Manmohan apologises to Sikhs for ’84 riots
New Delhi, August 11
Intervening in the discussion on the Opposition-sponsored motion in the Rajya Sabha on the Nanavati Commission report, the Prime Minister said he had no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. “I apologise not only to the Sikh community but to the whole nation, because what took place in 1984 is a negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution. I am not standing on any false prestige. On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame,” Dr Singh said.
The Prime Minister said he had seen statements by Opposition leaders that he should seek forgiveness of the country.
The Prime Minister said he had accompanied Congress President Sonia Gandhi to Harmandar Sahib some five or six years ago. “We together prayed that give us strength and show us the way that such things never take place again in our country.”
Urging members not to play politics on the 1984 tragedy, he said, “The past is behind us. We cannot change it, but we can write the future. We must have the will power to write a better future for all of us.” Describing the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a “great national tragedy,” he said, “What happened subsequently was equally shameful.”
“We must try to find new ways so as to ensure that the country does not go this way again. Whether Gujarat or any other part of the country, such incidents should not recur,” he said.
Referring to some individuals mentioned in the Nanavati report, he said the commission has not come forward with conclusive conclusions. “These are in the realm of probabilities”.
However, he said the government would reopen cases, including those against policemen, wherever it was possible under the law. “Whosoever figures in the Nanavati report and the commission has drawn an adverse inference about their conduct or behaviour, we will reopen those cases,” he said. He promised assistance to all widows, children and the affected families so that they can lead a life of dignity and self-respect.
The Prime Minister charged the Opposition with trying to separate the Sikh community from “the great traditions of the Congress party.”
Dr Singh said the progress achieved by post-Partition Punjab would not have been possible without the leadership provided by country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. “It is also a fact that when that glorious chapter in the history of Punjab was being written, the Akali Dal was busy dividing the people of Punjab on communal lines.”
He said after the Akali Dal came to power in Punjab in 1967, the result was there to see. Appealing to political parties “not to play politics with the sentiments of a brave community like the Sikhs,” he said everyone should help in letting the community to get out of the trauma of 1984.
“Let us not do anything that will reverse the trend....Let us also do nothing to weaken its spirit.”
He said several commissions have gone into the lapses of 1984. “We all know that we still do not know the truth, and the search must go on. This present commission is no exception to that,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the Nanavati Commission has nailed the lie that top Congress leaders were involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. “This lie has been used for the past 21 years to poison the minds of Sikh youths. This lie stands nailed conclusively,” he said.
Recalling that it was late Rajiv Gandhi who provided a new deal to Punjab by signing an accord with Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, Dr Singh said after the 1984 tragedy, the uppermost thing Rajiv Gandhi had in his mind was how to bring Punjab back into the national mainstream.
He also recalled how late Indira Gandhi rejected the suggestions to change her Sikh bodyguards, saying she had no doubts about their sincerity and integrity. “Who can forget the sacrifices of this family,” he said.
He said everyone should work steadfast for mutual reconciliation.
“I respectfully submit that this is not achieved by pursuing partisan goals, apportioning blame”, he said. Dr Singh said in he framework of open society and open economy, there should be respect for all. “There have been aberrations but to err is human.”
Recalling how Nanavati Commission was set up by the previous NDA government, Dr Singh, who was then Leader of House in the Rajya Sabha, said his party had no choice with regard to the Commission’s terms of reference or on who was going to head it.
Referring to the era of terrorism in Punjab, he said it was country’s leadership that did not allow any wedge between the Sikhs and the mainstream and did not allow designs of the nation’s enemies to succeed.