1984 riots haunt Congress

Richa Bansal
9 April 2009

Following the flinging of a shoe at the Home Minister P. Chidambaram by a Sikh journalist and massive protests by Sikhs across Punjab spilling over to the streets of Delhi, the Congress was forced to ask Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar to withdraw their candidatures on Thursday.  

Both Kumar and Tytler are implicated in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The recent outrage occurred when the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) gave a clean chit to Tytler, who had been fielded by the Congress as a candidate from northeast Delhi. 

On Thursday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh summoned the CBI Director reportedly for an explanation of the circumstances leading to the clean chit given to Tytler. The Congress was cornered into taking a decision when the Karkardooma court in Delhi - due to decide on Tytler's CBI report the same day - deferred the decision till 28 April.

The CBI report on Tytler had also drawn sharp criticism from opposition parties in the past week. The IANS reported that Amar Singh blamed the CBI for creating roadblocks for Mulayam Singh (in a disproportionate assets case) and Sanjay Dutt (challenging Dutt's plea to stay his conviction to fight the Lok Sabha polls) while letting Tytler off the hook. The BJP accused the CBI of being the "Congress Bureau of Investigation", stating that it would clear anybody who was with the Congress.

The media also raised the issue of political double-speak as NDTV ran a debate on the Congress and BJP both being guilty of double-speak in the 1984 anit-Sikh riots and the 2002 Gujarat riots or the Varun Gandhi hate speech respectively.

Veteran journalist Tavleen Singh, a panellist on the NDTV show, pointed out that the real issue of "justice being denied" was getting lost in this polarization of the debate. This, according to her, was a worrying trend for a democracy, which must safeguard its principles and institutions.

Meanwhile, stepping up the strong separatist rhetoric this election season, Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader Vaiko warned the Tamil Nadu government of a bloodbath if the LTTE leader Prabhakaran was harmed. He even said that India's unity as a country was threatened if it did not intervene and stop the war against the LTTE.

At a protest meet of the Sri Lankan Tamils Protection Movement on Wednesday, Vaiko said, "India also consists of 7 crore (70 million) Tamils. All Tamils support Prabhakaran. If anything happens to Prabhakaran, a river of blood will flow in Tamil Nadu. Then the police and their guns will not matter. If you don't stop the war, India won't be one country." PMK founder S Ramadoss and CPI state secretary D Pandian also took part in this protest.

Chiranjeevi and the Fourth Front 

On a different note, the hysteria that Telegu superstar Chiranjeevi's entry into the political arena has whipped up amongst the masses could play spoiler for both YSR Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. It is now clearly poised to be a three-way battle between the Congress, the Third Front comprising Naidu's TDP, TRS, CPI and CPI-M, and Chiranjeevi's Praja Rajyam party, which joined the Fourth Front this week.  

Chiranjeevi announced his move to join the Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav led Fourth Front following a meeting with Amar Singh and his "good friend" Sanjay Dutt on Monday. Dutt is now the General Secretary of the Samajwadi Party (SP).  

India's security concerns: 

Reports that the Taliban have infiltrated into Jammu and Kashmir to step up violence in the state in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls have been doing the rounds. However, the army remained non-committal on the identity of the infiltrators saying that the ongoing encounters in Gurez and Kupwara have been mostly with Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) terrorists. On Thursday, Jammu was put on high alert following suggestions that large batches of militants had managed to infiltrate the state. 

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