Discontent among Muslims has Congress worried

October 5th, 2008 - 2:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia GandhiNew Delhi, Oct 5 (IANS) Top Congress party leaders are anxious about the growing discontent and restlessness within the Muslim community, which feels it is being targeted in the name of fighting terrorism, especially in the wake of police claims they had busted the group behind the string of terror attacks.The shootout last month in Delhi’s Jamia Nagar, where two suspected terrorists were killed, and the subsequent crackdown by investigators in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh district and other parts of the country have caused distress forcing several Muslim delegations to seek an audience with party leaders.

“Yes, we have been receiving many representations especially from residents of Jamia Nagar who have grave doubts about the shootout. They have been gripped in fear psychosis and our foremost duty is to develop an amicable atmosphere in the region,” Delhi’s Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit told IANS.

“Party members have conveyed the need for a judicial probe to Congress president Sonia Gandhi as well. No decision has been taken yet but we hope something will happen,” said Dikshit.

With polls in six states scheduled for December and general elections planned early next year, some leaders feel that a fine balance has to be struck between fighting terror and ensuring that the large majority of law-abiding Muslims were not alienated in the process.

Science and Technology Minister Kapil Sibal refused to comment directly on the issue.

“On visiting Jamia Nagar I found that people had many doubts and questions were raised by residents which need to be addressed,” was all he would say.

Sibal is the MP from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk constituency and Muslims constitute almost 45 percent of its population. He along with Congress leaders, Salman Khurshid - who lives close to Jamia Nagar - and Pervez Hashmi recently visited the area to gauge the dissatisfaction among Muslims living there.

Jitin Prasad, minister of state for steel, felt there should be transparency in matters concerning the police action.

“I feel police officers have to do their duty. But if there is any discontent regarding the whole issue then that should be addressed and there should be complete transparency in the matter,” he said.

However, many Congress leaders said in private they could not take a stand openly questioning the shootout in Delhi or the crackdowns in Uttar Pradesh because of certain sensitivities.

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government is already under fire from the opposition on the crucial question of internal security and whether it is doing enough to secure lives in the wake of bombings across Indian cities in the last three years.

“If someone was to stand up and question the police and its role not just in Delhi but elsewhere, it makes the government more vulnerable,” said a senior party stalwart, not wishing to be identified.

But Congress leaders realize that something needs to be done to arrest Muslim alienation especially in UP where the new-formed alliance with the Samajwadi Party (SP) will be crucial in the general elections. The SP too is equally concerned about its vote bank eroding after police linked the Delhi shootout and other blasts with Azamgarh.

The demand from a section of Congress for a judicial probe into the shootout comes one week after the National Human Rights Commission issued notice to Delhi Police demanding a detailed report on the Sep 19 shootout.

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