Anti-Sikh riots: BJP attacks Cong after court verdict

Anti-Sikh riots: BJP attacks Cong after court verdict

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 3, 2018 Indian activists of the Dal Khalsa radical Sikh organization march at a protest to commemorate the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Amritsar. - An Indian court on November 20, 2018 handed down first death penalt

BJP accused Congress on Wednesday of working to deny justice to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots victims and also targeted Kamal Nath, the opposition party's chief in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh, saying he was removed as the party's in-charge for the Punjab Assembly polls following protests by Sikhs.

A day after a Delhi court awarded death sentence to an accused and life imprisonment to another in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the probe carried out by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Narendra Modi government led to the sentencing.

"We (BJP) are very satisfied," the Union minister told reporters about his party's stand on the verdict and added that people needed to be told that the Congress had, during its rule, tried to ensure that the Sikh riot victims did not get justice.

The opposition party did it to save its own people, Prasad alleged.

There was no reaction to the court verdict from the Congress on Wednesday, but its spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi had welcomed it on Tuesday.

"The Congress's stand is clear. This is a legal process, a legal process which must be allowed to work out its course and we are very proud, happy and fortunate that it is taking its course," Singhvi had told reporters.

Tuesday's court verdict gave some sort of a balm to those suffering for over 30-35 years, Prasad said.

The law minister said his party wanted to assure the Sikhs, especially those whose families had suffered, that the SIT would probe the cases honestly, without any undue outside interference, and take action against the guilty.

Targeting Nath, who has been accused by some Sikh bodies of having links to the riots, Prasad noted that the Congress had removed him as its in-charge for the Punjab polls last year following protests by people.

The Congress should answer as to why was Nath removed, he said.

Nath had in the past rejected the charges against him and said he had no links with the 1984 anti-Sikhs riots, following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Prasad also pointed out that Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother Indira as the prime minister, had said the earth shook when a big tree fell and alleged that the Congress had condoned the organised violence against Sikhs.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh might have apologised for the riots, but the opposition party should answer if it had disassociated itself from Rajiv Gandhi's comments, the BJP leader said, adding that the remarks had rubbed salt into the wounds of the riot victims.

He also asked the Congress to answer why no action was taken against the culprits during its over-two-decades-long rule following the riots.

Prasad claimed that the previous Congress governments had set up several committees to probe the riots only to delay justice, adding that in some cases, the opposition party never acted on the reports of those panels.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had constituted the Nanavati Commission, which had said the riots were organised and had also blamed the police, he said.

The report of the commission was submitted when the Congress came to power in 2004 and its government took no action, Prasad claimed.

He also referred to a commission headed by former chief justice of India Ranganath Misra, whose report had largely exonerated the police and claimed that the riots were not a case of organised violence.

Noting that the Congress had nominated Misra, now deceased, to the Rajya Sabha in 1998, Prasad alleged that it was a "reward" for his report.

To a query about other riots, including those in Gujarat in 2002, Prasad said there were convictions in many of the Gujarat riots cases and added that a Supreme Court-monitored SIT had questioned Prime Minister Modi, who was the chief minister of the state then, for three days and given him a clean chit.