In a massive embarrassment for the Congress party, just days after party vice-president Rahul Gandhi said in his interview that he remembered the 1984 Congress government doing "everything it could" to quell the anti-Sikh riots, the press secretary of the then president Giani Zail Singh has said that this may be a less than accurate representation of the facts.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Tarlochan Singh refuted Rahul Gandhi's contention that the riots which broke out after the assassination were spontaneous. Calling the violence "orchestrated and sponsored", Singh claimed that Rajiv Gandhi did not even take calls from the president when he tried to get in touch with him to discuss the situation.
Singh has been a BJP supporter for several years, having been chairman of the National Commission for Minorities during the NDA regime and then sent to Rajya Sabha from Haryana in 2004, also backed by the BJP.
Despite his political leanings, his comments are expected to add fuel to the controversy that has erupted after Gandhi's interview to the Times Now news channel.
"Indira Gandhi was shot dead in the morning, but the first riots started in the evening. Gyaniji collected this information himself that a meeting of Congress leaders — attended by Arun Nehru and Delhi leaders like H K L Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and all — took place before Rajiv Gandhi arrived from Kolkata. They decided to give a slogan ‘khoon ka badla khoon’. The first riot then took place near INA market,” he is quoted as having told The Indian Express.
The president got to know of the violence soon after Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as prime minister in the evening. Through the evening, the PM and then home minister P V Narasimha Rao did not respond to the President's attempts to speak to them, with senior leaders reportedly busy with making funeral arrangements, the report adds.
"The whole of next day, neither the PM nor the Home Minister took any interest in defusing the situation or help the victims,” he has alleged.
In the interview, Rahul Gandhi said: "The difference between the 84 riots and the riots in Gujarat was that in 1984 the Government was trying to stop the riots. I remember, I was a child then, I remember the Government was doing everything it could to stop the riots."
Hartosh Singh Bal has argued on Firstpost that this amounted to brazenly denying the truth.
"What did he think doing "everything" meant? Given that he invokes his father’s legacy at every step what did he think of his father’s statement about a great tree falling? Why was it that for him the legal process was a defence where the Congress was concerned, it wasn’t where the BJP was concerned?" writes Bal.
Tarlochan Singh goes on to say the police action in Gujarat may have been more effective than in 1984. This might be difficult to prove, but his allegations will do no favours to the Congress party that's increasingly appearing cornered on the issue.
Updated Date: Jan 30, 2014 16:28 PM