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News Analysis
PM assuages feelings of Sikh community
T R Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 11
That heads had to roll in the Congress following the G T Nanavati Commission report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots was evident. Despite opinion being divided in the Congress, it was a question of time before the inevitable happened. It has no doubt left former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, the MP from Outer Delhi, minus their jobs. Mr Kumar was compelled to quit as the Chairman of the Delhi Rural Development Board (DRDB) which had an annual budget of Rs 1 billion.

By yesterday afternoon it became clear that both Mr Tytler and Mr Kumar would have to bite the bullet when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh without taking names emphasised in his intervention in the Lok Sabha that the Congress-led UPA government will take all possible steps within the ambit of the law to reopen or further examine individual cases recommended by the Nanavati Commission.

Prior to that the Left was shouting hoarse that its demands had been accepted by the Manmohan Singh Government. These included the exit of Mr Tytler as minister and Mr Kumar from the DRDB. The Left parties had told TV news channels that if the government reneged on its four point demand, it will have no compunction in voting with the Opposition on the adjournment motion.

Despite Mr Tytler’s assertions that he was being made a scapegoat because of a conspiracy against him within the Congress, Mr Kumar kept his counsel to himself and assiduously kept away from the media spotlight. But the diktat was given and Mr Tytler and Mr Kumar meekly fell in line with the party directive.

That the Prime Minister was under intense pressure was never in doubt. What compounded matters was the Action Taken Report (ATR) of the government which in the case of Mr Tytler insisted that in “criminal cases, a person cannot be prosecuted simply on the basis of probability.” Clearly, Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil and his ministry was out of sync with the thinking right at the top.

There is a strong section of opinion in the government which believes that without much ado the Prime Minister should have asked Mr Tytler to resign his ministership forthwith rather than providing the necessary lever to the Opposition to have a field day. Clearly, there were other compulsions as certain Congress bigwigs insisted that caving in to the Opposition’s demands would inevitably lead to a cacophony of others being targetted and the UPA Government might find itself inexorably pushed to the wall. A large complement of Congressmen insist that delaying the inevitable creates further complications for the leadership and put additional strain on the coalition partners.

At the same time, the Prime Minister has assuaged the feelings of the Sikh community today which had felt completely out of depth and expressed its anger against Dr Singh in no uncertain terms yesterday. Now they see a ray of light and hope at the end of the tunnel. Dr Singh’s sincere apology to the nation for the 1984 November anti-Sikh riots in his intervention in the Rajya Sabha today has brought about a turnaround in the simmering angst of the Sikh community.

Dr Singh observed “I bow my head in shame for what happened...but there are ebbs and tide in a nation’s history.”

At the same time both Mr Tytler and Mr Kumar were tense and furious with their ignominious exit as Union Minister and chief of the DRDB, respectively. Mr Tytler’s supporters at his residence including a motley group of Sikhs maintained that their leader resigned as Union Minister for the sake of the Congress party and not because of political pressure. It may be noted that the Congress had denied Mr Kumar the party ticket for the parliamentary elections thrice in 1984, 1998 and 1999 for his alleged role in the anti-Sikh riots. Mr Tytler is expected to urge the UPA Government to set up a special probe into the Nanavati Commission’s findings and specially go into the charges levelled against him. The Nanavati Commission had noted that Mr Tytler’s involvement in the anti-Sikh riots was “very probable”.

Official sources indicate the government will direct the investigating agencies to undertake a fresh investigation in keeping with the recommendations of the Nanavati Commission.


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