In London recently, when Congress president Rahul Gandhi answered a question on his party’s involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, he was categorical in his disavowal, but said since there were cases against some individuals, he hoped they would be punished speedily through the legal system.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh reiterated Mr Gandhi’s view. He had quit the Congress in 1984 to protest the anti-Sikh violence. The CM named five Delhi Congressmen who he said were identified for their role in the riots, and urged they be brought to justice quickly. India’s legal system has badly let down victims. The alleged perpetrators roam free.
On that fateful 1984 day, Indira Gandhi had been shot dead. President Zail Singh, a devout Sikh, was abroad. Rajiv Gandhi, the future PM, was campaigning in West Bengal. There was no credible political authority in New Delhi. A thoroughly communalised police, in the backdrop of Bhindrawale’s ravings, did little as Sikhs were killed in crowded slums by fellow citizens — instigated by local Congressmen in some places, but not under a grand plan.
The Congress was in government, and so cannot shirk responsibility. This is why then PM Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Sonia Gandhi long back apologised to the Sikhs. After 1984, the Congress has been in power in Sikh-majority Punjab many times. Rajiv Gandhi’s statement that the “earth trembles when a big tree falls” came several weeks after the violence, and wasn’t the cause of it. In fact, on returning from West Bengal, the late Rajiv Gandhi moved around in an open vehicle in the affected areas, seeking an immediate end to the violence.
The focus must be on getting speedier justice, but politicians do name-calling for other reasons.