NEW DELHI: There is nothing called 'saffron terror', the Congress today said, asserting that it was of firm belief that terror cannot be linked to any religion or community, and made it clear its leader Rahul Gandhi or the party never used the phrase.
The party's reaction came after the BJP attacked it following the acquittal of right-wing activist Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast, alleging that the Congress had defamed Hindus by using the term "saffron terror" and demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi.
Congress spokesperson PL Punia said terrorism is a criminal mentality and it cannot be linked to any religion or community.
"Rahul Gandhi or the Congress party has never used the words 'saffron terror'," he told reporters when asked about the BJP's allegations.
"It is mere rubbish. There is nothing called saffron terror. It is our clear belief that terror cannot be linked to any religion or any community or caste. It is a criminal mentality which leads to criminal activity and it cannot be linked to any religion or community," he told reporters.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who is visiting his constituency Amethi, steered clear of commenting on the issue and dodged a query by reporters on the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast.
Asked about the acquittal, Punia said they will assess the judgement first and then discuss it.
"However, in preliminary reports it has been stated that the evidence was not provided and confessional statement is missing along with other documents. There seems some failure on the part of the prosecution. It would be proper to talk about it later after the judgement comes," he said.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, raised questions on the functioning of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case.
"It (acquittal) is happening in each case since the government was formed four years ago...People are losing faith in the agencies," he told news channels.
Former union home minister Shivraj Patil said he would have to study the judgement before commenting on it.
"How can I comment whether the judgment is correct or wrong until I read judgment and the charge sheet? Will need to study details of the judgment before commenting on it,? former Union Minister Shivraj Patil told PTI.
It is the government which has to decide whether the NIA should appeal to the higher court or not, he added.
Punia said, "We believe in the judiciary. If the court says documents have been stolen or evidence has not been present, then we can raise questions that it is the failure of the prosecution."
Former Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde had in January 2013 at the Jaipur Chintan Shivir of Congress party accused the BJP and the RSS of promoting "Hindu terror" through its training camps, but later he expressed regret over his remarks after the BJP created uproar.
The Congress had, however, distanced itself from his terror remarks.
Shinde in a statement on the eve of Budget session of Parliament in 2013 expressed regret over his "Hindu terror" remark, saying his comments had been misunderstood.
Shinde, who was also the then Leader of the Lok Sabha and faced the prospect of boycott by the BJP, underlined that he had no intention to link terrorism with religion or political organisations.
Before that, former home minister P Chidambaram had used the term "saffron terror" in 2010, but the party had distanced itself from his remarks saying terrorism has no colour.
A special anti-terror court in Hyderabad today acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove "even a single allegation" against them, lawyers said.
A powerful blast, triggered by remote control, had ripped through the over four centuries-old mosque here during an assembly of devotees on May 18, 2007 when they had gathered for Friday prayers, killing nine people and wounding 58.
"Prosecution (NIA) could not prove even a single allegation against any of the accused and all of them stand acquitted," J P Sharma, the counsel for Assemanand, told reporters quoting special judge for NIA cases K Ravinder Reddy who delivered the verdict amid tight security.
Media was barred entry in the courtroom during the pronouncement of the judgement in the high-profile case, dubbed as one of "saffron terror", a term that riled the BJP and Hindu organisations no end.
Aseemanand was acquitted last year in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah terror attack. He is an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case.