NEW DELHI: Interior Minister Rehman Malik invited angry rejoinders from India’s rightwing Hindu opposition on Saturday after he told his hosts at home ministry in New Delhi that the 1992 demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and the anti-Muslim violence it spawned were undesirable events.
Some TV channels projected Mr Malik’s remarks late on Friday as an attempt to equate the Ayodhya outrage with the Mumbai carnage of November 2008. He denied it was his intention to juxtapose the two events in any unacceptable way.
A reported text of his Friday comment seemed to support his claim. “We do not want any 9/11. We do not want any Bombay blasts, we do not want any Samjhauta Express, we do not want any Babri mosque issue and we can work together not only for peace in Pakistan and India but also for the region,” Mr Malik had said in New Delhi.
An official judicial probe into the aftermath of Ayodhya had shown 1,500 people were killed, 1,829 injured and 165 missing in the gruesome violence in Mumbai for which the report put the blame on the Shiv Sena and its followers in the city police.
Mr Malik’s comments came just ahead of a report in ‘The Hindu’, which quoted a 1992 top aide of then prime minister Narasimha Rao as saying that he had wanted the mosque to be replaced by a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Rao “wanted the construction of the Ram temple at Ayodhya through an ‘apolitical’ trust and prepared an ‘unshakeable’ master plan. He believed this could be done by the trust that could enjoy ‘acceptability’ from all corners of the Hindu religion,” his media adviser P.V.R.K. Prasad was quoted as saying.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley slammed the UPA government for not responding to Mr Malik’s Babri Masjid statement immediately.
“The senior minister present should have contested that statement rather than him (Malik) having to clarify his statements,” Mr Jaitley said.
Mr Malik, who is on a three-day visit to the country, also said that Pakistan had initiated investigation into Mumbai attacks and made arrests even before India brought up the issue. He added that Pakistan was not backing any terrorist group, including Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Earlier, Mr Malik, who termed the talks with Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde ‘successful’, had created another controversy in the media by saying he was unsure whether India’s Kargil war hero Captain Saurabh Malik had been killed by a Pakistani bullet or the weather.
Interacting with mediapersons on Saturday, Mr Malik said: “Today, I humbly submitted to him (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) that people of Pakistan, specially people from the village where he was born and attended school, want to see him.”
He said Pakistani people and “his childhood friends want to see a person who is not only the prime minister of India, but also a visionary leader of the world”.
Dr Singh, however, said that people in New Delhi asked about the culprits of 26/11. “So, I explained to him and want to tell the people of this country also that there will be no delay from our side; whenever the judicial commission submits its report after cross examination, we will conclude the trial in a very short duration of time,” Mr Malik added.
Agencies add: Meanwhile, speaking at a lunch hosted by the president of the Confederation of Indian Bar, Pravin H. Parekh, Mr Malik said there was a growing interaction between Pakistan and India as their joint efforts in eliminating terrorism would help bring peace and stability to the region. “Both sides are facing scourge of terrorism and extremism and have suffered financial as well as precious human lives loss and it is time that we should make efforts for peace and root out the menace of terrorism to ensure secure atmosphere for the coming generations.”
The minister said authorities had arrested Hafiz Saeed Ahmed three times, but the courts had to grant him bail as no convincing evidence was available. “If India has strong evidence against Hafiz Saeed for his alleged involvement in Mumbai attacks, I would order his arrest immediately before leaving India,” he added.
Mr Malik also held meetings with Opposition Leader Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon.