On a day key UPA constituent DMK decided to pull out of UPA, Congress President Sonia Gandhi today backed the southern ally's demand for an independent and credible probe into "unspeakable atrocities" on ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka, saying these cannot go un-investigated.
She said that the Sri Lankan Tamils continue to be denied legitimate political rights and expressed pain and anguish over this state of affairs.
Her remarks while addressing a meeting of the Congress Parliamentary Party came a day after DMK supremo M Karunanidhi made a strong pitch for establishment of a credible and independent international commission of investigation in a time bound manner into allegations of war crimes against Tamils in Sri Lanka.
As senior central ministers explored ways to placate the DMK, Gandhi said, "The plight of Tamils in Sri Lanka is close to our hearts. Our support for equal rights and equal protection of the laws to them has been unwavering since the days of Indiraji and Rajivji.
"We are most pained at the manner in which their legitimate political rights continue to be denied to them. We are anguished by reports of unspeakable atrocities on innocent civilians and children, especially during the last days of the conflict in 2009," she said.
Her comments came around the same time the DMK chief announced in Chennai that his party would withdraw from the government if India does not support a strong resolution against Sri Lanka at the UNHRC in Geneva on March 21.
In her four-page speech, Gandhi touched upon various other issues including political challenges before the party and its committment to ensure the passage of key bills incluidng the anti-rape bill, which she said should be passed by both Houses of Parliament before the recess of the budget session on March 22.
She also noted that the plight of Indian fishermen, who are being detained or fired upon by the Sri Lankan navy is a matter of great concern. "A permanent solution to the daily violence against them is also imperative," Gandhi said.
Maintaining that the Jaipur declaration after the Chintan Shivir of the party provided the party with a clear roadmap, Gandhi assured she will continue to monitor closely sub-groups constituted in the aftermath to follow up the commitments made in the declaration and sought the MPs' cooperation.
The Congress President also spoke on the political challenges before the party ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and impending Assembly polls this year in a number of states.
"The party is galavanising itself. We shall face the elections with confidence, professionalism and enthusiasm," she said.
Attacking the BJP, Gandhi said people have seen through its "obstructionist tactics" in Parliament and the "deliberate falsehoods" spread by it outside.
"The use of intemperate and abusive language by the BJP about our party and its leaders goes beyond the pale of civilised discussion and debate. Are we going to take this lying down. Certainly not. We will maintain our dignity and take our fight to the people," Gandhi said.
Underlining the party's commitment to women issues, she told the MPs that the Congress-led government is now aiming to take the Self Help Group (SHG) model to every part of the country, touching the lives of 7 crore women through the scheme Aajeevika under the National Rural Livelihoods Mission.
On the food security bill, which is a commitment of the party since its 2009 manifesto, Gandhi wanted it to be pushed in this parliament session itself.
She also expressed confidence that the government will take into account the pledge made by the party in the Jaipur declaration to provide decent pension to women after the age of 60 years and to the destitute, deserted and widowed women betwen 18-60 years and will make a suitable announcement, when the National Social Assistance Programme is restructured.
The Congress President attributed the "remarkable progress" made in Jammu and Kashmir to the leadership and personal interest taken by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
She also hailed Finance Minister P Chidambaram for presenting a "progressive and pragmatic" budget and hailed the Railway budget for laying the "much-needed stress on better services with focus on safety and sanitation".