Did Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi overstate the claim that Pakistan’s intelligence agency was out recruiting Muzaffarnagar’s riot victims?
Barring a few intercepts of calls made to victims from Pakistan, HT has learnt that there is little to support Gandhi’s startling contention that “10 to 15 boys who had lost their brothers and sisters in the riots" were contacted by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the country’s external intelligence agency, made a few intercepts as part of a routine sweep. They did not find any particular spurt in calls or any attempts to “recruit” people.
In fact, most of the monitored calls turned out to be routine calls from relatives. However, some did make an effort to gauge the mood of the people and could have been soft probes to try and gain sympathy, a senior intelligence official told HT.
Uttar Pradesh home secretary Kamal Saxena too confirmed the Intelligence Bureau (IB) had not shared any report with the state regarding recruitment.
“The government has not received any input from IB about the ISI being in touch with riot victims in Muzaffarnagar,” Saxena specified.
"Just two days ago, there was a meeting between the IB and UP Police intelligence officials where generic inputs about Muzaffarnagar emerging as a ‘breeding ground’ for disaffected youth were shared,” said an intelligence officer.
Gandhi in his speech in Indore on Thursday had also claimed that he had been briefed about the recruitment by an "intelligence official".
HT learnt that an additional director with the IB, Khinya Ram Bagadia, had indeed met Gandhi three days ago. When contacted, Bagadiya, who was heading the IB’s unit in Rajasthan till a week ago, confirmed having met Gandhi but denied briefing him about the Muzaffarnagar youth.
"I worked in Rajasthan Police and served with the IB long ago. I was at Rahul’s rallies in Alwar and Churu to manage security on behalf of my private security agency. I do not know anything about the controversial statement on riots,” Bagadia told HT.
IB officials, however, confirmed Bagadia was still serving with the agency and has recently been posted to Delhi.