Rahul Gandhi considers Hindu extremists greatest threat

Rahul Gandhi, widely seen as an Indian prime minister-in-waiting, believes Hindu extremists may be a greater threat to his country than Islamist militants, a leaked US diplomatic cable said Friday. Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, told US Ambassador Timothy Roemer last year that there was “some support” among Indian Muslims for militant groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba—blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. “However, Gandhi warned, the bigger threat may be the growth of radicalized Hindu groups, which create religious tensions and political confrontations with the Muslim community,” said the cable released by website WikiLeaks. In a statement released Friday, Gandhi stressed that “terrorism and communalism of all types” was a threat to India. “We need to remain vigilant against acts of terrorism of all kinds, no matter who commits them,” he said. Gandhi stoked a political row in October when he compared a right-wing Hindu group with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, saying both preached hardline fundamentalist ideologies. The comments made to Timothy Roemer last year were immediately criticized 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 Roemer on the Lashkar-i-Taiba (LeT), 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. 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 organizations, have been linked to bomb attacks against Muslim targets. 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 licenses.

The International Committee of the Red Cross provided US diplomats in 2005 with evidence of the systematic use of torture by Indian security forces in Kashmir, leaked US diplomatic cables also revealed on Friday. In a confidential briefing, the ICRC told the diplomats of 177 visits it had made to detention centres in Indian Kashmir that revealed “stable trend lines” of prisoner abuses, according to the cables released by website WikiLeaks. It said that among 1,500 detainees that the Red Cross staff met, more than half reported “ill-treatment”. Of the 852 cases the agency recorded, 171 detainees said they had been beaten, while the rest said they had been subjected to one or more of six forms of torture. These included use of electricity on suspects, suspending them from the ceiling and putting a roller or a round metal object on the thighs of the person and then having somebody sit on it, crushing muscles. Others had their legs stretched 180 degrees, or were subjected to various forms of water torture. More than 300 cases of sexual abuse were reported. “There is regular and widespread use of IT (ill-treatment) and torture by security forces during interrogation. This always takes place in the presence of officers,” the cable said. The Red Cross said that it had raised the issue of prisoner abuse with the Indian government for more than a decade, but because the practice continued, “it is forced to conclude that the GOI condones torture”. Human rights groups have repeatedly accused India of abuses in Muslim-majority Indian Kashmir, where it has been fighting an armed separatist insurgency for more than 20 years. The ICRC, which met with nearly 1,500 detainees, stressed that very few were militants. The vast majority were civilians “connected to or believed to have information about the insurgency”. The cables concluded that the evidence of ill-treatment and torture was “very disturbing”. This disclosure vindicates the Daily Mail regular reports of constant gross human rights abuse by Indians in Occupied Kashmir. Violence in Indian Kashmir has eased since nuclear-armed India and Pakistan launched a peace process in 2004 over the disputed Himalayan region. But popular pro-independence protests since June have left more than 110 protesters and bystanders— many of them teenagers and young boys—dead. – Dailymailnews