While the Congress chose to downplay the uproar over appointment of senior leader Kamal Nath as the general secretary in charge of Punjab and Haryana, the leader was left fighting allegations of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) on his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Claiming that Nanavati Commission had absolved him, Nath in an interview to HT on Monday said he had gone to Gurdwara Rakabganj on November 1, 1984, as a “senior and responsible” party leader to save Sikhs from rioters, and not to incite the mob.
Hitting out at the SAD, the Congress leader said the matter was also raised in the Parliament, but Akalis were never able to bring any charge against him in the past 30 years. He also accused AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of trying to “regain lost ground” in Punjab by raking up the issue, and said he was ready to take them on.
Though the commission headed by justice GT Nanawati had found Kamal Nath’s reply on the time of reaching and leaving the gurdwara “vague”, it had concluded that there was “no evidence” that he incited the mob or was involved in the attack on Sikhs.
Nath was issued a notice by the commission on the testimony of Mukhtiar Singh, who was residing in one of the staff quarters of the gurdwara, and journalist Sanjay Suri. Mukhtiar had told the inquiry panel that Nath was “instructing” the mob.
Suri had said in his affidavit to the panel that the “crowd was looking at the Congress MP for directions”. The journalist, however, did not hear Kamal Nath giving any direction to the mob. He merely saw him speaking to different persons who were in the mob.
Kamal Nath, in his affidavit, stated that he went there as a “senior and responsible” leader of the Congress. “I was told that some Hindu men and women were held hostage inside the gurdwara. I tried to dissuade the mob from attacking the gurdwara. When the police commissioner came there, I was satisfied that the situation will be controlled, and left.”
PANEL FOUND HIS REPLY ‘VAGUE’
In its report, the Nanavati Commission had concluded: “The reply filed by Kamal Nath is vague. He has not clearly stated at what time he went there and how long he remained there. He has not stated whether he went to the gurdwara alone or with some other persons and how he went there... He left that place after the commissioner of police arrived. He has not stated that he met him. It appears little strange that he left that place abruptly without even contacting the police officers who had come there. But it would not be proper to come to the conclusion that Kamal Nath had in any manner instigated the mob. Mukhtiar Singh was quite far away and could not hear what Nath was saying.”