| NEW DELHI
NEW DELHI Dec 17 Rahul Gandhi, seen as an
Indian prime minister in waiting, told the U.S. ambassador
radical Hindu groups could pose a bigger threat 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 a question from Roemer
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 tension between majority
Hindus and minority Muslims, and critics say several political
parties play on that tension to win votes. In 2002, about
2,500 people, most of them 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 to which Gandhi belongs, which is already fighting to
contain the damage from a series of setbacks including
corruption scandals, high food prices and poor showings in
The BJP has threatened to block a 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 powerful 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 India.
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."
Gandhi and Congress spokesmen were not available for
LeT militants from Pakistan launched coordinated attacks
on several landmarks in Mumbai in November 2008, killing 166
people. India halted peace talks with nuclear-armed rival
Pakistan following the attacks.
(Editing by Paul de Bendern and Robert Birsel)