"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

BJP has no moral right to question Congress on 1984 Sikh massacre Featured

Gurpreet Singh

The recent incident involving Manjinder Singh Sirsa, a BJP Sikh MLA from Delhi, who slapped two convicts in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre, is nothing but a drama.

The two men were found guilty by the court for being involved in the state sponsored violence directed at the Sikh community following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

The slain leader’s ruling Congress party had organized pogroms against the Sikhs across India. Thousands of Sikh men were brutally killed. Many were burnt alive by mobs instigated by the Congress party activists in connivance with the police. The victims’ families continue to await justice as the top Congress leaders involved have remained unpunished.

Sirsa and his supporters are trying to defend his action by citing emotions that are running high within the Sikh community. Had this action been done by anyone from the victims’ families it would be understandable, but since Sirsa represents a party that currently rules the country, it raises too many questions.

First of all, the right wing Hindu nationalist BJP is itself a sectarian party that was involved in similar violence against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. Will Sirsa dare to go and slap people involved in that massacre, considering the fact that the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was complicit in the episode?

Also, it has been well documented that despite the Congress government being directly responsible for the Sikh massacre, BJP supporters participated in the carnage as foot soldiers. Indira Gandhi’s son Rajeev Gandhi won the general election that followed the massacre, with a huge mandate riding on an anti-Sikh wave that was a result of the high profile murder and Sikh militancy for a separate homeland in Punjab. The BJP during that election was decimated, as the right wing Hindu vote shifted in favour of Rajeev Gandhi, who had publicly justified the violence against Sikhs.

If Sirsa is genuinely angry, he should at least force the present BJP government to strip Rajeev Gandhi of Bharat Ratna – a highest civilian award given to him.

So much so, he needs to ask his party leaders what have they done until now to deliver justice for 1984?  This isn’t the first time that the BJP has come to power. There has been a BJP government in the past too, so why do the victims’ families continue to suffer?

Sirsa isn’t the only Sikh face. Tejinder Bagga, another Sikh BJP supporter, has been openly defending a right-wing media commentator whose twitter handle was withdrawn for making provocative posts, including the one that justified the 1984 Sikh massacre. She had described it as a reaction to the killings of innocent Hindus in Punjab by the Sikh militants. Will Sirsa dare to slap Bagga?

An Indian diplomat posted in New York also recently linked the anti-Sikh massacre with the violence perpetuated by Sikh separatists. If Sirsa is so concerned, he should first ask his political masters in power to stop this vilification campaign against those seeking justice, rather than trying to get media attention by slapping some mobsters and playing with the sentiments of the Sikh community.

Sirsa is in the habit of making a big fuss about religious sentiments being hurt by the Bollywood stars, but all the time has himself tried to exploit the sentiments of the Sikhs by indulging in gimmickry.

His silence on the ongoing attacks on religious minorities in India ever since Modi became Prime Minister in 2014 is equally problematic. If he claims to be a real Sikh, then he must follow what Sikhism teaches us, which is to stand up for the rights of others as well.

Turning to the so-called secularist Congress party, they too have lost moral grounds to condemn the BJP on the question of communalism. It’s a shame that the Congress has not sincerely acknowledged its involvement in the massacre. The Congress leader, Rajeev Gandhi’s son Rahul Gandhi, has repeatedly denied his party’s involvement in the bloodshed. Although former Congress Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made an apology for 1984 to the nation, he never admitted the complicity of the party or the state. Until the Congress makes an honest acknowledgement and tries to amend its mistakes, the BJP will keep taking advantage of the issue of 1984 to hide its own crimes.

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