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‘He Was Just a Child Then’: Congress Rallies Behind Rahul Gandhi Amid Storm Over 1984 Riots Remark

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said party chief Rahul Gandhi hasn’t “absolved anyone” with his controversial remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Updated:August 25, 2018, 2:41 PM IST
‘He Was Just a Child Then’: Congress Rallies Behind Rahul Gandhi Amid Storm Over 1984 Riots Remark
File photo of Congress president Rahul Gandhi. (PTI)
New Delhi: Senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram came to the defence of Rahul Gandhi on Saturday amid a controversy triggered by his remarks that the party was not involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots which were triggered by the assassination of his grandmother and then PM Indira Gandhi.

“The Congress was in office in 1984. A very terrible thing happened in 1984 for which Dr Manmohan Singh apologised in Parliament. You can't hold Rahul Gandhi responsible for that. He was 13 or 14. He hasn't absolved anyone,” Chidambaram said.

The party has also claimed that the question posed to its president was ‘planted’. “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,” a statement issued on Friday said.

Responding to a question by CNN-News18, Gandhi had said: “I have no confusion in my mind about that (1984 riots). 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 tragedy."

The BJP and the Akali Dal, however, have lashed out at the Congress chief, asking why Manmohan Singh apologised if the party wasn’t involved.

Addressing reporters on Saturday, Akali Dal leader and former Punjab CM Sukhbir Singh Badal questioned why Jagdish Tytler, an accused in the riots, was removed from ministership. “In an interview, Tytler said he and Rajiv (Gandhi) went to central Delhi… He killed more than 100 Sikhs. Are you (Rahul Gandhi) afraid that an SIT has been formed?”

His party colleague Bikram Singh Majithia recollected Rajiv Gandhi’s purported statement in the aftermath of the riots. "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,” Majithia said.

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 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.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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