The politics of setting up memorials in Punjab took another turn on Monday with former cabinet minister Manoranjan Kalia calling upon the state leadership to build memorials dedicated to the 1984 Sikh riot victims and thousands of innocent people from all walks of life who sacrificed their lives during the troubled days of terrorism.
The move of the BJP seeking memorials to remind coming generations about the anti-Sikh riots and the killings of thousands of innocent people during the days of terrorism in Punjab assumes significance in the backdrop of the controversy over a memorial at Darbar Sahib complex in the memory of those killed in Operation Bluestar in 1984. The BJP has distanced itself from it, saying it was not in favour of such a memorial at Darbar Sahib. Last Saturday, BJP's national vice-president Shanta Kumar also said that nobody should "directly or indirectly compromise" with terrorism.
While speaking during the debate over budget estimates, the BJP leader spoke more on memorials than the budget. He used the opportunity to applaud the efforts of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal for having started "a new inspiring chapter" by setting up memorials across the state to preserve the Sikh history and to remind the coming generations of the richness of the Sikh history and sacrifices.
"These memorials being set up will always remind the coming generations of the efforts chief minister Badal and the SAD-BJP government has made to preserve history," he said.
In this background, Kalia described the 1984 Sikh riots as the biggest tragedy after Independence and said as a tribute to those killed in the riots; a memorial must be set up.
Similarly, he said, another memorial as a mark of peace and dedicated to those innocent civilians, politicians such as then "chief minister Beant Singh, SAD leader HS Longowal" who sacrificed their lives to restore peace in Punjab must be set up.
Stating that Badal is a symbol of peace and brotherhood, he said, "It is imperative to remind the coming generations about the sacrifices people from all walks of life made for the sake of peace in Punjab."
Kalia said the memorial to preserve the memory of those killed during the days of terrorism would be a centre of pilgrimage like the Jallianwala Bagh of Amritsar. While the opposition Congress seemed elated with the BJP demand, chief minister Parkash Singh Badal chose to stay mum.