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After Criticism, Congress Says Sam Pitroda's Remark About 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots Not Party's Stand

The party's statement came a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Pitroda’s comments were reflective of his party’s 'mentality' and 'arrogance'.


Updated:May 10, 2019, 7:51 PM IST
After Criticism, Congress Says Sam Pitroda's Remark About 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots Not Party's Stand
Congress leader Sam Pitroda (Image : PTI).

New Delhi: The Congress on Friday issued a statement in the wake of party leader Sam Pitroda’s remarks in which he had reportedly dismissed the genocide of Sikhs in the 1984 riots following former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination.

The clarification came a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Pitroda’s comments were reflective of his party’s “mentality” and “arrogance”.

“We continue to support the quest for justice and stern punishment for those found guilty in 1984 riots as also the subsequent acts of violence including the 2002 Gujarat riots,” the Congress said in its statement. “Any opinion remark made by any individual to the contrary, including Sam Pitroda, is not the opinion of the Congress party. We advise all leaders to be careful and sensitive.”

Referring to the 2002 riots in Gujarat that took place when Modi was chief minister, the Congress added that justice should be done for all riot victims, whether it be 1984 or 2002. "We abhor violence of any kind, against any person or a group of people based on their caste, colour, creed, region or religion. This is the essence of India," it added.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, who read out the statement, added that unlike the ruling BJP that had fielded a candidate charged with terror activities, his party had shown the moral and political courage to punish the leaders accused of violence or involvement in the 1984 riots. Surjewala was apparently referring to Pragya Thakur, BJP's candidate from Bhopal, who is an accused in the Malegaon blast case and is currently out on bail. Her candidature has been endorsed by Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah as well as other BJP leaders.

"This is the yardstick of self-imposed accountability and sense of justice to people followed by the Congress party, unlike the BJP... for the BJP, riots are vote-garnering exercise in every election, instead of ensuring justice and closure. People should see through this Machiavellian game of deception, distraction and distortion by Narendra Modi," he added.

Pitroda, a close advisor to Congress president Rahul Gandhi and chairman of Indian Overseas Congress, had kicked up a storm on Thursday when asked about the 1984 riots, saying “hua toh hua (if it happened, it happened)”. As the BJP latched onto his statement in the middle of a slugfest over former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s legacy, Pitroda sought to clarify his comment by claiming that the “truth is being distorted” and “lies amplified through social media”.

Modi earlier said that Pitroda’s comments must not be taken as an individual’s statement, but as an overarching sentiment of the Congress party.

Modi also claimed that Pitroda’s comments would end up harming the Congress’ electoral prospects in the Lok Sabha polls. “This is the Congress's arrogance, which got them 44 seats (in 2014) and now people of India will ensure that they slip even further,” he said.

Pitroda’s comments were condemned by several leaders of the ruling BJP, including party president Amit Shah and Union ministers Arun Jaitley and Prakash Javadekar. The BJP had demanded an apology from the Congress leader, accusing the party of playing with public feelings.

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