By Himanshi Parihar

Kamal Nath took oath as the CM of Madhya Pradesh on the same day when Sajjan Singh was awarded life imprisonment for his role in anti-Sikh riots of 1984. This has brought to light the cruel incident to centre stage again. Congress is solely blamed for the anti-Sikh riots.

In August last year, Rahul Gandhi said in London that Congress was not involved in this incident.

“You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don’t agree with that.”

Being the President of Indian National Congress, he was criticized from all fronts and was asked to resign from the post.

Sajjan Kumar was given life imprisonment for his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots

These incidents mentioned before have resurfaced one question: Should Rahul Gandhi apologize for what happened in 1984? Before we can answer the question, we need to know the incident that took place in 1984.

What Really Happened In 1984?

During partition, most of the irrigation resources of the present day Punjab had gone to Pakistan as the capital of undivided India’s Punjab was Lahore. Migration and killings on both sides of the border had caused havoc.

Most importantly, the Indian government had rejected to accept Punjab as a separate state for linguistically Punjabi speakers (Himanchal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab used to be one single state). All this had caused unrest in Punjab and they were demanding more autonomy from India; not a different state, but more freedom.

In the meanwhile, demand for a separate united Punjab, popularly known as the Khalistan Movement, was gaining traction amongst the Sikh diaspora abroad.

Khalistan Movement was gaining popularity in Punjab

India is a federal country in nature, with a strong centre. In federalism, the states are given power and autonomy (read freedom) to handle their affairs. Keeping the federal point in their mind, Punjab passed a resolution that asked for more powers and less interference from the government.

This was called the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. At that time, not much importance was given to it. Later, in 1980’s when the Punjabi leaders asked for its implementation, PM Indira Gandhi saw it as a secessionist demand.

In the meantime, Jarnail Singh Bhrindrawale – a Sikh militant scholar, was gaining immense popularity in Punjab. From the beginning of 1980 itself Punjab was in a state of unrest. Several incidents happened that led to President’s rule in the state.

Militants had started to gather arms and ammunition inside the Golden Temple, a place of worship for the Sikhs. By the end of 1983, Bhrindrawale and his supporters took the control of this religious place.

Operation Blue Star

Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi tried to negotiate with them but failed. Tensions kept on rising between religious communities and finally Army took over the state. From June 3 to 6, 1984 Operation Blue Star was carried out by the Indian army to remove these militants from the Golden Temple.

Amritsar’s Golden Temple after Operation Blue Star

On 31st October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards because the community was angry by the fact that army, arms, ammunition and tanks were carried into such a holy site.

People died on both sides, including Bhrindrawale. One point that is always missed is that the followers of the same religion had already done the same themselves and the Indian army took in the tanks only when it saw trained militants, snipers and advanced machinery inside the Golden Temple.

Anti-Sikh riots

It was after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi that the real havoc was created. Anti-Sikh riots broke out for the next 5 days, killing over 3000 Sikhs (a liberal estimate). Sikhs were killed indiscriminately, slaughtered and raped.

Many Congress leaders are believed to have instigated the crowd, supplied them with money and weapons, and announced price money for killing Sikhs. Sajjan Singh was one of them.

Also Read: Accused Of 1984 Riots, Sajjan Kumar Gets Life Sentence But Kamal Nath Becomes CM Of Madhya Pradesh

Till here, the Congress seems innocent. But what happened next is where Congress was wrong. No one even tried to stop this massacre, the state machinery was in a standstill. When PM Rajiv Gandhi assumed the office, after the death of his mother, he was asked why any action isn’t being taken. He replied to the disbelief of many,

“When a Big tree falls, the earth shakes.”

Many saw it as a justification of the atrocity. The prime accused, when tried to be put to justice, was institutionally saved.

Coming Back To Rahul Gandhi

Saying that Congress had no involvement in the riots of 1984 was definitely wrong on part of Rahul Gandhi, especially when he is the President of the Indian National Congress; that too when there are evidences stating the contrary.

On Whether He Should Apologize For The Incident

When Dr. Manmohan Singh, a Sikh and a Congressman, was serving as the Prime Minister, he apologized to the whole Sikh community. Rahul Gandhi’s mother, Sonia Gandhi has apologized for the incident several times.

Given that the incident took place under the Congress government and Rahul Gandhi is currently the President of that party, there is no harm in him apologizing. Especially considering the fact that it was the same Congress that did nothing to stop the riots and is even believed to have saved the perpetrators later.

A gracious apology might even win several hearts, which will benefit the party in the upcoming general elections. But this is strictly when we see him as a part of an institution – the Indian National Congress and that too as its President.

As an individual, devoid of any strings or responsibilities, it is upto Rahul Gandhi – the son of the assassinated PM Rajiv Gandhi and grandson of the assassinated PM Indra Gandhi, to apologize.

You see, people die but institutions live forever.

Image Credits: Google Images

Sources: BBC, Economic Times, India Today + more

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