Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Thursday claimed that intelligence agencies in Pakistan were approaching some victims of the Muzaffarnagar riots to lure them to terrorism, sparking a row with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Rahul made the claim at a poll rally in Indore in Madhya Pradesh while accusing the BJP of creating a divide in Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh for political gains.
Slamming the Congress vice president for his claim, the BJP interpreted it as an attempt to cast doubts about the patriotism of Muslims and demanded that he tender an apology. The UP police said it had no information about the claim but would verify it.
Rahul said that during his visit to Muzaffarnagar after the riots last month to meet people of different communities he was told there is no enmity among the people, but still they had been made to fight each other.
He said he had been told by an intelligence official that as a consequence of the alleged communalisation in Muzaffarnagar, there was a group of 10-15 Muslim youngsters, whose kin were killed, with whom intelligence agencies of Pakistan have established contact.
Rahul claimed that the official told him he was convincing the youngsters not to come under the influence of Pakistani operatives.
"Rahul Gandhi has tried to point the needle of suspicion at Muslims by his remarks today. These Muslims did not go to Pakistan at the time of partition and decided to live here," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
"Gandhi has raised questions about the patriotism of Indian Muslims by saying they were approached by ISI. This is unfortunate. He should apologise for his remarks," said Hussain, the right-wing party's Muslim face.
Hussain said BJP has never said Indian Muslims are communal or that they can be influenced by Pakistan's ISI.
The UP police denied having any information about Pakistani intelligence agencies being in touch with Muslim youths in riot-hit Muzaffarnagar as part of their sinister designs.
"We have no such information that some youths in Muzaffarnagar are in contact with intelligence agencies of Pakistan..He (Rahul) might have got the information from somewhere..We will also get it verified", Additional Director General, Law and Order Mukul Goel said.