The ghost of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 comes to haunt the Congress at regular intervals since the role of some of its leaders in the communal violence is under the scanner of courts and various agencies.
Nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
Senior Congress leaders, including Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, are facing allegations of involvement in the riots.
Though they have repeatedly denied any role, the two leaders had to bear the brunt of the public anger as the Congress dropped them as party candidates in 2009 Lok Sabha elections following massive protests. The same year, a shoe was also hurled at then home minister P Chidambaram by journalist Jarnail Singh, now an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader, in protest against the CBI’s clean chit to them.
The Congress’ opponents have also used the riots and the purported remarks of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi as tools to attack it. “When a great tree falls, the earth is bound to shake” is how Rajiv is reported to have responded to the riots that broke out after his mother’s death.
But over the years, the Congress leadership has sought to comfort the community with their apologies. In one of her poll rallies in Chandigarh on January 27, 1998 before taking over as the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi had said she could understand the pain of Sikhs.
On August 12, 2005, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised in parliament. “I apologise not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution.”
Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi too shared similar sentiments and admitted that some of his party men were probably involved in the riots and had been punished for it.
Recently, AAP’s bid to win over the community has caused much discomfort to political parties, primarily the BJP. After assuming power in Delhi, the Arvind Kejriwal government announced a special investigation team to probe the riots.