Raking up the controversial Malegaon bomb blast case and Ishrat Jahan fake encounter, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said Muslim youth, facing injustice, may lose their sense of belonging to the country.
Political observers, however, saw his remarks as part of NCP’s attempt to shift the political debate from development to religion with an eye on votes.
In the run-up to next year’s elections, NCP is keen on strengthening its pro-Muslim and secular image.
Addressing NCP office bearers at a party function in Pune on Saturday, Pawar said several innocent Muslim families were destroyed in these two cases and, no wonder, the community might be feeling itself alienated.
“If somebody is carrying anger because of such incidents and does some act, he cannot be held guilty,” he said.
Nineteen Muslim youth were jailed for three years in the Malegaon case before the real culprits were arrested.
“Why should these youths have a feeling that ‘this is my country,”’ Pawar asked.
Pawar, in his speech, said he had, at a meeting, suggested to the Maharashtra ATS chief late Hemant Karkare to recheck the direction of investigation in Malegaon bomb blast. He said he could not believe that Muslims could plant bombs at a Masjid on a Friday. “Investigation later revealed that some Sadhvi, an army officer and a few people from Nashik and Pune were involved in the blast,” Pawar said.
Turning to Ishrat encounter case, he described her as an innocent college girl and wondered how she suddenly became a terrorist. “Ishrat, along with two youths, was arrested and killed in an encounter the next day. This came to light because of the court. Police officers responsible for their killings are in jail, but Ishrat’s family was destroyed,’’ he said.
He appealed to party workers to support truth and help Muslims in such cases.