Ghost of the 1984 killings never stopped chasing Gandhis and the Congress. As things appear, it never will. When Rajiv's heir, Rahul Gandhi is questioned on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, he too responds in a similar fashion - Congress 'as a party' was not involved in 1984 riots.
“Some incidents of riots occurred when Indira Ji was killed, we know how much Indian people were anguished, and for some days, some people felt that India was shaking, but whenever a big tree falls, the earth shakes,” these were the exact remarks made by sitting Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi during an election rally in the aftermath of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Needless to say that the remarks were a blatant attempt to justify the killing of more than 3,300 Sikhs (government figures) across the country. More than the justification, Rajiv, the progressive PM India was waiting for, wished to live in denial over the genocide and attempted to pass it off as a natural public response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
This happens, quite obviously, when you are in power – you are heard more and questioned less. Sadly, things start working in reverse when you are out of power. To its credit, the Congress gave the country its only Sikh Prime Minister and even formed government in the Sikh dominated Punjab multiple times. However, the ghost of the 1984 killings never stopped chasing Gandhis and the Congress. As things appear, it never will.
When Rajiv’s heir, Rahul Gandhi is questioned on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, he too responds in a similar fashion – Congress ‘as a party’ was not involved in 1984 riots. Addressing the media in Parliament today, Rahul said he had made his views on the issue amply clear recently and he will stick to it.
Rahul was referring to his recent interaction with local parliamentarians in UK. Here is his exact statement: “I have no confusion in my mind about that (1984 riots). It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree. Certainly, there was violence, there was tragedy.”
Since this statement, Gandhi has not uttered a word on the riots – even after senior party leader Sajjan Kumar’s conviction and sentenced to life imprisonment in the case. As he was questioned again today, Gandhi said that he has “already made his position clear” – Congress as a party was not involved in riots.
This assertion, however, contradicts the stinging indictment by Delhi High Court in its order that clearly says that criminals responsible for mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage that allowed them to escape the clutches of law.
“There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008 and in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few….
“The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment. Bringing such criminals to justice poses a serious challenge to our legal system,” the court observed.
Unlike his father, who appeared to be absolutely unmoved about with the incident, Gandhi termed it as painful and tragic. Yet, on the bigger question of Congress’ involvement in the mass killings – Gandhi chooses to live in denial and even says he doesn’t have any confusion on that.
His chief minister in Punjab, Amarinder Singh, chooses his words more accurately and accepts that some Congressmen were indeed involved. Gandhi even appointed Kamal Nath, whose name has often propped up in the case, as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh – an act severely criticised by the Opposition BJP and Akali Dal.
Political opportunism aside, the Congress president has a series of inquiry reports to refer to to clear his head. The Nanavati commission of 1980s and Rangnath Commission of 2000s clearly name the involvement of a set of top Congress leaders from the national capital. The inquiries clearly name top leaders – Dharam Das Shashtri, then Member of Parliament and HKL Bhagat, a minister in Rajiv Gandhi cabinet – as allegedly involved in organising the riots.
The Congress, “which was not involved” according to Gandhi awarded its two office bearers – Sajjan Kumar (now convicted) and Jagdish Tytler – with one becoming a member of parliament and other rising to the rank of a MoS in central cabinet.
The enquiry reports claim enough evidence that the then Congress government did not act the way it should have. On the day of the riots, the Rangnath Misra committee report finds, more than 5,000 Army personnel were present in Delhi and the lives of the victims could have been easily saved had they been called in on time.
The government didn’t prosecute HKL Bhagat citing his old age. The fact that Tytler became a minister may better be left to be defended by the Congress. Despite everything being on record, Rahul Gandhi, the progressive leader who doesn’t mind giving a hug to his arch-rival in parliament, says that the Congress, ‘as a party’, was not involved in the riots.
Gandhi, in fact, poses a more serious question – what actually the term ‘political party’ stands for? Isn’t it very apparent that a political party is a set of individuals following a set of ideas? Undoubtedly, the Congress never issued a whip and asked its partymen to organise a genocide. Yet, if, under the nose of its leader, the partymen indulged in something heinous which was nothing but a blatant act of revenge – will the party and its chief be still not deemed as responsible? Rahul Gandhi, the leader of 2018 Congress, should show some maturity and accept that people from Congress were involved in the riots, that he regrets this, and it will always remain a blot on the party’s history.