In the middle of a row over what Rahul Gandhi said at a meeting with Muslim intellectuals recently, an Urdu newspaper asserted that it stood by its version of the Congress president's comments in its June 12 edition. Yesterday, the "Inquilab" newspaper put out another report claiming that its version had been corroborated by the Congress minority cell chief, who strongly denied it.
Did Rahul Gandhi say at that meeting that the Congress is a Muslim party?
After union minister Nirmala Sitharaman raised it last week and attacked the Congress chief, the opposition party denied it but that didn't stop Prime Minister Narendra Modi from raking up the reported comments at a rally.
Inquilaab reporter Mumtaz Alam Rizwi said he stood by his report but what Mr Gandhi said was nuanced.
"I never used the term Muslim party. Rahul Gandhi said Congress is a party of Muslims. He said 'haan, (yes), because Muslims are weakened, they have become another version of Dalits in the country'," said Mr Rizwi.
Digvijaya Singh is among those in the Congress who have questioned the veracity of the report by a person who wasn't even in the meeting.
"It is the truth. Why should I reveal my sources?" said Mr Rizwi. He said his biggest proof was the backing of the Congress minority cell chief, Nadeem Javed, who led the delegation of Muslim leaders.
Mr Javed demurred. "It is unfortunate that one Urdu newspaper wrote this - no one else - and the prime minister picked it up," he said.
His party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: "East India company's new version is the BJP. Divide and rule was then the principle, divide the state is now the principle."
Despite the Congress denial, the BJP taunted Rahul Gandhi. "BJP wants to ask Rahul Gandhi why are you mum? Your appeasement policy has damaged country to a great extent. History of partition is a testimony of this," said union minister Prakash Javadekar.
Most of the Muslim intellectuals at the meeting with Rahul Gandhi have denied the comments attributed to him.
"No, Rahul did not say that. He said the Congress is a party for all Indians," said Farah Naqvi, writer and activist.
Historian Irfan Habib said he was shocked to hear the reports. "I am actually shocked to hear this because nothing like this exactly happened at all. Nobody, not Rahul Gandhi or the people present there even touched this topic, it's totally a figment of imagination."
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