The reach of Hindu Manch
Srinagar: If the outfit agitating in favour of the Kathua rape-and-murder accused was being suspected of receiving patronage from high places, a photograph has thrown up fresh questions.
The WhatsApp picture shows a person resembling Jitendra Singh, junior minister in the Prime Minister's Office as well as the local MP, with members of the Hindu Ekta Manch at what looks like his home in Jammu.
Jitendra had been among the first senior BJP politicians to endorse the agitators' call for a CBI probe and had last month asked the state government to talk to the protesters.
But he was not known to have met or hosted Manch representatives, nor had he publicly opposed the arrests unlike two state BJP ministers who had to resign last week after participating in a Manch rally in March.
The picture shows Jitendra with Manch leaders and former sarpanches Kant Kumar (Congress), Rakesh Singh (BJP), Yogesh Singh (BJP) and Vijay Tagotra (Congress), as well as the BJP's Kathua chief, Prem Dogra.
Calls to Jitendra's mobile evoked no response. An aide said Jitendra was not in but if he succeeded in contacting the minister, he would get back.
Dogra, who has been supporting the Manch all along, said the meeting happened a month ago. Two of the others said it took place in early April.
"It wasn't a planned meeting. When it ended, he (Jitendra) asked me who they (delegation) were," Dogra said.
But Tagotra, show-caused by the Congress for his Manch-related activities, said the group had sought an appointment with Jitendra since he was the MP for Kathua-Udhampur-Doda. "Dogra took us to meet him," he said.
Tagotra added that Jitendra told the delegation he had no problem with a CBI inquiry but the state had to approach the Centre first.