Post 26/11, Congress played religious politics: WikiLeaks

Ex-US envoy said Congress will stoop to religious-based politics if it feels it is in its interest.

Washington: Post 26/11, a section of the Congress leadership was seen playing religious politics after one of its leaders, AR Antulay, implied that Hindutva forces may have been involved in the Mumbai terror attacks, according to a confidential memo by the then US ambassador to India, David Mulford, released by WikiLeaks.

"The Congress party, after first distancing itself from
the comments (of Antulay, the then minority affairs minister),
two days later issued a contradictory statement which
implicitly endorsed the conspiracy. During this time,
Antulay`s completely unsubstantiated claims gained support in
... Indian-Muslim community," Mulford wrote in his secret
cable to the State Department on December 23, 2008.

"Hoping to foster that support for upcoming national
elections, the Congress party cynically pulled back from its
original dismissal and lent credence to the conspiracy,"
Mulford wrote.

Regardless of Home Minister P Chidambaram`s dismissal of
Antulay`s comments, the Indian-Muslim community "will continue
to believe they are unfairly targeted by law enforcement and
that those who investigate the truth are silenced," he said in
the cable.

"The entire episode demonstrates that the Congress party
will readily stoop to the old caste/religious-based politics
if it feels it is in its interest," Mulford alleged, according
to the cable posted by WikiLeaks on its website Friday.

The United States has neither confirmed or denied the
authenticity of these cables, but said that some 250,000
papers have been stolen from its system and demanded that
WikiLeaks - the whistle blower website - return them back to
the State Department.

According to WikiLeaks, there are some 1,300 cables from
the US embassy in New Delhi. However, only half a dozen of
them have been posted by it on its website.

Mulford said while the killing of three high-level law
enforcement officers during the Mumbai attacks, including ATS
chief Hemant Karkare, "is a remarkable coincidence, the
Congress party`s initial reaction to Antulay`s outrageous
comments was correct."

"But as support seemed to swell among Muslims for
Antulay`s unsubstantiated claims, crass political opportunism
swayed the thinking of some Congress party leaders," he wrote.

"What`s more, the (Congress) party made the cynical
political calculation to lend credence to the conspiracy even
after its recent emboldening state elections victories. The
party chose to pander to Muslims` fears, providing impetus for
those in the Muslim community who will continue to play up the
conspiracy theory," Mulford wrote in his cable.

While "cooler heads" eventually prevailed within the
Congress leadership, the idea that the party would entertain
"such outlandish claims proved once again that many party
leaders are still wedded to the old identity politics," he

The 79-year-old Antulay "was probably bewildered to find
that his remarks, similar in vein to what he would have
routinely made in the past to attack the BJP, created such a
furore this time," Mulford said.

The cable noted that Antulay "sparked a political
controversy on December 17 with comments insinuating that the
killing of Maharashtra Anti-Terror Squad (ATS) chief Hemant
Karkare by the Mumbai terrorists was somehow linked to
Karkare`s investigation of (Malegaon) bombings in which
radical Hindus are suspected."


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