Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said the 1984 anti-Sikh violence could have been managed better if the government had paid heed to late Congress leader IK Gujral’s advice, reported ANI. Singh, who attended a function to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Gujral, said the former prime minister had suggested deploying the Army at the earliest.
“When the sad event of 1984 took place, Gujral ji on that very sad evening went to the then Home Minister Shri [PV] Narasimha Rao and told him the situation is so grave that it is necessary for the government to call the army at the earliest,” Singh said at the event. “If that advice had been heeded, perhaps the massacre that took place in 1984 could have been avoided.”
Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the riots that broke out after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards. Gandhi was assassinated on October 31. It was not until November 3 that the Army was deployed in all Delhi districts.
Singh’s revelation comes as investigators suggested re-opening of the 1984 riots cases.
The event was also attended by Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and former President Pranab Mukherjee, among others.
Gujral was the 12th Indian prime minister from April 1997 to March 1998, and the third to be elected from the Rajya Sabha after Indira Gandhi and HD Deve Gowda.
At the event on Wednesday, former President Pranab Mukherjee said he regretted the Congress’ decision to withdraw support from Gujral-led United Front government in 1998. He said it had paved the way for the Bharatiya Janata Party government to come to power.
“Many architects of United front government are here, Sitaram Yechury is here, he has to face angry crowd, calling him responsible for the mischief of bringing down the coalition government, short point I am trying to make is... that these decisions perhaps we could have deferred the BJP from coming to power in 1998... and the government could have continued with our support for full term,” Mukherjee said, according to India Today.
Meanwhile, Jaishankar recollected the days he spent in Moscow with Gujral. “I am enormously proud that I started my career in Moscow under Mr Gujaral when he was the ambassador,” he said, according to Hindustan Times. “There was something very special that I learned from him which was: somewhere policy ends and politics begins and unless you actually spend time with someone in political life you don’t get the politics part of it.”
Born in Jhelum on December 4, 1919, Gujral actively participated in the freedom struggle since 1931. He went to jail in 1942 during the Quit India Movement. Gujral died of multiple organ failure on November 30, 2012 at the age of 92.