Controversial BJP MLA Sangeet Som, an accused in Muzaffarnagar riots, has been accorded Z category security by the Centre, a move that came under scathing attack from Opposition today which termed it as a "license for killing" and a cruel joke with the victims.
Based on intelligence inputs that Som, MLA from Sardhana in western Uttar Pradesh, could be targeted by extremist elements, the Union Home Ministry decided to bring him under the security umbrella of the commandos of the central paramilitary force CRPF.
"We have received a letter from the Centre regarding upgradation of Som's security to Z category," Uttar Pradesh's IG (Law and Order) Amrendra Singh Sengar told PTI in Lucknow.
The letter has been forwarded to the agency concerned, Singh added.
Sources in Delhi said Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave the nod to the proposal after he was convinced that Som faced serious threat to his life.
"It's a weird thing. It's a strange government. Those who are victims of riots are running from pillar to post and those who are riot accused are getting Z category security.
"Nothing can be a bigger irony, a bigger joke with those, whose houses were burnt and those who suffered huge losses," Congress leader Manish Tewari said.
Another Congress leader Rashid Alvi said that the move tantamount to providing security to those engaged in killings while the victims of riots were being left in the lurch.
"This security cover is not for the security of Som but a license for killing innocent people and fanning communal disharmony between two communities of a highly sensitive state," JD(U) general secretary K C Tyagi said.
In a statement, he said his party "strongly condemns" this action and demanded withdrawal of the Z security to Som noting "this will encourage such people involved in instigating hatred among the society and will create a sense of insecurity and further alienation among the minorities".
The BJP defended the move, saying the decision to provide security is taken based on "sufficient evidence" from intelligence sources and not on "whims and fancies".
"And prior to giving the Z security on the insistence of the intelligence agencies, Sangeet Som was awarded 'Y' category security by UP government on the order of the high court of Uttar Pradesh," BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.
Stressing that the decision is taken based on assessment of "threat" by intelligence agencies like IB, BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said, "Many Congress leaders have also been accorded security. It is the duty of the government to protect those people who are indeed in danger."
The ruling Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh said the decision had once again proved the difference between what the BJP government preaches and what it practises.
"It's strange. The Prime Minister talked about curbing communalism from the Red Fort on Aug 15. His own party propagates communalism and provides security to the hero of communalism. In BJP there has always been a difference between what it says and what it does," SP leader Naresh Agarwal said.
Som would be secured by armed CRPF commandos during his travel in the state of Uttar Pradesh, sources said.
According to existing protocols, a 'Z' category protectee is guarded by a posse of 14 commandos at a given time.
The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), of late, has been asked to provide armed security cover to a number of VVIPs including the new BJP President Amit Shah.
Som was earlier arrested for his alleged role in uploading a fake video that is said to have incited communal tension in Muzaffarnagar where large-scale riots left over 6o people dead last year.
Claiming that Som was given security despite the state government "being strongly oppposed" to it, Tyagi said, "This is a violation of Centre-state relation and in future it will pose a serious threat to the federal structure of the nation".
NCP leader Tariq Anwar said, "Such things like providing Z security to persons facing allegations of engineering riots can happen only during the rule of BJP."