GUWAHATI: Hours after Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi alleged that he was prevented by RSS from entering a temple in Assam last week, the BJP and the temple administration tore into his claims and proved otherwise.
On Monday morning, Rahul alleged, “When I went to Assam, I wanted to visit a temple in Barpeta district. But the RSS people stopped me from entering it.” He alleged that the RSS had assigned some women to prevent his entry into the Barpeta Satra, a Vaishnavite monastery. But panning the Congress’ alleged politics involving the Satra, the BJP asked Rahul to tender an apology to the people of Assam for his “lies”.
Rahul had on his visit on Friday walked up to a place some 20 meters short of the Satra’s main entrance. In front of it, a group of about 20 women were heard singing religious songs when Rahul reached the spot — they had reportedly been there before he arrived.
However, the Congress scion did not go up to the entrance. Former minister and BJP leader Himanta Biswa Sarma circulated to the media video footage where Assam’s Irrigation Minister Chandan Sarkar, who was in-charge of Rahul’s 7 km march from near the Satra to Congress’ rally venue in minority-dominated Medhirtari in the district on that day.
“The Satra has some rules. As one should enter it after taking a bath and wearing a dhoti, our leaders didn’t want to hurt religious sentiments. We thought if the committee sends an invitation, he will visit it later,” said Sarkar in the video.
At a press conference, Sarma also played a portion of Congress State unit chief Anjan Dutta’s speech on the issue but it could not be heard properly due to audio problem. He then narrated it. Dutta had allegedly said, “We had sought two helicopters for the visit to Barpeta but eventually we got one. We started late due to inclement weather and when we reached there, we were late by an hour. We were informed that 50,000 people had gathered at the rally venue. So, we decided that we would first go on with the march and enter the Satra on the way back.”
The BJP said it was the Congress’ “conscious” decision not to visit the Satra at the start of the march, primarily because they were worried that the people who had gathered for the rally might leave if Rahul’s visit was further delayed.
“The Congress vice president, and also Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, alleged RSS-BJP was opposed to Rahul’s visit to the Satra. If that was the case, how could he visit it the same evening?” asked BJP leader Himanta Biswa.
“Nobody prevented him in the evening. In fact, the Satradhikar (head of the Satra) and the women had waited for him all morning,” Sarma said.
He said Rahul visited the Satra in the evening as there were angry reactions that he had gone back from the Satra periphery in the morning.
“Rahul’s visit, the road that he took for the march and the objective of it, everything was designed to appease a certain section of people. If he could wear a traditional Assamese gamocha around his neck all along his march, what made him part with it and wear another (commonly worn by Bengali-speaking Muslims), which is not attached to Assamese culture, at the rally venue?” Sarma asked.
The BJP warned that if Rahul did not apologise for “insulting” the people, the party would stage a series of programmes in protest.
Meanwhile, Barpeta Satra head Bashista Deba Sarma said, “There is no RSS agent in the Satra. It is a religious place and only religious activities are undertaken here”.
“It’s sad that the women were called RSS agents when they know nothing about politics,” he added.
Assam Pradesh Congress Committee chief Anjan Dutta alleged on Monday that the BJP-RSS wanted to create an unsavoury situation.
“It’s a carefully-engineered opposition (by the BJP-RSS) where a section of people in the Satra were parties,” he said.
The Deputy Commissioner had received an intelligence report (about the plot). Even the SPG got wind of it,” Dutta claimed.