1984 anti-Sikh riots verdict: BJP targets Kamal Nath

Congress needs to answer questions over its sincerity in prosecuting cases, says Ravi Shankar Prasad.

The BJP on Wednesday turned the spotlight on Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath, a day after a Delhi court sentenced two people for their roles in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

The party demanded that the Congress answer charges that it had scuttled earlier commissions of inquiry into the riots to protect some of its leaders.

Claiming that the Congress had removed Mr. Nath as the party’s Punjab election in-charge after protests over his alleged role in the riots, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference here that the Congress needed to answer questions over its sincerity in prosecuting cases related to the 1984 riots.

Mr. Nath has said he had no links with the riots which erupted in the wake of the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh bodyguards.

‘An eyewash’

Contending that the Congress had, during its rule, “tried to ensure that the Sikh riot victims did not get justice,” he said several commissions of inquiry set up by Congress-led governments were “either an eyewash or were wound up when they seemed to be getting somewhere”. Mr. Prasad alleged that “the Opposition party did this to save its own people.”

He also credited the probe by the Special Investigation Team (SIT), set up in 2015 by the government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for facilitating the conviction of the two people this month, almost 35 years after the riots. While the court sentenced one convict to death, it awarded a life term to the other.

“We [BJP] are very satisfied,” Mr. Prasad said. “The Nanavati Commission set up by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had found evidence of systematic killing of Sikhs in 1984. But between 2005 and 2014, the UPA government did not take any authentic steps to provide justice to victims. The Modi government took steps that gave justice to victims of the 1984 killings,” he said.

Promise to Sikhs

The Law Minister said his party wanted to assure 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.

Mr. Prasad said Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded his mother Indira Gandhi as Prime Minister, had said that the earth shook when a big tree fell, and alleged that the Congress had condoned the organised violence against Sikhs.

“No one in the Congress has denied that remark till date,” he said.

The BJP’s NDA ally, the Akali Dal, went a step further with the former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal demanding that Congress leader Sonia Gandhi be summoned by the SIT for questioning.

To a query about other riots, including those in Gujarat in 2002, Mr. Prasad said there had been convictions in many of the Gujarat riots cases, and added that a Supreme Court-monitored SIT had questioned Mr. Modi, who was the State’s Chief Minister at the time, for three days and subsequently given him a clean chit.

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