Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday came out in support of Congress chief Rahul Gandhi’s remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, saying that the Gandhi scion could not be responsible for something he wasn’t even aware of. Even as the knives were out for Gandhi following his remarks at an event in the UK that Congress was not involved in the massacre of Sikhs that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984, Singh said the criticisms against the party chief was “ridiculous”.
“To hold Rahul (Gandhi) responsible for an act which he wasn’t even aware of at the time it happened was completely ridiculous,” ANI quoted Singh as saying. The Punjab CM also seconded Gandhi’s views that Congress, as a party, was never involved in the riots.
Rahul Gandhi was in school when the Operation Blue Star and later the riots took place, Amarinder Singh said adding ‘whosoever was involved’ in the senseless killings in 1984 should be “hanged”.
Rahul can’t be held responsible, says Chidambaram
Former Union minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram too defended Rahul, while saying, “We are not absolving the Congress.” Chidambaram said Gandhi could not be held responsible for something that took place when he was 13-14 years. “The Congress was in office in 1984, nobody is denying that. Now, you can’t hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for that — he was 13 or 14 years of age then… He has not absolved anyone,” he said.
Speaking at an interaction with UK-based Parliamentarians in London on Friday, Rahul said the anti-Sikh riots were a “tragedy” and “a painful experience”, but added that the Congress was not involved in them.
“Anything done that was wrong during that period should be punished and I would support that 100 per cent. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree with that. Certainly, there was violence, certainly, there was a tragedy,” he said.
However, Gandhi’s remarks were in contravention to his own acknowledgement in 2014 during an interview to Times Now. At that time Gandhi had said, “some Congressmen were probably involved”, and that “some Congressman have been punished for it”. In 2005, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had apologised in Parliament to “the Sikh community” and the “whole nation” on behalf of “the government, on behalf of the entire people of this country” for the 1984 riots, saying, “I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place.”
The Nanavati Commission report on the riots had indicted several Congress leaders. One of those named in the report, Jagdish Tytler, had resigned as a minister from the Singh Cabinet.
The Congress has long struggled to put the 1984 riots behind it, and Rahul’s remarks has triggered a fresh political spat, with BJP ally Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leading the charge.
Rahul rubbed salt into wounds of Sikh community, says SAD
Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal accused the Congress chief of trying to protect his party leaders involved in the “genocide”. “Rahul Gandhi has rubbed salt into the wounds of Sikh kaum (community). It shows the thinking of Gandhi towards the Sikh community,” Badal said.
Badal also said the Congress leader had “justified the lynch mentality of the Gandhi family by shamelessly denying the Congress party’s role in the organized massacre of Sikhs in 1984 and had by this act become a ‘bhagidaar’ in this most inhuman and dastardly act”.
Massacre organised on Rajiv Gandhi’s directions, says Phoolka
Punjab AAP leader HS Phoolka also joined the SAD in assailing Gandhi, saying the massacre was organised by the Congress on the directions of Rajiv Dandhi. Calling Gandhi’s statement “wrong”, Phoolka said, “I have challenged him for an open debate about Congress’ and his father Rajiv Gandhi’s involvement. The massacre was organised by Congress on directions of Rajiv Gandhi.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines