(Adds Congress reaction in paragraphs 14 and 15)
By C.J. Kuncheria
NEW DELHI Dec 17 Rahul Gandhi, seen as an
India prime minister in waiting, told the U.S. ambassador
radical Hindu groups could posed a bigger threat to the
country than the Islamists who attacked Mumbai in 2008, a
leaked cable showed.
The comments made to Timothy Roemer last year were
immediately criticised by the main opposition Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), adding to political
sparring that has deadlocked parliament and pushed
policymaking into limbo.
Gandhi's comments, made in response to a question from
Roemers on the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant
group, referred to religious tension created by more extreme
BJP leaders, according to the cable released by WikiLeaks and
published on Friday by Britain's Guardian newspaper.
Gandhi said there was evidence of some support for the LeT
among Indian Muslims, the ambassador wrote, according to the
"However, Gandhi warned, the bigger threat may be the
growth of radicalised Hindu groups, which create religious
tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim
community," Roemer wrote.
India has a history of communal tensions between majority
Hindus and minority Muslims, and critics say several political
parties play on insecurities amongst Muslims to win votes. In
2002, about 2,500 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in riots
in western Gujarat state, human rights groups estimated.
Radical Hindu groups, some with ties to the BJP or the
BJP's more extreme sister organisations, have been linked to
bomb attacks against Muslim targets.
The controversy adds to the woes of the ruling Congress
party, which is already fighting to contain the damage from a
series of setbacks including corruption scandals, high food
prices and a poor showing in a state poll.
The BJP has threatened to block the February budget
session of parliament if the government does not set up a
parliamentary committee to investigate charges the country
lost $39 billion in revenue due to corruption in the granting
of telecoms licences. [ID:nSGE6BF03D]
Gandhi, son of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, has sparked
the BJP's ire before. He once compared the opposition party's
parent organisation to the banned Students Islamic Movement of
On Friday, the BJP said Gandhi's comments were adding
grist to propaganda from Islamist militants and Pakistan.
"In a way he is seeking to justify the entire propaganda.
That will impinge on our security and strategic concerns and
the fight against terror. The BJP strongly condemns this
statement which is irresponsible," BJP leader Ravi Shankar
"After this, the people will know that you, Rahul Gandhi,
have a long way to go to understand this nation."
Congress said it would not immediately react to the report.
"There is no reason to react in this excited manner. the
matter has to be looked into, it has to be investigated and
verified. We will let you know in the context of that,"
Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi told reporters.
LeT militants from Pakistan held Mumbai under
siege for three days in Nov 2008, killing at least 166 people.
India halted peace talks with nuclear-armed rival Pakistan
following the attacks.
Several conspiracy theories have floated that Hindu groups
were involved in the Mumbai attacks, including by Congress
leaders, especially after a police officer investigating Hindu
radical groups was killed.
(Editing by Paul de Bendern and Robert Birsel; Editing by