A day after she vented her anger at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar over his reported statement that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots were mob violence while the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat were state-sponsored, BJP MP Kirron Kher turned the comparison on its head.
The actor-politician asserted that the 1984 riots were “backed by the government of the time” and underlined that several Congress leaders have been indicted by a number of probes. But she insisted that no state backing was given in the 2002 riots that had taken place when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat. Talking to HT on the phone, the Chandigarh MP said Modi had been “cleared by the Supreme Court”.
Asked about a then-minister of the BJP in Gujarat, Maya Kodnani, having been convicted and sentenced in a riots case, she said, “I am commenting on 1984... Everyone knows the 2002 riots were not state-sponsored; obviously not! In Gujarat people have been sent to jail and maximum deaths were due to police firing. The state tried to control the situation and in the police firing Hindus and Muslims both had died.”
Kanhaiya, meanwhile, claiming that he had been misinterpreted, posted on his Facebook profile: “Both 1984 and 2002 were indeed state led pogroms for which justice is still awaited...”
But Kirron was ballistic. “His statement shows how immature he is... Agar iska zameer hai toh apni maa ka haath batata (If he has a conscience he should have helped out his mother). His mother is striving hard to make both ends meet and his father is unable to work, and his prime duty should be to help them first... What exactly is he doing at JNU? He is 28 and claims to be enrolled in Phd. I want to know which Phd.”
She even attacked Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal: “AAP wants to contest in Punjab, so why don’t they come up with their stand on Kanhaiya’s statement on the 1984 riots?” She took a dig at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi too: “He has no time to meet his own MLAs struggling in Uttarakhand, but did not waste even a minute to meet Kanhaiya... In fact Kanhaiya Kumar’s speeches are motivated.”
It must be noted that Kirron had in three tweets on Tuesday fleshed out her anger on Kanhaiya’s original statement. The first tweet said: “Disgraceful statement by @kanhaiyajnusu [Kanhaiya’s Twitter handle] that 1984 anti Sikh riots were done by mobs and not state sponsored.” Then she added: “So many Cong leaders are in the dock for the 1984 riots. Statement by @kanhaiyajnusu wilfully ignorant.” And she finished off with: “Kya aapka zameer bilkul mar gaya hai, Kanhaiya? @kanhaiyajnusu” (Has your conscience died, Kanhaiya?)
Kanhaiya, however, posted on Facebook on Tuesday night: “I have been misinterpreted and misrepresented yet again. There isn’t an iota of doubt that Emergency represents one of the darkest periods of Indian democracy. My organization AISF (All India Students’ Federation) strongly opposed and fought against the state repression during Emergency. Both 1984 and 2002 were indeed state led pogroms for which justice is still awaited. The current central government is relentlessly carrying forward its fascist agenda using state power, as visible in the recent authoritarian actions against students and all voices of dissent across the country. What we now witness is unprecedented - a form of undeclared emergency.”
Ever since the arrest and later interim bail of Kanhaiya — and of fellow students including group leaders Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya — over alleged anti-national slogans raised on JNU campus last month, the JNUSU president has attracted a lot media and political attention. This includes some stinging remarks by Kirron’s husband, actor Anupam Kher, who at a movie screening on the JNU campus around two weeks ago said, without expressly naming Kanhaiya: “He is out on bail, he hasn’t come back with a medal from Olympics that he should be accorded such a huge welcome... One who talk ill of the country, how can he be celebrated as hero?”