Probe into Mumbai bus, Batla encounters initiated

Written by Political Bureau | New Delhi, Oct 31 | Updated: Nov 2 2008, 04:36am hrs
Giving in to pressure from its key allies in the ruling coalition, the government has decided to initiate judicial inquiries into the Batla House encounter in the Capital as well as the Rahul Raj shooting in Mumbai last week. It has also decided to convey, in strong words, its concern over continuing attacks on north Indians in Maharashtra to the Vilasrao Deshmukh government.

The development, which is certain to impact morale of police forces, comes in the backdrop of intense pressure from the Samajwadi Party, supporting the UPA from outside, and the RJD and the LJP, to take immediate corrective measures that would remove doubts that had arisen in the public perception about these two incidents. The SP in particular, has been demanding a judicial probe in the Batla House encounter, which has been seen in political circles as an attempt to tap into Muslim anger on branding the community as terrorists.

The RJD and the LJP, on the other hand, had raised strong protests on the police killing of the Bihari youth who had hijacked a bus in Mumbai in a bid to counter MNS chief Raj Thackeray. The issue of attacks on north Indians in Maharashtra in fact was raised prominently in the meeting of the Union Cabinet on Friday, with even a demand to arrest Raj Thackeray under the NSA, following which the Centre was forced to send a stern message to the Deshmukh government.

Briefing reporters on the meeting, finance minister P Chidambaram said on Friday that the Prime Minister has directed the Union home minister to take the sense of the Union Cabinet and convey it to the state government. The PM informed the Cabinet that he did write a rather strongly-worded letter to the Maharashtra government, he said, adding that Union home minister Shivraj Patil too spoke to Maharashtra chief minister and wrote more than one letter to him.

On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party, this evening maintained that it will go to any extent to ensure safety of north Indians in Maharashtra even as it blamed the Congress and the NCP for the current situation in the state.

Though it ruled out withdrawal of support to the UPA government at the Centre, it accused the Congress-NCP government in Maharashtra of softpedalling Raj Thackeray to counter the Shiv Sena. In the interest of people from north India, we can go to any extent if such a situation develops. But even now there is time. We still have some hopes on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi, SP general secretary Amar Singh told a press conference here.