The Congress on Monday denied ever coining terms like ‘saffron’ or ‘Hindu’ terror saying it was of firm belief that terror cannot be linked to any religion or community, and made it clear its leader Rahul Gandhi or the party never used such phrase. “Rahul Gandhi or the Congress party has never used the words ‘saffron terror’,” PTI quoted Congress spokesperson PL Punia as telling the reporters when asked about the BJP’s allegations that his party coined the term saffron terror.
“It is mere rubbish. There is nothing called saffron terror. It is our clear belief that terror cannot be linked to any religion or any community or caste. It is a criminal mentality which leads to criminal activity and it cannot be linked to any religion or community,” he added.
The reaction from the Congress came hours after the BJP attacked it following the acquittal of right wing activist Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast, alleging that the Congress had defamed Hindus by using the term “saffron terror” and demanding an apology from Rahul Gandhi.
Acquitting the five men in the case, a special NIA court ruled that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them. “The court noted that the prosecution could not prove its case; no evidence was presented to prove the conspiracy. Five accused who were arrested have been acquitted by the court today,’’ defence lawyer B Rajvardhan Reddy said.
The court dismissed the case against Devendra Gupta alias Bobby alias Ramesh who was out on bail but in judicial custody in other cases; Lokesh Sharma alias Ajay Tiwari alias Ajay alias Kalu who is out on bail but in judicial custody in other cases; Nabakumar Sarkar alias Swamy Aseemanand alias Ramdas who was granted bail on March 23, 2017; Bharat Mohanlal Rateswar alias Bharatbhai Mohanlal Rateswar who is out on bail; and Rajendhar Chowdary alias Samundhar alias Dasarath alias Lakshman Das Maharaj who is in judicial custody.
Latching on to the verdict, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra had accused the Congress of “defaming” Hindus for votes and demanded that Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi apologise for terms such as “saffron terror” and “Hindu terror”.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad questioned the functioning of the NIA under the Narendra Modi-led government. “It (acquittal) is happening in each case since the government was formed four years ago…people are losing faith in the agencies,” he told news channels.
Reacting to the court verdict, former Union home minister and Congress leader Shivraj Patil said, “I find it very difficult to say whether this is wrong or correct.” He said he was not aware of the nature of chargesheet filed by the probe agency, statements made by the witnesses and the cross-examination done by the prosecution.
Hyderabad MP and AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi said justice was not done in the case and accused the premier investigation agency of not pursuing the case properly.
Meanwhile, the Special NIA judge, who delivered the verdict in the case, resigned on Monday evening. Fourth Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge and Judge of NIA Court at Nampally Court Complex Ravinder Reddy sent a letter to the Metropolitan Sessions Judge and Chief Justice of High Court stating that he was resigning on personal grounds.
Nine people were killed and 58 others injured after a massive blast had ripped through the Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007, during Friday prayers in Hyderabad.