AICC team distributes Rs. 2 lakh each to the kin of victims on behalf of party chief

The All-India Congress Committee's latest gesture to placate the Meo Muslims in Gopalgarh by offering financial assistance to the next of kin of victims of police firing on Jama Masjid has met with scepticism by Muslim groups in Rajasthan. The act is being seen here as a ploy to pacify Muslims in the run-up to Assembly elections in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh.

An AICC team led by Union Minister and party in-charge for the State, Mukul Wasnik, visited Gopalgarh over the weekend and met the families of nine of the ten victims in eight villages and distributed financial assistance worth Rs.2 lakh each on behalf of party president Sonia Gandhi. The Congress leaders condoled the deaths and assured the families of the party's “consistent support” to them.

Union Minister of State for Home Jitendra Singh, Pradesh Congress Committee president Chandra Bhan, Bharatpur MP Ratan Singh and newly appointed Parliamentary Secretary, Kaman MLA Zahida Khan, accompanied Mr. Wasnik. Bharatpur Collector Gaurav Goyal and Superintendent of Police Vikas Kumar were also present.

The resentment among Meos over what they perceive as continued denial of justice surfaced during the visit when Meo youths showed black flags to the team in Kheda Daniyalpur village. Policemen immediately whisked away the agitating youths and cleared the Congress leaders' route.

The AICC team went to Pathrali, Maliki, Piprauli, Kheda Daniyalpur, Arduka, Ladamka, Andhwadi and Andhwadi Ka Baas villages to meet the families of the deceased. The leaders described the September 14 firing at the Gopalgarh mosque as “unfortunate” and appealed to the people to “forget the incident and move on” with normality returning to the region.

“Damage control”

The Rajasthan Muslim Forum has reacted sharply to the AICC leaders' visit and described it as the party's “damage control exercise” when public disquiet over lack of progress in the probe into violence and the failure to arrest any of the accused was escalating. “Money cannot be a substitute for justice in a case of the communalised police joining the mob of rioters in attacking a mosque,” it said.

Muslim Forum convenor Qari Moinuddin said here on Monday that the ruling Congress' sympathy with the victims had emanated from the party's difficulty in UP where it had to offer an explanation to the Muslim electorate. “Political compulsions brought the Congress leaders to Gopalgarh, but they never bothered to reach out to [those affected by] 30 incidents of communal violence during the past three years.”

The Forum – functioning as the apex body of all Muslim groups in the State – reiterated its demand that the Centre sack Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot for his failure to protect the lives and properties of minority communities.

Forum member and Jamaat-e-Islami Hind national secretary M. Salim Engineer said the AICC leaders' Gopalgarh visit was “nothing more than a gimmick” to put on a brave face two-and-a-half months after the violence. “Instead of arresting the guilty policemen and rioters, the ruling party has made an outrageous suggestion to forget the incident and move on,” he noted.

On the other hand, Mr. Wasnik addressing the gatherings in villages said the UPA Government at the Centre was sensitive to the problems of the Mewat region and had included Meos among the Other Backward Classes to ensure their speedy development. He called upon the Meo community to pay attention to children's education and benefit from the State Government's welfare schemes.

Mr. Jitendra Singh indicated that a big package for the Mewat region was in the offing to eradicate poverty and remove the area's backwardness. Mr. Chandra Bhan said the State Government would allocate more funds for the region after reconstitution of the Mewat Development Board.