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Killing of Sikhs: will the guilty be punished?

 | April 12, 2013

Congress cannot dismiss the post-Indira-Gandhi-assassination carnage in 1984 that saw hundreds of Sikhs dead.

COMMENT

Most political parties in India have skeletons in their cupboards. These “bones” tumble out now and then.

If the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has its bloody Gujarat riots of 2002 – which led to the massacre of thousands of Muslims – on its conscience, the Congress cannot wish away the post-Indira-Gandhi-assassination carnage in 1984 that saw hundreds of Sikhs dead.

When India’s former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, was gunned down by her own Sikh bodyguards as revenge against the Operation Blue Star to flush out militants holed up inside the sacred-to-Sikhs Golden Temple in Amritsar, violence erupted in New Delhi and other northern Indian cities.

Initially, the hostility seemed like mindless and spontaneous outbursts to the Gandhi killing. But some hours later, it became clear that there was a planned and well-orchestrated move to kill as many Sikhs as possible.

And Indira’s son, Rajiv Gandhi (who took over as prime minister, and who himself was later murdered by Sri Lankan terrorists), apparently did nothing to stop the anti-Sikh riots. It is said that despite a strong advice to him to get the army out of the barracks, he refused. Rather, he remained silent.

Tragically, his silence was interpreted by Congress leaders and the police as “unspoken licence” to butcher Sikhs.

One of the Congress leaders, Jagdish Tytler, was reportedly instrumental in the death of Sikhs, and in these almost 30 years since the violence, no charges had been framed against him.

However, a session’s court has recently ordered that the case against Tytler, who had also served as a Congress minister, be reopened, in spite of the two clean chits given to him by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

Blood-thirsty mobs

There were other Congress leaders as well – like HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, and Dharam Dass Shastri – who were termed “instigators” by victims and eyewitnesses. But they continue to walk free. What is more, they had been rewarded with positions in the government.

There came a time when Tytler got so audacious that he justified the Sikh murders by saying that the whole thing was as inevitable as the upheaval caused by the fall of a giant tree, the tree here being Indira Gandhi.

Many years after Indira died in a hail of bullets which were pumped into her frail body, a commission headed by Justice Nanavati recorded the statements of several witnesses who said that they had seen Tytler leading “blood-thirsty mobs, urging them to kill Sikhs and destroy their property”.

One witness reportedly heard Tytler chastising people for not having murdered more Sikhs! And because of this, he said, he had fallen in the eyes of the Congress leaders in New Delhi

The Congress government then promptly dismissed the Nanavati Commission’s findings.

Even more scandalous than this was the way Tytler was rewarded. He has been regularly given the Congress ticket to Parliament since 1984, despite the clinching evidence against him.

Even today, Tytler is an active member of the Congress working committee.

On Thursday night, he told the news channel, NDTV, that he would step down from all the offices he was now holding if ever charges were filed against him. “I would hate to embarrass my [Congress] party”, he averred.

The court ruling may be the beginning of an effort to nail Tytler, though justice delayed could well be justice denied.

Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]


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