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Tuesday, 18 January, 2000, 17:05 GMT
Congress steps up RSS row

Hindu militants rally Members of hardline groups were banned until recently


By Jyotsna Singh in Delhi

India's main opposition Congress Party has threatened to launch national protests over a decision by the Gujarat state government to allow civil servants to join what they say is an umbrella organisation for Hindu extremists.

Recently, the state's BJP-led government said that public sector employees could join the Rashtriya Swayam Sevak Sangh or RSS.

They say that the decision to lift a 13-year-old ban on RSS members having government jobs sets a dangerous precedent.

Non-political

But the Gujarat Home Minister Harin Pandya says the RSS is a non-political, nationalist organisation engaged in the character building of youth and social services in remote areas.

He said that a previous ban imposed by the Congress Party government on the RSS was imposed with the wrong intention.

Ultimatum

On Monday, a three-member Congress delegation met President Narayanan seeking his immediate intervention.


Sonia Gandhi Sonia Gandhi: Sent letter to the president

The delegation also handed him a letter by the party president Sonia Gandhi in which she had said that the decision will seriously jeopardise the secular character of the Gujarat government.

The party has given Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee 12 days in which to order the Gujarat government to revoke the order.

He said if the government fails to seek the withdrawal, Congress will launch a nationwide protest march which will include a demonstration outside the prime minister's house on 30 January - the anniversary of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi at the hands of a Hindu extremist.

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