Chandigarh: The Congress was not connected with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots but a few party leaders could have been involved at an individual level, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh told the state Assembly on Monday.
The Punjab chief minister even named some Congress leaders, whose names he had heard at camps after the riots. Minutes before the Justice (retd) Ranjit Singh Commission’s report on incidents of sacrilege in 2015 in the state was tabled in the Assembly, opposition SAD raised the issue of 1984 anti-Sikh riots during the Zero Hour. “The Congress, as a party, was never involved in the riots,” Amarinder Singh said.
SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and senior leader Bikram Singh Majithia had raised the issue of a recent statement by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who had said in London recently that Congress, as a party, was never involved in the carnage. Backing the Congress chief, Amarinder Singh told Majithia that he was just about eight-years-old at the time of riots. “What do you know about the issue?” a combative Amarinder Singh said as he warned the Akalis against playing with the sentiments of the Sikhs on the sensitive matter.
He accused the Akalis of taking up the riots issue when it suited them. Amarinder Singh also told Sukhbir Singh Badal that when the riots broke out “you were in California in a University”. On a point raised by the SAD chief, the Punjab chief minister said former prime minister late Rajiv Gandhi was in West Bengal when Indira Gandhi was assassinated. “Rajiv Gandhi was in Bengal when Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984. He came to know about the incident over news on radio while he was at the airport in Kolkata,” he said. Amarinder Singh said it was “individuals”, and not the Congress, who were involved in the riots. The chief minister said he had visited camps and some Gurdwaras in Delhi after the riots broke out.
“People in the camps named some individual Congress leaders. I heard names of HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Arjan Das and Dharamdas Shastri, which I have over the years revealed to the public,” he said. I have been naming these people for the past almost 34 years, Amarinder Singh said, while clarifying that he had named the people who were mentioned to him, and not out of any personal knowledge.
On his visit to the affected areas and the camps in the aftermath of the riots, the chief minister said the situation was bad, and the bodies of victims could be seen rotting on the roads. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Brahm Mohindra said the names of people not present in the House during the discussion should be expunged but Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader HS Phoolka raised objections. Amarinder Singh said there was no need to expunge the names as these leaders had been in public debate for the past 34 years, and “had already been exposed in the public eye”.
The Akalis continued to protest near the Well of the House and sought to know from Amarinder Singh why the Congress party had made Bhagat a minister earlier and given ticket to Sajjan Kumar. The ruckus continued as the Speaker asked members to take up a calling attention notice. Significantly, Amarinder Singh had sought to defend Congress and its chief Rahul Gandhi on the issue yesterday also. Rahul Gandhi was in school when ‘Operation Blue Star’ and later the riots took place, Amarinder Singh said adding ‘whosoever was involved’ in the senseless killings in 1984 should be “hanged”.