul's remarks, fundamentalist and separatist elements across the border and Jammu & Kashmir have gone to the extent of asking Islamabad to call off the peace dialogue with India.

Finding a tailor-made opportunity to exploit Rahul's remarks, militant outfit Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen (JuM) on Monday urged Pakistan to stop the Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) with India.

Reacting to Rahul's "We split Pakistan," a JuM spokesman in a statement issued to Srinagar media said, "Rahul Gandhi is an important member of the Nehru family and one of the thinktanks of the Indian Government. His statement clearly reflects the thinking of the Indian Government and its insincerity."

"His statement clearly indicates that CBMs are a big deceit and Pakistan is being taken for a ride on the name of resolving the Kashmir issue."

"Pakistan leadership needs to react to the statement and should call off the so called CBMs and it (PaK) leadership should make it clear to India that until Kashmir is not resolved till then confidence cannot be built," the JuM spokesman said.

Taking an equally tough line, Hurriyat (Geelani) acting chairman Ghulam Nabi Sumji said, "Rahul's statement is clear admission of India's intrusion and interference into the internal affairs of Pakistan."

Meanwhile, the Congress justified Rahul's remarks as a historical reality. "Viewed holistically in sum, substance, essence and spirit, Rahul Gandhi said and did nothing wrong," Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.

Another Congress spokesperson Satyavrat Chaturvedi said that "Right from the BJP to BSP and Samajwadi Party all have been talking of the achievements of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kanshi Ram and the late Ram Manohar Lohia respectively during poll campaigns. What is then wrong in Rahul Gandhi talking of a fact of history referring to the ultimate result of Bangladesh war which was thrust on us."

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