Bharat Jodo Yatra
Bharat Jodo Yatra__As Rahul Gandhi, wearing an orange turban, paid his respects at the Golden Temple on January 10, a day before embarking on the Punjab leg of his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra, posters appeared on the walls of the Congress Bhawan in Ludhiana, questioning the top Congress leader about his party’s role in the country’s Partition in 1947 and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“1947 mein Bharat toda, 1984 mein samaaj,” the unidentified posters stated.
1984 mein Sikh dangon mein nirdosh maarey gaye… Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party… ( In 1947, the country was divided; in 1984, society was divided. Hundreds of innocent people were killed during anti-Sikh riots in 1984. Rahul Gandhi and the Congress Party must respond.
When Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra arrived in Ludhiana on January 12, 1984 riot victims held a protest, burning effigies and demanding an apology from him for the Sikh massacre, even as they chastised the Congress leadership for failing to take action against party leaders like Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath who have faced allegations of involvement in the riots.
Rahul was 14 at the time of the Sikh massacre in Delhi that followed the assassination of his grandmother and then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, months after the Army carried out Operation Bluestar in the Golden Temple to flush out Khalistani militants led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. After Indira Gandhi’s death, Rahul’s father, Rajiv Gandhi, took over as Prime Minister.
Decades later, Rahul, now 52, is still tormented by the 1984 riots when he visits Punjab, particularly its gurdwaras, where he is met with a chorus of protests from the Opposition and victim families demanding an explanation for the bloodshed.
The Punjab Congress leaders have long backed Rahul, claiming that because he was a minor at the time, he could not be held guilty for the 1984 riots.
Surjit Singh, head of the 1984 Danga Peerit Welfare Society, a group of 10,000 victim families, believes that now that Rahul Gandhi has taken over the Gandhi family’s political heritage, it is his moral obligation, along with his mother Sonia Gandhi, to apologise for the 1984 carnage. “What is preventing Rahul from apologising and recognising that what Congress did was wrong? “What is preventing Rahul from dismissing Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath from the party?” he said
Gurdeep Kaur, co-president of this association, witnessed the mob burn alive her two brothers-in-law in Delhi’s Mangolpuri during the 1984 riots that left her husband bedridden for life. “Yes, he (Rahul) was a youngster at the time, but what about our orphaned children?
What was their mistake? Some children were even born without dads and never saw their fathers because crowds seeking vengeance for Indira’s assassination burned them alive in front of our eyes… We will never forget what happened, but there will be closure if Rahul apologise “Whenever someone from the Gandhi family comes to Punjab, our scars reopen,” she adds.
Senior Supreme Court counsel and ex-AAP leader HS Phoolka says the question is what Rahul has done to “rectify his family’s sins” and make the Sikh community feel he truly understood their anguish.
“How has Congress evolved since 1984? It’s still the same old Congress, with guys like Tytler and Kamal Nath in charge. “I still believe that it was the Congress as a whole that was guilty for the slaughter, not Rahul Gandhi, but now that he is in power, Rahul should have proved that he stood with Sikhs by doing it,” adds Phoolka. “How come Tytler and Nath are still members of Congress?
They are not merely playing a role; they hold positions of power. Rahul is not to blame for what occurred in 1984, but he is clearly to blame for what is going on in the party now.He must explain how and why those who were involved in the plot are still members of the party.”
Both the SAD and the BJP, formerly partners but now adversaries, were the first to attack Rahul over his Bharat Jodo Yatra in Punjab. “This (Gandhi) dynasty has a history of splitting Punjab and discriminating against it,” Sukhbir Singh Badal, president of the SAD, said. Nobody has harmed Punjab more than the Gandhis. Former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a tank and mortar attack on Darbar Sahib, destroying Sikhism’s highest temporal seat, Akal Takht. Rajiv Gandhi orchestrated and even rationalised the 1984 riots. Before coming here, Rahul Gandhi should examine his conscience.”
“Congress has never been embarrassed of the 1984 riots till now,” Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma said. I hope that at least now he (Rahul) would apologise to Sikhs for his family’s awful deed.”
“At least for the sake of his Bharat Jodo Yatra theatrics, Rahul should have apologised, but he did not,” SGPC president Harjinder Singh Dhami said. This demonstrates that he and Congress have no misgivings about 1984.”
However, the Congress’s Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu, whose grandfather Beant Singh, ex-Punjab CM, was assassinated in 1995, says that Rahul was being “unfairly” made to pay a price for a crime that he never did, and that “his apology to the Guru, which he has already tendered multiple times, is powerful”.
“When it comes to a catastrophe like the Holocaust of 1984, an apology is a very tiny word. Nobody can disagree that what occurred to the Sikhs was terrible, and their agony cannot be alleviated in any way. But didn’t Rahul lose his grandparents and father as well? How long will you continue to blame a man who was unaware of what was going on? “No apology is more powerful and supreme than that offered before the Guru, and he has visited Golden Temple and bowed his head in front of the Guru on multiple occasions,” Bittu says.
Bittu also questions why, if the SAD and other parties believe Rahul should be held accountable for the 1984 riots, Sukhbir’s wife Harsimrat Kaur Badal failed to take action against him when serving as a minister in the Narendra Modi-led NDA administration.
During the Congress-led UPA administration, then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised in Parliament in 2005, saying, “I have no problem in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not just to the Sikh community, but also to the whole Indian country, since what happened in 1984 was a violation of the notion of nationhood established in our Constitution. I bend my head in shame on behalf of our government and the whole people of this country that such a thing occurred.”Sonia Gandhi had already apologised for the 1984 riots in 1998.
Rahul, for his part, has previously expressed similar thoughts. “The Prime Minister of the UPA has apologised, and the President of the Congress (has) expressed remorse,” he remarked in 2014. I absolutely agree with them. Innocent people dying is a heinous crime that should not occur.”
Then in 2019, Rahul had rejected Congress leader Sam Pitroda for his statement “hua to hua” on the 1984 riots, adding on his social media accounts, “I think what Sam Pitroda ji said is utterly out of line and he should apologise for it. 1984, in my opinion, was an unnecessary catastrophe that caused much suffering. I believe that justice must be served. The perpetrators of the 1984 catastrophe must be held accountable. Manmohan Singh ji, the former Prime Minister, has apologised. Sonia Gandhi ji, my mother, has apologised. We have all stated unequivocally that 1984 was a dreadful disaster that should never have occurred… This will be communicated to him personally. He ought to apologise for his remark.”
However, in August 2018, while addressing to UK-based lawmakers and local leaders in London, Rahul provoked a political squabble by declaring that the anti-Sikh riots were a “tragedy” and “sad experience,” but that the Congress was not involved in them.
Senior Akali leader and ex-MP Prem Singh Chandumajra said the reason why the Opposition parties and victim organisations have constantly demanded apologies from Rahul is based in the idea of “accountability and closure”.