This trip should translate into strong, political action, says PCC president
Amid the continuing blame game over the recent violence in Gopalgarh, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi made a surprise visit to the eastern Rajasthan town on Sunday and met the riot-affected people as well as the families of some of the deceased.
Union Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh accompanied Mr. Gandhi during the visit that lasted barely two hours.
Mr. Gandhi saw the places where a violent clash between Gujjars and Meo Muslims had occurred on September 14 and went to the Jama Masjid where the police had allegedly resorted to indiscriminate firing. Ten persons were killed in the violence and two dozen injured.
The unexpected visit of the two leaders to Bharatpur district without any prior information caught the State Government and the Pradesh Congress Committee off guard. The Special Protection Group personnel accompanying Mr. Gandhi too had a tough time as he went to three villages without caring for the security cover.
Stopping short of making any direct observations, Mr. Gandhi told the villagers that all matters among them should be “resolved amicably”. Interacting with the next of kin of the deceased, the Congress leader said he was deeply aggrieved by the deaths and sought details of the clash and firing incident to ascertain the cause of the trouble.
Maulana Rashid of Dar-ul-Uloom Mohammediya madrasa at Meel Kheda told The Hindu that Mr. Gandhi visited Pathrali, Maliki and Piprauli villages. He went to the house of Ruqmuddin at Maliki and interacted with his family members. He was told that the 26-year-old man was hit in his head by a sharp-edged weapon.
Mr. Gandhi travelled to Piprauli village riding pillion on a motorcycle, with the SPG men following him on other motorbikes. He spoke to the family of deceased Mohammed Iqbal, whose father Chander Khan has lodged an FIR against the then Bharatpur Collector and Superintendent of Police with the charge of murder.
Villagers from the surrounding areas gathered in large numbers at Piprauli on hearing about the Congress leader's visit and narrated the sequence of events that led to the death of 10 persons. “We told Mr. Gandhi that all of them were the victims of police brutality and the post-mortem had confirmed [the death of] three persons in firing,” said Maulana Rashid.
Mohammed Arshad of the Meel Kheda madrasa and other village elders took the two leaders to the mosque, where they spent about 10 minutes and looked around for traces of bloodshed and ransacking. Mr. Gandhi was quoted as saying that he could understand the “extent of damage” caused at the mosque.
He asked the locals to maintain peace and communal harmony.
Regarding Mr. Gandhi's unannounced visit, the Pradesh Congress Committee in Jaipur said this was the characteristic style of the Congress general secretary.
“Mr. Gandhi has done this before at [other] places. His visit will help strengthen people's confidence and speed up the [return of] normality,” PCC president Chandrabhan told reporters here.
The Rajasthan Muslim Forum – which has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for his “inept handling” of the clash – said Mr. Gandhi's trip should translate into “strong political action”.
“Now that Mr. Gandhi has witnessed the [scale of] carnage, he should take urgent action to restore the faith of minority communities in the Congress regime,” said Forum convenor Qari Moinuddin.