Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Monday criticised party colleague Sam Pitroda again for his comment on the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, and asked him to issue a public apology. Gandhi, who addressed election rallies in Punjab during the day, said he had told the Indian Overseas Congress chairperson that he should be ashamed of the remark. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who was among the many people who had criticised Pitroda, was present at the public meetings.

On May 9, Pitroda had said “hua to hua [it happened, so what?]” when a reporter asked him about the violence against Sikhs in 1984 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. He apologised the following day, and said his remark had been misrepresented and “blown out of proportion”.

On May 11, Gandhi rebuked Pitroda and wrote in a Facebook post that his comment was “absolutely and completely out of line and is not appreciated”.

“I think 1984 was a needless tragedy that caused tremendous pain,” the Congress president wrote in Facebook. “I think justice has to be done. The people who were responsible for the 1984 tragedy have to be punished. Former Prime Minister 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.”

Several leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, have criticised Pitroda and the Congress for the comment. The National Commission for Minorities had issued a notice to Pitroda based on a complaint filed by BJP spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga.

Prime Minister Modi, however, claimed at an election rally on Monday that Gandhi had pretended to scold Pitroda. “Naamdaar’ [Modi’s reference to Gandhi], you pretended to scold your mentor for what?” Modi said in Bathinda. “ Because he publicly said what had always been in Congress’ heart? It is you who should be ashamed.”

The prime minister said the victims of the violence have still not received justice. “The Congress made those accused of serious crimes Union ministers, gave them major responsibilities in the party,” he added.

The Congress appointed a person accused of being involved in the violence the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Modi alleged. His jibe was directed at Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, who has been absolved of allegations of leading attacks on Sikhs.