The decision of the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh to invoke the stringent National Security Act against three people arrested on charges of cow slaughter was wrong, The Indian Express quoted Congress leader P Chidambaram as saying on Friday. The former Union finance minister claimed that Congress President Rahul Gandhi has told the Kamal Nath government to correct the “mistake”.

The Madhya Pradesh Police has charged three people under the National Security Act for allegedly slaughtering cows, in Khandwa town of the state last week. People charged under the law can be detained up to 12 months.

“I think the Congress president [Rahul Gandhi] has told the people concerned that was wrong,” he said. “Use of NSA in Madhya Pradesh was wrong. That has been pointed out to the government in Madhya Pradesh. So if a mistake has been committed, that mistake has been pointed out by the leadership.”

Chidambaram was speaking at an event where his book Undaunted – Saving The Idea of India was released. The book is a collection of his weekly columns in The Indian Express.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the party will not “unwarrantedly interfere” in the functioning of the state government in the matter as law and order is the domain of the chief minister and police.

Surjewala said nobody who is innocent will be persecuted or punished in any manner and nobody who is guilty will be spared. “He [Kamal Nath] is experienced and seasoned enough to see if any officer of the police has made any overreach at the instance of somebody who is previously embedded on behalf of the BJP regime,” he said.

Chidambaram on Sabarimala

During Friday’s event, Chidambaram also said the Sabarimala row and the Ayodhya land dispute were different. “In Sabarimala, issue is a custom opposed to modern constitutional values,” ANI quoted him as saying. “Ayodhya is a matter of faith that this is the birthplace of Lord Ram. Because of that faith, a group of people are claiming [ownership of] the land.”

Chidambaram said he has been writing about “what is happening in India” since 2015 but in 2018 he shifted to “what is happening to India”. “What is happening in India is repairable,” he said. “But what is happening to India, if we don’t stop it now, is irreparable,” The Indian Express quoted him as saying.

He said the upcoming Lok Sabha elections were about saving the idea of India as a multicultural society.