New Delhi: Congress President Rahul Gandhi triggered a major controversy on Friday by denying his party’s involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that shook the nation and claimed thousands of Sikh lives.
Answering a question posed by CNN-News18 at the UK Parliament meeting on Congress’ involvement in the infamous riots, Gandhi said, “I have no confusion in my mind about that. 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.”
Several Congress leaders, including Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, were accused of organizing the large-scale riots in Delhi in the aftermath of late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination at the hands of her Sikh bodyguards.
Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia has condemned the statement and sought an apology from Gandhi. He has said, "When asked about the riots, Rajiv Gandhi had then said 'When a big tree falls, the earth shakes'. Jagdish Tytler went on record to say that Rajiv Gandhi accompanied him to recce different parts of Delhi to see how successful the massacre was."
He added, "Rahul Gandhi must apologize for this and take decisive action against Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. When he denies Congress' involvement, it is a blatant lie."
Congress, in turn, has issued a statement clarifying Gandhi’s words and claimed that the question was “planted”.
Congress has said, “Responding to a planted and hostile question which contained a sweeping statement that Congress party was criminally involved in the 1984 riots, Rahul Gandhi said that that's a wrong statement. Congress party was not criminally involved in the riots. What happened was very sad, it was very unfortunate. Congress party has condemned the incident and our leaders have condemned what happened and we stand with those who suffered in the riots. We believe that the perpetrators must be punished.”
In 2013, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had tendered an apology in the Parliament for the killings of over 4,000 Sikhs in 1984. Soon, then party chief Sonia Gandhi, too, expressed regrets over the riots, which was followed by Rahul Gandhi himself, who said he shared their sentiments.
Speaking to CNN-News18, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, "Rahul Gandhi has undone any leadership qualities that he had. Remember there was an apology from former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh."
The Nanavati Commission, formed by the Vajpayee government, submitted its report in 2005 and indicted several local Congress leaders, but ruled out direct involvement of then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and other senior Congress leaders.
The Supreme Court had recently ordered the formation of a Special Investigation Team to investigate 186 cases of 1984 riots. Justice (Retd) Dhingra is heading the newly formed SIT.