Arun Jaitley and Amrinder Singh, locked in an intense battle for Amritsar Lok Sabha seat, were today engaged in a fresh war of words, this time on the 1984 riots, with the BJP questioning the "clean chit" to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler.
Attacking Singh for his reported defence of Tytler, Jaitley questioned whether the former Punjab Chief Minister is "trying to prejudge the guilt of a person who is perceived to be involved in the riots?"
"Is his personal and political relationship more important to Amarinder than the interest of the victims"? he asked.
Jaitley's remarks came after Singh told a news channel that while other Congress leaders may be linked to the riots, Tytler played no role the violence.
"I'm not the CBI, I'm not the court. I'm telling you what I saw and felt....I was in Delhi, I went to all the camps.. and everyone I met took all these names that I have told you except Jagdish Tytler. When did Jagdish Tytler's name come up? It came up when he was fighting Madan Lal Khurana in Delhi, that was months later," he had said.
But Singh today clarified that he had not given a clean chit to Tytler. He said while he had heard the names of other Congress leaders including H K L Bhagat, Lalit Maken and Sajjan Kumar, but not Tytler's from the riot victims living in relief camps.
Singh said he had only stated what he had heard from the people immediately after the riots broke out in New Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984.
"It is not for the first time I have said so. I have been saying it for the past 30 years, but why is it now that Akalis and BJP have woken up and decided to protest?" he asked while adding, "for the obvious reasons they want to polarise people for petty political reasons as they are badly losing across Punjab, Amritsar in particular".
Singh said the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 were the most tragic and gruesome and those responsible should be given exemplary punishment.
"I, alongwith my brother and a cousin, besides a friend was the first person to reach out to the riot victims and I toured all the areas...and went to all the Gurdwaras in Delhi where they had taken shelter between November 1 and 4, 1984 and nowhere was Tytler's name mentioned," Singh said.
He said it was for the courts and CBI to decide on the case. Training his gun at Congress, Jaitley today alleged that those guilty for the "state sponsored" violence still remain unpunished.
Describing the "massacre" of innocent Sikhs after the Indira Gandhi as a "black spot" in democracy, the BJP leader, wrote in his blog, "The fact that the innocents can be killed in thousands is terrible. What is worse is that the guilty went unpunished".
He later said the defence of the guilty by Singh is "another blot" on the country". Akali Dal today staged a protest outside Congress headquarters here against Singh's remarks on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
Scores of Akali activists reached the Congress office at 24, Akbar Road, holding placards and raised anti-Congress slogans and clashed with police, which had erected barricades to stop them.
As the protesters refused to budge, police resorted to use of water cannon to disperse them.