Congress leader Sam Pitroda's remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots were "absolutely and completely out of line" and he should apologise for them, party chief Rahul Gandhi said in a Facebook post today.
"What Mr Sam Pitroda has said is absolutely and completely out of line and is not appreciated. I will be communicating this to him directly. He must apologise for his comment," he said, describing the riots -- which claimed nearly 3,000 lives -- as a "terrible tragedy".
Mr Pitroda had used the words "hua toh hua (it happened if it happened)" while trying to dismiss questions on the anti-Sikh riots on Thursday, triggering criticism from political parties cutting across ideological lines. While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh termed the remark as "shocking", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it showed the Congress' "character and mentality".
"Congress, which ruled for a long time, has been insensitive and that is reflected by the three words spoken yesterday... these words have not been spoken just like that, these words represent the character and mentality and intentions of the Congress," PM Modi said.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal was just as forceful in her condemnation. "I would like to ask Mr Pitroda if his entire family is killed tomorrow, will he still think 'hua to hua'? He needs to go to that widow colony and find out those thousands of women who lost their family members overnight," she told. She reiterated PM Modi's claim that the genocide had been carried out at the behest of Rajiv Gandhi.
Her cabinet colleague, Arun Jaitley, demanded that Mr Pitroda be thrown out of the Congress. "Sam Pitroda's 'Hua to Hua' reaction to the 1984 Sikh killings is reflective of the lack of remorse on the part of Congress Party with respect to the 1984 genocide," he said.
In his Facebook post, Mr Gandhi called for "stringent punishment" to those responsible for the 1984 riots and reiterated that Congress has made its stand on the matter very clear. "The former PM, Manmohan Singh Ji, has apologised. My mother, Sonia Gandhi Ji, has apologised. We all have made our position very clear - that 1984 was a terrible tragedy and should never have happened," it read.
Mr Pitroda, for his part, claims that his remark had been "misrepresented and blown out of proportion". "What I meant was move on. We have other issues to discuss as to what the BJP government did and what it delivered. I feel sorry that my remark was misrepresented. This has been blown out of proportion," he told news agency ANI.
The Congress leader had made the remark in response to the BJP's claim that the Nanavati Commission, which probed the 1984 carnage, had traced the "instructions to kill" back to Rajiv Gandhi's office.