WikiLeaks: Rahul believes Hindu extremists bigger threat than Muslim militants

Posted on December 18, 2010


New Delhi : In controversial comments, Rahul Gandhi has told US Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer that the growth of “radicalised Hindu groups” posed a bigger threat to the country than militant groups like the Lashkar-e-Toiba, according to a leaked American diplomatic cable.

Rahul, during a conversation with the envoy at a luncheon hosted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at his residence in July 2009 in honour of visiting Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 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 said.

According to a secret US diplomatic cable from New Delhi released by WikiLeaks, the Congress leader shared his views with Roemer on a range of political topics, social challenges, and electoral issues for the Congress party in the next five years.

“Responding to the ambassador’s query about Lashkar-e-Toiba’s activities in the region and immediate threat to India, Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the group among certain elements in India’s indigenous Muslim community,” the cable notes.

“Gandhi, however, warned, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community,” it said.

The cable dated August 3, 2009 which described Roemer’s luncheon encounter with Gandhi on July 20, 2009, said Gandhi was referring to the tensions created by some of the more polarising figures in the BJP such as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.

“The risk of a ‘home-grown’ 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,” it said.

The cable signed by Roemer says that Gandhi, who was seated next to the Ambassador, was forthright in describing the challenges faced by the Congress party and the UPA government in the months ahead.

In late 2007, US diplomats had described Gandhi: “Widely viewed as an empty suit, he will have to prove wrong those who dismiss him as a lightweight.”

“To do so he will have to demonstrate determination, depth, savvy and stamina,” it said.

“He will need to get his hands dirty in the untidy and ruthless business that is Indian politics,” a diplomat reportedly said in a cable entitled ‘The son also rises: Rahul Gandhi takes another step towards top job’.

Other US cables talk of Gandhi’s political inexperience and repeated gaffes. They also repeat cutting criticism from political analysts and journalists.

However, the cables reportedly reveal that as Gandhi warmed to the US, the US warmed to him.

In a meeting with another American official last summer, he explained his strategy of targetting rural populations and small towns, impressing his interlocutor.

“(Gandhi) came off as a practiced politician who knew how to get his message across, was precise and articulate and demonstrated a mastery that belied the image some have of (him) as a dilettante,” the official said.

In November last year, after a meeting with the US ambassador, a cable to Washington described Gandhi as “an elusive contact in the past” but now “clearly interested in reaching out to the USG (United States Government)”.

A cable from February this year describes him as “increasingly sure-footed”.

For Roemer, writing after the lunch during which Gandhi had commented on extremism, “the rising profile of young leaders like Rahul Gandhi provides (the USA with) an opening to expand the constituency in support of the strategic partnership with a long term horizon”.

When contacted in New Delhi, the US Embassy offered no comments on the WikiLeaks contents.

The United States, which has accused WikiLeaks of stealing its secret cables, has refused to either deny or confirm the authenticity of these cables.

Till as late as August too, senior Congress leader and Union Home Minister P Chidambaram had cautioned state police forces, security and intelligence officials against the recently uncovered phenomenon of ‘saffron terrorism’.

“There is no let-up in the attempts to radicalise young men and women in India. Besides, there is the recently uncovered phenomenon of saffron terrorism that has been implicated in many bomb blasts of the past. My advice to you is that we must remain ever vigilant and continue to build, at the central and state levels, our capacity in counter-terrorism,” he told top police and security officers.

The Congress was quick to cover its tracks after that remark when party spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi clarified later that terror had no colour.

Slamming Rahul, BJP said Congress wants to create a communal strife so that they can have a vote harvest in the coming elections.

“They (Congress) are feeling let down by the corruption scandals and price rise… so they are afraid of losing the elections. This is their old trick…,” BJP spokesperson Tarun Vijay said.