Cong does damage-control on Rahuls remarks

New Delhi: With his comments on burnt bodies and rape of women in Greater Noida villages triggering a major controversy, Congress on Wednesday initiated a damage- control exercise saying Rahul Gandhi did not say that 74 persons have been killed there.

Party General Secretary Janardan Dwivedi maintained that Gandhi merely repeated to the media what the villagers told him after meeting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday.

The party stuck to his demand that UP government should probe into the allegations of burning of men and rape of women.

"Whatever has come in media in unfortunate. Nowhere did he (Gandhi) mention the number of 74 or 74 bodies. Rahul Gandhi had only said that at one place an ash heap of 70 foot area was there in which bones were found," Dwivedi told reporters.

His comments came in the wake of media reports quoting villagers of Bhatta Parsaul in Greater Noida that while there was police brutality, there was no complaint of rape of women and burning of men.

Asked what the party has to say on the allegation of Gandhi that women had been raped and people murdered in the villages, Dwivedi said,"… this is a matter of investigation.

It should be investigated. If bones have been found, whose bones are these should be found out. And if atrocities have taken place against women and they were even beaten up, why has it happened."

He added "people must have told him (Gandhi). He was not present there. He went later on. Whatever has been told to him, he must have repeated that. Naturally whenever you go after some incidents, whatever people tell you, you repeat those things.

"That matter should be investigated. If it is not correct, it is alright. But if it is correct, it is a very serious matter. Whatever may be the fact, this should come out."

When asked whether the controversies will affect Congress plans to take up farmers` agitaion issue now, he said the party is agitating over an issue and is serious about it

He said that while there is an issue of food shortage on one hand, the farmer`s land is shrinking on the other hand adding "the concern about decrease in agricultural land is natural."

He also said that there are land acquistion laws in different states and they are doing well in some of them including the Congress-ruled Haryana.

 Party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan also sought to downplay the controversy over Gandhi`s remarks saying that he had referred to a 70 feet pile of ash and it should be inquired into what bones are there.

"What our demand was and continues to be is that the matter should be deeply probed and we stick to it," she said at the AICC briefing. She maintained that Rahul had spoken only on the basis of representations made to him.

Wondering how the facts would come except through a judicial inquiry, Natarajan said, "I do not understand the state government`s hesitation in ordering inquiry."

Asked whether Gandhi has proofs supporting his remarks that there were burnt bodies in the ash, and women were raped there, the Congress spokesperson said, "This is not a court."