New Delhi, December 5
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh's suggestion that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots could have been avoided if then home minister P V Narasimha Rao had heeded the suggestion of calling in the Army drew sharp reaction from the BJP which on Thursday blamed Rajiv Gandhi for the massacre.
Speaking at an event on Wednesday to commemorate former prime minister I K Gujral, Singh had said that Gujral had told Rao to bring in the Army to contain the raging anti-Sikh violence after then PM Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
"When the sad event of 1984 took place, Gujral-ji on that very sad evening, he went to then Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao and said to him that the situation is so grave that it is necessary for the government to call in the Army at the earliest. If that advice had been heeded, perhaps the massacre that took place in 1984 could have been avoided," Singh said.
Taking a swipe at Singh, the BJP asked if Rao was so "bad", why he chose to become the finance minister in his government in 1991.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar blamed Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded Indira Gandhi as the prime minister that very night, for the riots, saying the prime minister has the right to order Army deployment in such a situation.
"In a way, Rajiv Gandhi supported the massacre with his subsequent comments that the earth shakes when a big tree falls," Javadekar told reporters about the riots following the assassination of Gandhi.
Meanwhile, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said he was “deeply pained and disappointed” with Manmohan Singh’s comments on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and alleged that it was “a shocking attempt to shift blame” from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
In a statement here, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief said, “Relevant government records clearly show that the decision against Army deployment was taken at a meeting held at the residence of Rajiv Gandhi.”
Singh’s claim is “neither true nor appropriate”, Badal said.
“It is shocking because it comes from Manmohan Singh whom we have always genuinely respected. It is inappropriate and indecorous as it involves two former prime ministers, P V Narasimha Rao and I K Gujral, neither of whom is alive to respond to this claim. It is intriguing why Singh kept quiet on this all those years when Rao and Gujral were around to confirm or deny this claim,” he said.
The SAD leader said Singh’s “statement, however, clearly vindicates our stand that the independent India’s worst and most tragic massacre could easily have been averted had then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi allowed the Army to be called in time to deal with a crisis of unimaginable and unprecedented magnitude”.
Gujral's son and Akali Dal MP Naresh Gujral complimented Singh for being "truthful".
"I admire and compliment Manmohan Singh for being truthful and calling a spade a spade," he told PTI. — PTI
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