Trouble over Digvijaya remarks on Osama funeral

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New Delhi:  Congress has disapproved of senior party leader Digvijaya Singh's controversial remarks about the sea burial given to Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by the US.

"We disapprove of it," a top party functionary, who declined to be named, said after Congress President Sonia Gandhi had a meeting with party leaders, including Mr Singh.

Mr Singh had said on Monday, "However big a criminal one might be, his religious traditions should be respected while burying him."

A senior Congress leader speaking on the condition of anonymity, however, questioned Singh's contention, remarking sarcastically, "Was Osama engaged in some noble work?"

The leader said, "Singh speaks unnecessary things many times. It is not good to promote personal constituency always. It does not succeed. Muslims do not get pleased by such things. Such statements are taken as communal. It is not good to go out and speak on every issue."

The party had given an indication of its disapproval of Mr Singh's remarks earlier during the day when its spokesman Manish Tewari parried questions on whether Mr Singh's statement on Laden's burial is the official party view.

"On the question of Laden and terror per se, we have repeatedly cleared our position. The position of Congress has been very clearly articulated and delineated. We have nothing further to say on the articulation (of the party) on the neutralisation of Laden after what we said yesterday," he said.

Tewari said, "If you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind", adding that he was making this observation in relation to all terrorists and terrorist organizations.

The US has maintained that the body was handled in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition. The burial at sea was apparently due to fears that his land burial may become a site to attract his followers. However, some Islamic organisations have said that it was not appropriate.

Mr Singh, however, dismissed as "absolutely rubbish" reports that he was summoned by Sonia Gandhi in the wake of his statement on the sea burial of Laden. He said he had gone to Ms Gandhi's official residence at 10 Janpath for a meeting in which many senior leaders including Ahmed Patel, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Suresh Pachauri were also present.

"My statement was not discussed. It is absolutely rubbish," he said.

Noting that his statement should not be interpreted as something against or for Osama, Mr Singh said, "I had merely said that the worst of criminals should be cremated according to their faith".

"He (Osama) is a terrorist and he deserved the treatment that he got", Singh said, adding that no one in the party had asked him to explain his statement nor anyone had summoned him.

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