Delhi Law Minister Mr. Somnath Bharti asked a media person: “How much did Narendra Modi pay you?” This provoked uproar in the media and invited stringent criticism. Perhaps the media is doing Mr. Bharti injustice. He may not have been taunting the media but genuinely seeking information. Can it not be that after receiving payment from Mr. Modi for services rendered through destroying the credibility of the Aam Admi party (AAP) Mr. Bharti was curious to know what payment others were receiving? And if indeed Mr. Modi is distributing largesse for those who help his campaign one must seriously consider what payment the closest advisers of Mr. Rahul Gandhi must have received from him. In his latest much advertised television interview Mr. Gandhi gave a huge boost to the electoral fortunes of Mr. Modi. Among other vacuous observations made by him consider what he said.
Mr. Gandhi said:
“The difference between the ’84 (anti-Sikh) riots and the riots in Gujarat was that in 1984 the government was trying to stop the riots. I remember I was a child then. I remember the government was doing everything it could to stop the riots. In Gujarat the opposite was the case. The government in Gujarat was actually abetting and pushing the riots further. So there is a huge difference between the two things.”
Mr. Gandhi may have been a child then, he seems to be childishly ignorant and even foolish today. He has raked up an issue that deserves to be buried. Hr has handed on a platter huge propaganda advantage to Mr. Narendra Modi. There is much that can be said against Mr. Modi’s record of governance that has been frequently mentioned by this writer. His handling of the Maya Kodnani case needed much to be desired. His allowing continuance in official positions ministers charged with corruption also violates appropriate democratic norms. But the riots in Gujarat a decade after occurrence need to be buried, especially since there have not been any communal incidents since then.
To encourage this I wrote on June 5, 2013:
“Mr. Modi’s role in the Gujarat riots was no worse than of Rajiv Gandhi in Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Both the Delhi and the Gujarat riots targeting two different sections of the minorities were sparked by an event that aroused deep emotion. It is a different matter that on both occasions actual reality might have greatly differed from public perception. It remains a matter of debate the extent to which Rajiv Gandhi and Narendra Modi were personally affected by the prevailing public emotion to allow unchecked the rioting that followed. The bottom line is that on both occasions bad judgment was displayed in running the administration. And on both occasions after the riots there was evidently no communal hangover clouding either Rajiv Gandhi or Narendra Modi.”
I preferred to desist from attributing personal motives to either leader but focused only on the administrative lapses that undeniably occurred. Although Mr. Modi has never acknowledged any administrative failure, clearly the RSS has. Otherwise Goa Chief Minister Mr. Manohar Parrikar would not have echoed the views of this writer to state that an administrative failure had indeed occurred during the Gujarat riots.
Further on in his interview Mr. Gandhi acknowledged that “some Congressmen probably were involved” in the Delhi violence. Among those responsible for the violence were his father Rajiv Gandhi and relative Arun Nehru.
I can state with full responsibility that on the very first day of the violence senior army commanders stationed in Delhi advised the government that they could control the situation immediately. The government rejected the offer and told the army not to interfere. For over three days goons from jhuggi colonies were encouraged by the police to loot and kill at will under their benign protection. I closely monitored the situation on the ground and visited various affected areas of the city. I wrote a first person account of what happened during 1984 in an article published in the Chandigarh Tribune newspaper in November 2003. Therefore Mr. Gandhi’s assertion is far, far from the truth.
However deficient the handling of the situation by the Gujarat government during the riots might have been, it was infinitely better than what was witnessed in Delhi in 1984. The figures speak for themselves. According to official figures the Gujarat riots resulted in the deaths of 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus indicating that there was some resistance. The non-fatally injured accounted for 2500. Reported missing were 223 victims. There were also several cases of rape. According to unofficial estimates however 2000 Muslims were killed.
In the Delhi violence according to official figures over 8000 deaths occurred all over India including 3,000 in Delhi alone. Unofficial estimates place the figure in Delhi to be much higher. Significantly there were none except Sikhs who died indicating not any rioting but plain and simple genocide. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) after probing the riots stated that the violence was organized with the support from the Delhi police and the central government headed by Rajiv Gandhi.
In the light of these facts what led Mr. Gandhi to revive this subject in contradiction to all truth? One believes that nursing old wounds that divide society should be abjured. One hopes that the BJP restrains itself and does not exploit Mr. Gandhi’s folly by reviving memories of what transpired in Delhi and in Gujarat.
The electoral damage to the Congress inflicted by Mr. Gandhi’s interview is irreversible. The blatant falsehoods uttered by him have irredeemably scarred public perception. Most likely the 1984 genocide issue will now linger on in public memory to become one more nail driven into the Congress coffin after the 2014 poll.