Reacting to Gen Bipin Rawat’s decision to honour Major Leetul Gogoi, who had tied a man on the bonnet of his vehicle in Kashmir as a ‘human shield’ against stone-pelters, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala on Tuesday said the Army chief has the right to give commendation certificate to soldiers as per operational requirement. This comes three days after Congress’s Punjab CM Amarinder Singh’s article in The Indian Express advocated a distinguished services medal for the officer.
Senior party leader Digvijaya Singh, however, opposed both his party and Amarinder’s stand on the issue, and questioned whether it is ethically or morally correct to use a human shield. Speaking with MANOJ C G, Singh also dwelt on triple talaq and his accusation of Telangana Police allegedly setting up bogus IS websites. Excerpts:
In Congress, different leaders are reading the nationalism narrative in different ways. Amarinder Singh, for instance, has supported Major Gogoi, who used a human shield in the Valley.
The issue is, why has this situation occurred in Kashmir? Who is responsible for this? Never before have schoolgirls come on the streets (to protest against the government)….
Do you support using a man as human shield?
I certainly don’t. Was he a terrorist? Was he a stone-pelter? He was going to cast his vote. So this human shield…I don’t think it is either ethical or correct.
How do you see Amarinder Singh’s statement?
He may have his own views on this – he is a former Armyman. But as a citizen of this country, I would not endorse this kind of thing.
An FIR has been registered against you for your remarks that Telangana Police set up a bogus Islamic State (IS) website and is using it to radicalise Muslim youths.
The use of such a website by Telangana Police became apparent after the tip-off by Telangana Police on the train blast case in Madhya Pradesh. Subsequently, an encounter took place in Kanpur by UP Police – Saifullah (was killed). Telangana Police tipped off MP Police and had those people arrested. As it appeared, these people, taking it as a genuine IS site, sent photographs of the blast….
Then there was a meeting in the Home Ministry on the issue of counterterrorism and some state ATS chiefs brought this to the Government of India’s notice that…honeycombing (infiltrating) Muslim youths and arresting them should be stopped. Why should this kind of a strategy be used to trap innocent Muslim youths?
But are these youths innocent?
(They are) certainly not innocent. But should the police of any government be doing this? Is it ethical? (Is is) moral?
Some Congress leaders say such statement help BJP paint the Congress as pro-Muslim?
I have heard this argument. I am neither for Hindu nor Muslim radical elements. The Congress opposes AIMIM (of Asaduddin Owaisi) in Telangana – it is a radical, religious, Muslim fundamentalist party. These people (critics) miss out the point that the Congress supports neither hardcore Hindu or Muslim fundamentalists. The perception is created more by the media – they love to paint the Congress, or those who speak up against BJP or the RSS, as supporting or appeasing Muslims.
What is your view on triple talaq?
It is best left to Muslims themselves to decide. I support social reform among Muslims – even Islamic countries have done away with triple talaq. But why should it be made a political issue? Why should it be sort of put in headlines and made debates in channels? Are you not propagating what the BJP wants? Why you people (media) are not taking about unemployment, reduction in manufacturing sector, inflation, election promises made by the BJP, the draconian law which will give immense powers to income tax authorities?
Is social boycott, as suggested by the All India Muslim Personal Law Board (AIMPLB) the solution? The suggestion has come from within.
No, that is not the solution. What I am saying is people within the community should take it up. What is AIMPLB? Is it a legal entity? Why should the media hype it to a level which it is doing? Is it such a big issue?
The BJP is tapping the southern states in a big way. It is said to be planning to rope in some popular actors. You are Congress’s Telangana and Andhra Pradesh in-charge. How challenging is it for the Congress?
They are actively looking at the possibility of BJP’s growth in the South. They drew a blank in the South in 2014 (Lok Sabha polls), (and) they had peaked in the north. So if they want to maintain the level (in 2019), they have to find new avenues. We definitely have a challenge on our hands. We are working hard in AP, and taken up the issue of special category status strongly.
Is their any plan to try out an understanding with YSR Congress’s Jagan Mohan Reddy? There were earlier talks even of a possible merger.
Jagan Reddy is facing CBI investigation, and he has voluntarily gone and surrendered in front of (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi to say that ‘we will support you’, without even being asked for the support, in the Presidential elections. This means he is courting the BJP. We will take him on in Andhra and expose him.
You have been raising the issue of the possibility of EVM tampering. The Election Commission has asked political parties to demonstrate whether the machines can be hacked. Will you take part in the challenge?
Yes, provided they allow us…give us the machine so that we can load our software and show them how this can be done. We have the software. If we are allowed to upload that software, the machine will act accordingly. We are ready for the challenge, but they will not allow us to touch the machine.
The Army today said it launched punitive fire assaults on Pakistani posts across the LoC. How do you see the development?
We have always supported the government and the armed forces in matters of national security. Unlike the BJP, we do not politicise matters of national security.