The assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 was tragic, but what followed in its wake was truly horrific. Gandhi's death at the hands of her two Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for ordering the Indian Army into the Golden Temple, led to widespread blowback against the Sikh community particularly in Delhi. The series of pogroms that followed, many led by Congress leaders, would result in 2800 deaths and unspeakable carnage by people who had otherwise been peaceful neighbours.
Indira's son, Rajiv Gandhi, who was sworn in as Prime Minister after her death, initially issued calls for peace in the country, although it was his partymen who had run riot across Delhi. A few weeks after Indira Gandhi's assassination, appearing on her birth anniversary, Rajiv Gandhi spoke about the state of the country at a public rally.
"We must remember Indiraji. We must remember why her assassination happened. We must remember who could be the people behind this. When Indira's assassination happened, there were riots in the country. We know that the hearts of the Indian people were full of anger and that for a few days people felt India was shaking. When a big tree falls, the earth shakes."
Although it came after the end of the worst of the riots, those words have come to be remembered as Rajiv Gandhi's justification for the carnage that took place after his mother's death. It seemed to suggest that the Congress party saw the anti-Sikh riots as a natural response to the assassination, a shaking of the earth.
We can now see those infamous words being said as well, in the above video, as released by HS Phoolka, a lawyer who has spent years seeking justice for the victims of the riots, and Bharatiya Janata Party leader RP Singh.
A Prime Minister who justifies the killing of innocent citizens, definitely does not deserve Bharat Ratna. We therefore call upon the government to withdraw the Bharat Ratna conferred upon Rajiv Gandhi,” Phoolka said at a press conference on Thursday. “A Prime Minister who takes three years even to count the dead bodies of innocent citizens killed in open broad daylight in the capital, a Prime Minister whose party was responsible for a massacre, cannot be a Bharat Ratna. We demand Rajiv Gandhi’s Bharat Ratna’s be taken back."