Thursday, April 9, 2009

THE TYTLER FIASCO: COMPULSION, NOT CONSCIENCE

Latest reports coming in suggest that the Congress party has decided to ask Jagdish Tytler, its candidate for the Lok Sabha elections from Delhi, to opt out of the race and is likely to ask Sajjan Kumar to also do the same. The party is describing this decision as a call of conscience. The only problem with this is that this "conscience" has been forced out after 25 long years. And that too because of Sikh outrage that has unexpectedly gathered a momentum that the party cannot ignore if it wants to retains its Sikh votes in Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere.

In 1984, over 3000 Sikhs were massacred in Delhi after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. For three days, mobs incited and led by Congress leaders went on an unprecedented rampage while the police looked away, to "avenge" the killing of their leader. Rajiv Gandhi, clearly emotionally impacted, had in fact even justified the killing with his famous "when a big tree falls" remark. Ever since then, the names of Jadish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, among others, have been taken by Sikhs as those who led and directed mobs to kill Sikhs. Despite the best efforts of the Congress to shield them by using all sorts of devious means, Sikhs continue to believe that they are guilty.

Notwithstanding this undying belief of the Sikhs, the Congress has continued to reward them repeatedly with tickets for elections, ministerial berths etc. For 25 years, the Sikhs have been protesting against this insensitive and arrogant attitude of the Congress and its blatant efforts to ensure that they are not indicted by any of the commissions that were set up to probe the riots or by the CBI, the discredited investigative agency that everyone believes is no more than a political tool of the Congress. In 2008, the Congress added insult to injury by fielding former police officer Amodh Kant for the Delhi Assembly elections, after he retired from service. Sikhs believe that Kant had openly helped rioters in 1984.

Sonia Gandhi did apologise to Sikhs in 1998. But that apology was clearly cosmetic and was manifestly made out of political compulsions. There was no effort whatsoever by the Congress to show its sincerity and close the sad chapter by visibly removing its leaders that every Sikh believed were guilty of murder. Powerful sentiments and unshakable perceptions were summarily ignored. Many believe that the Congress has little choice but to "reward" its leaders who had taken the lead in "shaking the earth" after Indira Gandhi fell. With the Gandhis in full control of the party, there is no way that it can punish them, as demanded by Sikhs.

It is perhaps due to this internal compulsion that the Congress has mindlessly kept alive the issue for 25 long years. As long as these visible symbols of the carnage remain in public glare, the wounds of 1984 cannot heal. This is such an elementary deduction that flows from the undying protests of Sikhs over the years that it is unbelievable that the Congress should continue to show such insensitivity and political foolhardiness for so long. Surely there are better ways to "reward" Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Amodh Kant than by openly taunting Sikhs again and again.

Journalist Jarnail Singh would not have known that his flinging of a shoe at Home Minister Chidambaram would spontaneously lead to such an eruption of Sikh sentiment against the Congress. Punjab has risen in protest in a manner that has taken everyone by surprise. And this time it is apparent that Sikhs are not going to back off without getting the Congress to act.

No doubt the Akalis are milking Sikh sentiments to garner Sikh votes in the coming elections. But then who is responsible for brainlessly handing over such a powerful issue to them on a platter? Is the Congress so out of touch with reality that it did not know what the impact of getting the CBI to give Tytler a clean chit at such a sensitive time would be? Now that the reaction of Sikhs all over the country has reached proportions that have damaged the Congress not only among Sikhs but others too, and rightly, the party is again trying to act double-smart by trying to claim the high moral horse by putting pressure on Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to step down!

Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar may well be innocent. But the tragic truth is that in 25 years, no Congress leader has been found guilty and punished for his role in the massacre of Sikhs in India's capital. It is for this reason that the credibility of the Congress is near zero and everyone, Sikh and non-Sikh, is convinced that the party has manipulated all investigations to ensure that the guilty are not exposed. That is why even if the courts declare both of them innocent, no one is going to believe that truth has prevailed.

The Congress now has little choice but to not field any of those perceived to be guilty by Sikhs as its candidates in any election ever again. It would do the party some good to openly admit its fault and say unequivocally that it is humbly bowing to Sikh sentiments. Trying to project this compulsion as an act of conscience will only make people laugh derisively at a party that has displayed shameless arrogance and absence of conscience for 25 long years.
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Readers may also read:
1. CBI clears Tytler in anti-Sikh riots case; Sikhs protest
2. Sole searching
3. When the pen became less mighty
4. 1984 anti-Sikh riots: the real Tehelka
5. Narendra Modi and Rajiv Gandhi