Muslim leaders and civil society groups were unanimous in condemning Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s remarks that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI was in touch with some Muslim youths from the riot-ravaged Muzaffarnagar.

Arguing that Mr. Gandhi’s comments have pushed the victims of communal riots into a “circle of suspicion,” some of them demanded a public apology from him.

General secretary of Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind that has a strong support base in western Uttar Pradesh Mahmood Madani termed Mr. Gandhi’s statement “irresponsible.”

The Shahi Imam of the Fatehpuri Masjid in Delhi's Walled City, Maulana Mufti Mukarram Ahmed, said the remarks were quite ‘immature.”

“It has already been proven that Muslims have no relation, or connection, with the ISI whatsoever. Mr. Gandhi must either reveal the names of the persons he alleged were in touch with the ISI or should publicly apologise. Unless he does either, Muslims will not excuse him,” Mufti Ahmed said.

President of the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association Manisha Sethi argued that Mr. Gandhi’s comments “reinforce the stereotypes being peddled by Indian intelligence and security agencies to justify their communal witch hunts.” She said, “By regurgitating the favourite fiction of the agencies that communal violence produced a generation of radicalised Jihadis, Mr. Gandhi has immediately pushed the victims of communal violence in Muzaffarnagar, still living in fear and squalor of the relief camps, into a circle of suspicion. While the BJP’s alleged indignation at this remark is only laughable – we would also like to say that such remarks ultimately only serve to strengthen communal ideas and forces.”

President of the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat, an umbrella body of Indian Muslim organisations, Dr. Zafarul Islam Khan said the intelligence view, which was being quoted by the Congress leader, was a “concocted story.”

While alleging that the BJP was responsible for igniting communal fires across the country, Mr. Gandhi said at an election rally in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday that “an intelligence officer came into my room and told me that people from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies are talking to a few Muslim boys whose relatives were killed in Muzaffarnagar riots. He said he tried to talk to the boys and convince them not to get influenced by these people.”