The Sikh 'riots' are in the news again.
I had a very detailed telephonic discussion just now with Mr. Shanti Bhushan, senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, and former Union Law Minister. He has permitted me to mention his name.
At the time of the incident Mr. Shanti Bhushan was the All India Treasurer of the B.J.P.
Mrs Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31.10 1984. The same day Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as the Prime Minister, and along with him 3 other Ministers were sworn in by the President, Gyani Zail Singh, including Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, who became the Union Home Minister.
The next day, that is on 1.11.1984, Mr. Shanti Bhushan was in the B.J.P. Party Headquarters in Delhi in the morning when reports started coming in of attacks on Sikhs. Sikhs going on the road on a car,scooter, or bicycle were being caught by crowds of lumpen elements and set on fire by pouring kerosene on them. Trains were being stopped, and Sikhs in them were being killed. Localities having Sikhs were being raided by such crowds and Sikhs burnt alive. Mass murder of Sikhs had started in many parts of the country.
Mr. Shanti Bhushan rushed to the house of Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao, the Union Home Minister, and reported all this, and asked Mr. Rao to get this stopped.
According to Mr. Shanti Bhushan, Mr. Rao then telephoned someone to ask him to take action to stop these attacks. Mr Bhushan did not know who that person was, nor could he hear what that person said, but evidently Mr. Rao could not persuade him to take any action, and from this Mr. Bhushan inferred that someone higher than Mr. Rao had given instructions to the police not to interfere with the massacre of Sikhs.
Mr. Bhushan and some other senior advocates then went in their black lawyers coats to some colonies in Delhi to rescue Sikhs and take them to gurdwaras where they could be safe, but his car was stoned and damaged. Gyani Zail Singh's car was also stoned by mobs shouting ' khoon ka badla khoon', and he made himself scarce.
According to Mr. Bhushan, when the massacre of Sikhs had started on the morning of 1st November, the army should have been immediately called in, which would have stopped the incidents, but it was only called in on the night of the 3rd. According to Mr. Bhushan, for 3 days a free hand was given to the hooligans to massacre Sikhs, evidently by someone very high up, higher than the Union Home Minister, this very high up person giving clear oral instructions that the police should not interfere.
At that time Rajiv Gandhi openly said " Jab bada ped girta hai, to dharti hil hi jaati hai ".
The reader may draw whatever inference he wishes.
On 12th August 2005, after over 20 years since the massacres, Mr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister, apologized to the Sikh community for what had happened.
This reminded me of a conversation I had with certain Roman Catholic priests in Allahabad who were my friends. I asked them about the burning at the stake of alleged heretics by the Roman Catholic Church during the Spanish Inquisition. They said they apologized for that. I said,wonderful. You burn people alive, and after a few centuries apologize !