THE RIOTOUS GHOST...
The ghost of 1984 anti-Sikh riots has gate-crashed into the portals of Congress fiefdom that has ingloriously espoused for 30 years the ignominy of not accepting the responsibility of a horrific massacre that has no parallel of criminality in the history of free India. That was a monumental criminal disgrace that irrefutably germinated at the very Centre of power, following the assassination of then Prime Minister #Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, who were brainwashed by their religious bigots to avenge the Sikhs' killings during the Operation Blue Star, ordered by Mrs #Indira Gandhi, possibly backed by British PM #Margaret Thatcher to flush out #Pakistan-propped Sikh insurgents from the #Golden Temple where they had been stockpiling weapons to challenge the authority of State, thereby threatening the unity of India.
The bloody violence was not confined to Delhi alone; that constituted a series of pogroms against the #Sikhs across India by rioting mobs which caused over 8,000 deaths, including 3,000 in Delhi. The main probe agency, #Central Bureau of Investigation, had clearly stated that the violence in Delhi was organized in league with the then police officials and the central government, headed by #Rajiv Gandhi, who had taken office of the Prime Minister after his mother's death. The city bore a horrific sight with hundreds of free-wheeling marauders swinging in different directions, killing innocent Sikhs all over Delhi, as police willfully looked the other way.
Mrs Gandhi reportedly consulted several leaders, including BJP's #Atal Behari Vajpayee, before she ordered the Army to enter the #Golden Temple. Mrs Gandhi told Mr. #Vajpayee, who was then in Bangalore, that there was no other way of rooting out #Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale-led separatists, who had turned the religious place into their fortress. Vajpayee strongly advised her against such a move saying,"Iski bhaari keemat chukaani padh sakti hai (There could be a heavy price to pay)." Mrs Gandhi did not listen.
Mrs Gandhi, it is now revealed, was in touch with the then UK Premier Thatcher much before the operation. Under pressure from the 4.3 lakh-strong Sikh community in UK, PM #David Cameron ordered an inquiry to find what role his country played in the temple tragedy.The probe has now revealed "no direct involvement of UK govt", says Cameron. Declassified documents made public by Labour MP Tom Watson, earlier suggesting active UK role, it appears, stand no ground.
Meanwhile, several Sikh organisations have sought unconditional apology from the UK government. Some foreign-based Sikh bodies also plan to approach the International Court to seek Justice against "UK role in the killings.
What must be visibly shocking for the Congress leadership now is that the Nehru-Gandhi scion #Rahul Gandhi himself has chosen to invite the apparition for self-moiling via an interview to a TV channel. Even though his party had meticulously planned the interview as a game-changer and an image-building tool for its young vice-president, in the thick of a do-or-die campaign against a formidable, third-term #Gujarat Chief Minister, BJP's PM nominee #Narendra Modi, Rahul in his pronounced naivety, kicked the ball into his own net, unaware of the consequences that possibly could follow. In the interview that sent Rahul's glass-vision to smithereens, the Congress PM hopeful acknowledged under intense grueling by a smart anchor, that "some Congressmen" were possibly involved in the killings. And that opened the can of putrefying worms.
That has brought Delhi Chief Minister #Arvind Kejriwal ordering formation of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) to re-open the riot cases. Meanwhile, hearing a case, the Delhi High Court broadened its intervention by directing the CBI to furnish comprehensive information on the progress made in all the cases lodged in the anti-Sikh riots, including those that were closed by the police for want of evidence. The CBI was also asked to inform the court on the total number of convictions and acquittals made so far.
Who provoked the carnage was never a mystery, but all that seemed to die down in the midst of the mourning for Indira Gandhi, as police consigned the charred stock of dead bodies to the flames in a mass of last rites. Some say when a distraught Rajiv Gandhi broke his silence in the wake of the riots that "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes," the partymen took it as Rajiv's emotional outburst for requital ; that, possibly, worsened the conflagration.
Former Delhi Police Chief #Ved Marwah, who was then IG of the special branch, was tasked with the inquiry into police role. Marwah claims that when he was close to completing his findings, he was officially stopped from questioning the then LG and Police Commissioner to record their views.
He says, "all the documentary evidence collected from police stations suggested the police officers did not make entries of their departure. The distress calls of the victims were not recorded in the police stations...The daily diaries seized from police stations were all blank. Clearly, criminals enjoyed a police shield." The probe, he added, "was stopped due to political pressure, as his findings would have embarrassed the Rajiv Gandhi govt."
Rahul Gandhi's remark has enraged the Sikh community in Delhi and has asked the Congress leader to come clean on his party's real role and himself join the SIT probe to help bring the truth out. Meanwhile, although Marwah favours another probe, he is not very hopeful of any new findings after lapse of 30 years during which crucial evidence must have been buried. So far, there have been 442 convictions, 49 of them sentenced to life imprisonment. But the big fish are roaming around free. The victims, however, hope that SIT will help get them justice, as people are now willing to depose.
The #Nanavati Commission had in 2005 recommended re-opening of four cases, out of which charge-sheets were filed in three and probe was held in three from 2006 to 2009, over 20 years after the carnage. In one case, in which Congress leader #Sajjan Kumar is an accused, trial began only last month. Two cases, where senior Congress leaders are named, have not yet reached the trial stage. In one case, involving four killings in Nangloi, Sajjan Kumar was an accused, along with five others. The FIR was registered in 1991, but police later dropped Sajjan's name. The court, however, rejected CBI's closure report that gave a clean chit to former minister #Jagdish Tytler in 2009. But the top lawyers still doubt if these two biggies will ever be hooked, for they are being protected in the interest of the top Congress leadership.
When the timeframe plays the guile 30 years on, would it not be in the fitness of things to forgive, forget and move on, after giving suitable compensation to the sufferers? #UPA chairperson #Sonia Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh have already tendered apologies for the massacre. Rahul Gandhi, as the party's succeeding supremo, should also say "sorry" to the victims' kin without reservation, if he wants the bitterness to disappear from their hearts.
Gujarat also suffered major riots in 2002 in the aftermath of Godhra train killings of kar sewaks. For these, Modi has also been facing heat from his political opponents and the courts. Though nothing has been found against him, public opinion still senses there could have been "possible indifference" of his administration as the violence erupted, taking a toll of some 790 lives, even though unofficial figures put the toll at 2000. But in sharp contrast to the Sikh's killings, where the administration had gone dormant for almost three days, Modi is said to have promptly called para-military forces and the army to control the riots. It is also worth recounting that there has not been a single major riot in Gujarat since 2002. Modi seems to have learned a lot from old failures or mistakes. But what is painful both in Delhi and Gujarat is that the criminals, who caused the holocaust are today roaming free to the victims' deep anguish. Tragic memories will take hard to fade.
Sufferers of communal violence, occurring anywhere in the country, ask only for justice on human parameters, staring deep into the eyes of authorities and the courts, but don't seek blind revenge. Bereaved families too have to forget the past, but the authorities must apply the healing touch.
Riots are always touched off by provocations, big or small. Ours is a multi-religious, multi-caste, multi-cultural and multi-lingual society, where differences are bound to crop up.
The need is to resolve any tangle through dialogue and interactive communication, and not attempt finding solution in violence, which sadly leaves no space for any emotional appeal and bonhomie. Logic suggests when a Prime Minister is killed by misguided fanatic-bodyguards on some provocation, revulsion is bound to surface. But the communities have to control the extent and spillover of any anger in nation's interest. Bloodshed cries retribution, no solution, no peace!