01 September, New Delhi
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday told the Supreme Court that he stood by his remarks blaming the RSS people for assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and was ready to face trial for alleged criminal defamation.
The Bharatiya Janata Party and RSS attacked Rahul Gandhi and accused him of making a U-turns while the Congress indicated that it will take the battle to the people, saying its leader was fighting a political battle which will eventually decide who is “a true Hindu”.
Rahul Gandhi withdrew a petition before the apex court that had sought quashing of the defamation proceedings in a Maharashtra trial court.
His lawyer Kapil Sibal told the Supreme Court that Rahul Gandhi stood by his remarks that people associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, considered the ideological fountainhead of BJP, killed Mahatma Gandhi.
While allowing Gandhi to withdraw his petition, the bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Rohinton Fali Nariman declined his plea for exemption from appearing before the trial court in defamation case.
The Congress Vice-President had moved the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court order refusing to interfere with the criminal defamation case instituted by an RSS activist Rajesh Mahadev Kunte before a Bhiwandi court in Thane district of Maharashtra. Kunte is the secretary of the Bhiwandi unit of RSS.
Rahul Gandhi had said in a speech at Bhiwandi in 2014 that “RSS people killed Gandhiji..”
On August 24, Rahul Gandhi had told the Supreme Court that he had not blamed the RSS as an institution for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, but the people associated with it. However, a day later he tweeted that he stood by every word he said and “will never stop fighting the hateful & divisive agenda of the RSS”.
During the last hearing the apex court bench took note of Gandhi’s statement before the Bombay High Court that he had not blamed the RSS as an institution for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi but the people associated with it. However, on Thursday the matter took a different turn when senior counsel Umesh R. Lalit said that to prove his bonafides, Rahul Gandhi should say that he did not intend to involve RSS for the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
At this, senior counsel Sibal appearing for Gandhi told the bench that he (Rahul Gandhi) stands by every word he had said before the High Court. “RSS ke logon ne goli mari. (RSS people shot at Mahatma Gandhi) I stand by my every word. I am ready to go to trial,” he said.
Sibal later told reporters that it was a “political battle” and a “battle of principles” for Rahul Gandhi who is Congress lead campaigner for the upcoming assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
“We believe this is not a battle of courts, this battle will decide who is a true Hindu. RSS will have to give a statement with regard to this because a true Hindu could never have killed Mahatma Gandhiji,” Sibal said.
“We want to ask them (RSS) whether Nathu Ram Godse was a true Hindu? Can they say that any Hindu could not have killed Gandhiji? Can they say because of this Godse was not a Hindu? So, the battle lies here. Who is a true Hindu? The fight is against divisive agenda, against identity politics, against caste-based and religion-based politics.
“We believe that Hinduism is a way of life. It is fight for humanity.”
Another party leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said Rahul Gandhi’s fight is not a personal one against any party, but against the ideology “which is divisive in nature.” He added that the same divisive ideology was guiding many people in the BJP.
BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said the country knows what the RSS is doing for the country.
“He (Rahul) has taken U-turn twice over the issue. Some day he will definitely apologise,” he added.
BJP Secretary Srikant Sharma said RSS was invited to join the Republic Day parade by first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Does the Congress party under Rahul Gandhi disagree with what Nehru did,” he said.
He also asked if entire Congress should be held responsible for the anti-Sikh riots in 1984.
RSS publicity department chief Manmohan Vaidya tweeted: “Then why R. Gandhi avoided the trial for two years under one pretext or other? Is he scared to face truth? He keeps on taking U-turns.”