The Congress Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi re-opened the 1984 wounds of the Sikh community when he admitted in a rare interview that some of his partymen may well have been involved in the pogrom which had resulted in the death of nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children in Delhi alone. That was clumsy. He had the opportunity to apply closure to the issue, especially when asked whether he would apologise for that wholly one-sided murderous mayhem, but he failed to grab it. Instead, he incited a brand new controversy centring around his ill-conceived remarks. Following his interview to a TV channel, there have been demonstrations in Punjab and Delhi, with a group of Sikhs holding a noisy protest outside the Congress headquarters on Thursday.
Without exception, the demand for a special investigation team has found support from a large section of the political class. In fact, the AAP Government in Delhi has sought the constitution of an SIT to probe the 1984 killings, citing its election manifesto in the recent Delhi Assembly poll. Given that the Congress faces a tough parliamentary poll, the revival of the SIT demand is bound to pose further problems for the party. Of course, there is no resisting the demand in view of the need to find justice and consequently closure to the 30-year-old crime. Despite the mass murders committed by groups of marauding mobs armed with cans of kerosene and petrol and sharp weapons and roaming the capital’s streets completely free from the fear of the police, there has been no free and fair probe into the 1984 killings. In fact, successive Congress governments at the Centre have tried to protect the real perpetrators.
Some of these have actually occupied high ministerial posts, while others have been high functionaries of the Congress Party. For the record, a number of committees, commissions, etc., were set up to probe the killings but these failed to unearth the truth. Even after making due allowance for the proverbially slow justice system, the few cases that were registered did not reach any conclusion.
Several hundred FIRs were unilaterally closed by the police. In others, attempts by the police and the suspects were allowed to hinder progress in investigations. To this day, not one notable Congress leader has been imprisoned for his role in the dastardly killings. Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler still roam free, though, on record, the cases/investigations against them are still continuing. One does not have to be a Modi supporter to point out that in sharp contrast the 2002 post-Godhra riots have been thoroughly investigated due to the coaxing of a very hostile and overzealous centre.
As is widely known, no other riot in the history of India was a one-way affair as was the 1984 pogrom. Even the Partition riots had the antagonistic religious communities arrayed against one another, indulging in an orgy of unspeakable violence and killings. Riots in free India, from Bhagalpur to Bhiwandi, from Mumbai to Maliana, from Nellie to Muzzafarnagar, always involved two communities or castes, in which members of both suffered losses, to a greater or a lesser degree.
Why, even in the 2002 riots, of the 1,100 deaths, nearly four hundred were non-Muslims. It is only in the 1984 riots, that all the dead were Sikhs, not one security personnel, not one Hindu, Muslim or Christian. The point, we may remind the secularist megaphones, is that if at all there was a state-sponsored pogrom, it was the Sikh killings in the national capital in 1984. Therefore, it is in the Congress Party’s own interest to allow that darkest of chapters in the life of the Republic to be thoroughly probed.
It is irrelevant whether thirty years have gone by since those killings. Unless there is justice in the anti-Sikh pogrom, there shall be no closure for the brave and hardworking community, which has contributed so much to the task of nation-building before and after Independence. Instead of seeing the demand through the narrow prism of electoral gains and losses, the Manmohan Singh Government owes it to itself to order a SIT in order to reassure the Sikh community at large that they are equal partners in the life and progress of the country and, therefore, fully entitled to justice and peace under the present order.