The Congress President, Rahul Gandhi, was visiting Europe and addressing UK-based parliamentarians and local leaders when he said that “the Congress was not involved in the 1984 Sikh riots”. In the same breath, he said, “anti-Sikhs riots were a tragedy and a painful experience. Any violence done against anybody is wrong…anything done that was wrong during that period should be punished and he would support that 100 per cent.”
Back in India, senior BJP leaders were quick to hit back. However, it was Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leadership’s question which raised many eyebrows in Punjab. SAD President Sukhbir Singh Badal had asked Gandhi, if Congress was not involved in the riots then why did former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised? Though Rahul’s purpose may be to absolve Congress of the 1984 riots tag, the ploy have only revived the memories of the gory incidents and reminded the Sikhs of the unhealed wounds.
If that was not enough, days later, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh named few senior Congress leaders being involved in 1984 riots where over 3,000 Sikhs were massacred. Singh alleged that at least four Congress leaders may have been involved in the 1984 riots at their own volition. Singh made this statement on the floor of the Punjab State Assembly.
However, the Punjab Chief Minister backed out from his earlier statement and clarified that as “the incident took place at the time of assassination of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi was in Calcutta, so, there was no involvement of Congress except for some people. ”
“Those people I have been naming for the last 34 years. I have named Sajjan Kumar, Dharam Das Shastri, Arjun Das, Bhagat and one more person. I got those names when I had travelled to the refugee camps on my own. It was not a party matter, it was individuals who did it and they are being tried.”
Sadly, even after 34 years of riots and Operation Blue Star episode, the memories continue to haunt the system.
At a time when the country is preparing for the biggest of all battles, General Elections 2019, is it wise to raise the issue of Sikh riots? The reference to 1984 riots is always sensitive. The two leaders have resurrected a ghost, an apparition of 1984 riots and reminded the Sikh’s bruised psyche of the tragedy. The Sikh community has neither forgotten nor forgiven the genocide of this magnitude after partition.
Various commissions of enquiry have mentioned names of top leaders of the Congress party — HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and Dharam Shashtri. The CBI report has observed, “There was a conspiracy of terrifying proportion with the complicity of police and patronage of local MP Sajjan Kumar who instigated to the mob that “not a single Sikh should survive.”
Tytler’s name appeared in the report of Nanavati Commission which said that he had a hand in the attacks.
The 1984 riots were the most tragic incident in the Indian history after partition and the Congress cannot wipe its hands of the genocide of Sikhs. Like Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi should have shown the magnanimity of asking the community for forgiveness. That is what differentiates a statesman from a run of the mill politician. That is what differentiates between a seasoned, measured politician from a novice. Seeking forgiveness requires admission of guilt without any excuses and willingness to repair the damage already done. The big question is will Congress and its leadership rise from this tag and show magnanimity or will continue playing street politics to its own peril?