The Bharatiya Janata Party on Monday denied claims that a Lashkar-e-Tayiba (LeT) terrorist nabbed in Reasi in Jammu and Kashmir was its member, even as the Congress and others attacked the saffron party and demanded a high-level probe.
BJP spokesperson Abhinav Sharma claimed the captured terrorist, Talib Hussain Shah of Rajouri, visited the party headquarters by posing as a reporter of a news portal under a conspiracy to conduct recce at the behest of his handlers across the border to target the party leadership.
He rejected claims that Shah was the minority cell's IT in-charge in J-K and demanded that the security of the BJP office and leaders be strengthened.
”According to our official records, he was neither a primary member nor a basic member, so there is no question of being an active member,” Sharma said.
”He visited our headquarters as a journalist of a news portal and interviewed our president (Ravinder Raina) who is well known for his nationalist views and for openly speaking against Pakistan and terrorists.
"He had received threats to his life many times and Shah's frequent visit to party headquarters was a conspiracy to target our leader,” the BJP leader told reporters.
Congress activists on Monday staged a demonstration here against the BJP, accusing it of ”sheltering terrorists”.
Shah, the mastermind behind the recent series of explosions in Rajouri, and his Kashmiri associate Faisal Ahmad Dar of Pulwama were overpowered by villagers of remote Tukson Dhok in Reasi district early Sunday and later handed over to the police. Two AK assault rifles, a pistol, seven grenades and a large quantity of ammunition were recovered from them.
Some pictures emerged on social media purportedly showing Shah with BJP leaders. One of the pictures shows J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina purportedly presenting him with a bouquet and a letter issued by party leader Sheikh Bashir on May 9, assigning him the responsibility of new IT and social media in-charge of Minority Morcha (Jammu province).
Carrying the posters of the LeT terrorist sharing a stage with BJP leaders including Raina, Congress activists emerged from the party headquarters at Shaheedi Chowk in Jammu and tried to take out a protest march.
However, the police stopped the protesters who later returned to the party headquarters after making failed attempts to break the police cordon.
”That Shah was an active member of BJP's IT cell needs no proof but it is a matter of concern and a big security lapse,” Congress working president and former minister Raman Bhalla told reporters.
”Shah's pictures with Raina and even with the home minister speak volumes about his association with the BJP which facilitated his induction into the party and also to a top post in the IT and media cell,” Bhalla said and questioned the "failure of the intelligence agencies in detecting the presence of a terrorist in the BJP''.
”It is a serious security breach and failure of intelligence agencies, which needs high-level probe and action,” he said.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti alleged that the BJP was using criminal elements to perpetuate its agenda of "communal division and hatred".
"First the Udaipur murderer & now an LeT militant caught in Rajouri both have active links to the BJP. The ruling party is using criminal lumpen elements be it cow vigilantes or terrorists to perpetuate their agenda of communal division & hatred," Mehbooba charged in a tweet.
The former chief minister said had these accused had been associated with any opposition leader, multiple FIRs would have been filed.
The Aam Aadmi Party too targeted the BJP. "This is neither a coincidence nor an experiment. ...The BJP's relationship with terrorists should be probed by the Joint Parliamentary Committee.
"This is a very serious and national interest issue," AAP leader Sanjay Singh said.
Bhalla said the BJP cannot absolve itself of the responsibility.
”Right from Jammu and Kashmir to Udaipur, the presence of such elements in BJP is a matter of great concern...,” the Congress leader said.
The Congress had alleged that the accused in the killing of a tailor in Udaipur were BJP members but the BJP had denied the charge.
The Congress spokesperson said the party will not stay silent on the ”important issue” concerning national security.
BJP spokesperson Abhinav Sharma, meanwhile, said the letter in circulation, allegedly issued by Sheikh Bashir, is under investigation.
”Whether Bashir gave him (Shah) the charge unofficially was not cleared yet as the posting in IT and media cell is made at the highest level,” he said.
He termed as a ”myth” that Shah was an activist of the BJP and said he was making frequent visits to the party headquarters as a journalist and clicked pictures with senior leaders.
”We request the Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and his administration to strengthen the security of the BJP headquarters and the party leaders, especially Raina who is facing threat from anti-national elements since a terrorist has visited the office,” he said.
Questioning the silence of NIA, Bhalla, however, said, "They should probe the high-security places he has visited using BJP leader's identity. It is a matter of probe. The BJP should apologise over this."
''The terrorists are penetrating the cadres of the BJP and party, which calls themselves nationalists, should tell people what are these terrorists doing in the BJP,'' he said.
But Sharma termed it a conspiracy to target BJP leaders.
''His (terrorist's) intention was to undertake recce of BJP office and share the movement of the BJP leaders with Pakistan-based terrorists,'' he said.
"A conspiracy was hatched and his frequency of visiting BJP office increased. Raina is under threat. His visits to the office are a part of this conspiracy," he said.