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‘BJP govt sent back JeM chief’: Rahul Gandhi

Congress president Rahul Gandhi pointedly asked PM Modi on Saturday to tell the nation who freed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder Masood Azhar, whose group has claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack, from an Indian prison almost 20 years ago.

india Updated: Mar 09, 2019 23:49 IST
Vikram Gopal
Vikram Gopal
Hindustan Times, Bengaluru
Karnataka, March 09 (ANI): Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing at a public meeting in Haveri on Saturday.
Karnataka, March 09 (ANI): Congress President Rahul Gandhi addressing at a public meeting in Haveri on Saturday. (ANI photo)
         

Congress president Rahul Gandhi pointedly asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday to tell the nation who freed Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) founder Masood Azhar, whose group has claimed responsibility for the February 14 Pulwama attack, from an Indian prison almost 20 years ago.

At least 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) were killed in the Pulwama attack, for which Azhar’s JeM group said it was responsible. “A few days ago, in Pulwama, CRPF personnel were killed.I have a small question to ask the prime minister — who killed them? What is the name of the Jaish-e-Mohammed’s leader? Masood Azhar,” Gandhi said at an election rally in Haveri, northern Karnataka.

“Who released him from our jail? Was it not the Bharatiya Janata Party government that sent Azhar from our jail to Kandahar? Did you not send the (current) National Security Advisor (Ajit Doval) and (then foreign minister) Jaswanth Singh in the same plane as Azhar?” Gandhi said.

“Why don’t you (Modi) say that the person who killed the CRPF personnel was sent back to Pakistan by your government?,” Gandhi sad referring to the December 1999 release of Azhar and two other militants.

The three militants were released in exchange for the passengers and crew of an Indian Airlines plane that was on a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi when it was hijacked on Christmas eve that year and diverted to Kandahar in Afghanistan.

Gandhi’s remarks also came against the backdrop of the February 26 Indian Air Force strike on a JeM terrorist camp in Pakistan’s Balakot in reprisal for the Pulwama attack. BJP politicians have credited the government with exacting swift vengeance by adopting a muscular approach to cross-border terrorism.

Also read | Speculation over Jaish chief Masood Azhar’s death amid crackdown reports

Gandhi also accused Modi of favouring a handful of capitalists and ignoring the needs of the people. “He has ruled for five years and the unemployment rate in the country is the highest in 40 years,” Gandhi said in a reference to a leaked report of the National Sample Survey Organisation.

He added that the BJP was bent on dividing India in two — one for businessmen like Anil Ambani, and fugitive diamantaires Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi and “ another one of the poor and farmers.” “In this other India, there is unemployment, poverty and hunger.” “The Congress will never allow these divisions. It will be one country where every person gets justice. Those who break the law are jailed,” he said.

Gandhi said the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition government in Karnataka was already working towards this.

Responding to Gandhi, BJP spokesperson S Suresh Kumar said: “The question is during whose time did terrorism begin and who did not take decisive action?”. On Azhar’s release, Kumar said the issue had not been raised in the last 20 years. “At the all- party meeting held at the time, the Congress too had said that all the hostages should be brought back safely,” he said

First Published: Mar 09, 2019 22:38 IST

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