The massacre of 1984 could have been avoided if former prime minister IK Gujral's advice to then home minister PV Narasimha Rao to call in the army at the earliest had been heeded, Manmohan Singh said on Wednesday in remarks that constitute a political landmine for his Congress party.
"When the sad event of 1984 took place, Gujral-ji on that very sad evening went to the then Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao and said to him that the situation is so grave that it is necessary for the government to call the army at the earliest.
If that advice would have been heeded perhaps the massacre that took place in 1984 could have been avoided," said the former prime minister at an event to mark the 100th birth anniversary of IK Gujral, who was India's prime minister in 1997-98.
Ex-PM Manmohan Singh: When the sad event of '84 took place, IK Gujral ji went to the then HM PV Narasimha Rao&told him,situation is so grave that it's necessary for govt to call Army at the earliest. If that advice had been heeded perhaps '84 massacre could've been avoided.(4.12) pic.twitter.com/bQmnktnmem— ANI (@ANI) December 4, 2019
IK Gujral's son Naresh Gujral, a leader of the BJP's ally Akali Dal, said he wanted to compliment Manmohan Singh for "being candid and honest" and revealing that his father repeatedly went to Narasimha Rao to request him to call in the army, which was 60-70 km from Delhi.
"The home minister did not act. Clearly it was a congress conspiracy," Mr Gujral said.
What @PManmohansingh hs admitted nw,I hv been saying fr 35 years-also in my book #whenatreeshookdelhi @RoliBooks, hv gvn evidence tht if army hd been called on 1Nov, cld hv stopd d Genocide of Sikhs;& Rajiv Gandhi didn’t allow Narasimha Rao to call army. Pls respond @INCIndia.— H S Phoolka (@hsphoolka) December 5, 2019
Manmohan S is right.If Army had been called as advised by IK Gujral,it could have avoided massacre of Sikhs.Even Misra Commission has said that if Army had been called on 1st Nov morning, it could have saved 2000 lives.— H S Phoolka (@hsphoolka) December 5, 2019
But Rajiv Gandhi, then PM didn’t agree to call Army...
Nearly 3,000 were killed in riots that broke out after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards. Several Congress leaders have been accused of leading mobs targeting Sikhs.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar on Thursday lashed out at former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his comment on 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
"Manmohan ji, ordering the Army to tackle any issue is the Prime Minister's prerogative and Rajeev Gandhi was the PM at the time. But truth is, Gandhi supported the massacre in open daylight. He had said that whenever a big tree falls, the earth shakes. These were his words of support," said Jadavekar to counter Singh.
Upping the ante on Thursday, Javadekar questioned Singh why he went on to become a Finance Minister in a Cabinet headed by RAo, if he had such adverse feelings about the man. He said the statement by Singh is acceptance that the riots took place because of Congress' fault.
Meanwhile, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal said he was “deeply pained and disappointed” with Manmohan Singh’s comments on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and alleged that it was “a shocking attempt to shift blame” from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
In a statement here, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief said, “Relevant government records clearly show that the decision against Army deployment was taken at a meeting held at the residence of Rajiv Gandhi.”
Singh’s claim is “neither true nor appropriate”, Badal said.
“It is shocking because it comes from Manmohan Singh whom we have always genuinely respected. It is inappropriate and indecorous as it involves two former prime ministers, P V Narasimha Rao and I K Gujral, neither of whom is alive to respond to this claim. It is intriguing why Singh kept quiet on this all those years when Rao and Gujral were around to confirm or deny this claim,” he said.
The SAD leader said Singh’s “statement, however, clearly vindicates our stand that the independent India’s worst and most tragic massacre could easily have been averted had then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi allowed the Army to be called in time to deal with a crisis of unimaginable and unprecedented magnitude”.
Narasimha Rao's family reacted sharply to the comments. "As a family member I'm feeling saddened by this statement by Dr Manmohan Singh, it's unacceptable. Can any Home Minister take independent decision without Cabinet's approval? If Army had been called, it would have been a disaster," said his grandson NV Subhash.
Narasimha Rao went on to become prime minister of a Congress government in 1991-96. Manmohan Singh, as finance minister at the time, is credited with bringing major economic reforms.
IK Gujral, who was prime minister for about a year, famously crafted the "Gujral Doctrine" for maintaining good relations with neighbours. He died in 2012 at 92.