With the 30th anniversary of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots nearing, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Supreme Court advocate HS Phoolka has called upon the Narendra Modi government to set up a memorial as a mark of respect to all Sikhs who were massacred in Delhi and other cities following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.
In a letter written to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and circulated among the media on Wednesday, Phoolka referred to the memorial being built by the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) on the premises of Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib in the national capital.
"However, that is not a substitute for a memorial which needs to be built by the government. All constituents of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), including the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal, have supported this (memorial) issue while they were in the opposition. Now this is an opportunity that this government has and it must give respect those innocent citizens who were killed by then Congress government for no fault of theirs and build a suitable memorial in their memory," he stated in the letter.
He said a memorial built by the government would be the nation's homage to the innocent departed souls, many of whom never got justice.
Phoolka suggested that House No 12, Dr Rajendra Prasad Road, New Delhi, could be turned into a memorial. In support of his suggestion, he stated that in 1984, this house was occupied by Ram Vilas Paswan (now Union minister), who was then a Lok Sabha member, and it was burnt as Paswan had given shelter to a Sikh who was trying to escape from a mob.
While Paswan managed to escape, the Sikh who had taken shelter was caught by the mob and burnt alive, Phoolka said, adding that the house, too, was set afire and was partially destroyed.
He further said that this house was later repaired and is currently occupied by a former MP who had lost the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. As this house is likely to be vacated soon, the government should immediately decide on turning it into a memorial, he added.
"This house also symbolises that though the ruling party and then government were killing Sikhs, opposition leaders were trying their best to save them," said the lawyer, who has been fighting cases of riot-hit families in Delhi courts.