New Delhi: In an apparent contradiction of its earlier stance, the government on Tuesday told parliament that the location of one of India's most wanted terrorists and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim was not known, leading the opposition to accuse the government of weakening India's fight against terrorism.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha that the location of Dawood was not known and extradition proceedings against him will start once he is traced.
He said Dawood was an accused in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case and a red corner notice was pending against him while the UN Security Council has also issued a special notice against him.
"The subject (Dawood) has not been located so far. Extradition process with regard to Dawood Ibrahim would be initiated once the subject is located," the minister said.
With the opposition members targeting the government over Chaudhary's reply, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju sought to contain the damage and said it was a consistent stand of the government that Dawood was in Pakistan.
"Our government's consistent stand is that he is in Pakistan," Rijiju told reporters.
He said the government has been providing information about his whereabouts to Pakistan and was pursuing the case very seriously.
He said Pakistani agencies were not cooperating with the Indian government.
"Do not misconstrue a statement based on a specific question," Rijiju said, adding that the integrity of the government should not be questioned.
Chaudhary's reply in parliament also appeared to contradict earlier remarks made by Home Minister Rajnath Singh and also by Rijiju.
Rajnath Singh had said last year that Dawood was one of India's most wanted terrorists and the country has repeatedly asked Pakistan to hand him over.
Rijiju had said evidence pertaining to Dawood had been given to Pakistan and he should be handed over to India.
Congress leaders on Tuesday accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of making a U-turn on Dawood's extradition.
Party leader Rajeev Shukla said the government's response in the Lok Sabha on Dawood was "ridiculous".
He claimed BJP leaders had said before the Lok Sabha election that Dawood will be brought back soon after their government assumed office.
"Now, after one year, the government is saying it does not know his whereabouts. It is a complete failure of the government," Shukla said.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the whole world appears to know that Dawood has a Karachi address as well as a Dubai address.
"It (government's stance) has weakened India's fight against terror," Singhvi said.
He said it was one thing to say that Dawood has not been caught due to the complicity of Pakistani agencies, but it cannot be said that his location was not known.
Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agrawal said the government has turned from its own statement on Dawood. "There should be a notice of breach of privilege," he said.
BJP spokesperson G.V.L. Narsimha Rao denied that there was contradiction in the government's statements and said Chaudhary had not said that Dawood was not in Pakistan.
He said the statement made by the government on the floor of the house was factual and if there was any misunderstanding, details can be given.
BJP MP and former home secretary R.K. Singh said Dawood's residence was changed by his handlers.
"If the home ministry gave a reply, it must be accurate," he said.
In his written reply, Chaudhary also said the government has made requests in respect of fugitives wanted by India in terrorist cases, namely Willy Naruenartwanich to Thailand, Usmani Ghani Khan to Saudi Arabia, Abdul Wahid Siddibapa to the United Arab Emirates, Velu alias Boopalan alias Dileepan alias Niranjana and Mohammad Hanif Tiger alias Mohammad Hanif Umerji Patel to Britain for expeditious extradition.