By Mohd Asim Khan
If Rahul Gandhi is to be believed, the Congress government tried to stop the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 that left hundreds dead in just three days in Delhi. This is the first time anyone has made this remarkable claim.
But if this is indeed true, the victims who deposed against Congress leaders and Gandhi family loyalists like Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and H.K.L. Bhagat must have seen the ghosts of these leaders instigating mobs against the Sikhs.
Gandhi’s startling revelation about 1984 came in a television interview where he went all guns blazing against the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.
Whenever a Congress leader is asked why the party should be voted back to power despite rampant corruption, unchecked price rise and widening economic disparity, issues that concern the common man, the instant retort is that people should not elect the “butcher of Naroda Patiya”.
That’s what the Congress vice president repeated for the nth time — that Modi was solely responsible for the Gujarat riots of 2002.
Clearly, as the election cauldron begins to simmer, Indian politicians have intensified their efforts at what they seem to be adept: mud-slinging and resorting to a holier-than-thou approach. Gandhi’s remarks on 1984 have come just before the 27th anniversary of what has come to be known as the Hashimpura massacre.
This happened in 1987 in Uttar Pradesh. Like Delhi in 1984, Uttar Pradesh was then governed by the Congress. And the victims this time were innocent Muslims.
The story has been told umpteen times. Yet, I will repeat it.
On a cold winter evening, a company of the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) descended on the Aara Machine Wali Gali at Hashimpura in Meerut and singled out healthy young Muslim men. As dusk fell, the men were taken to the banks of the Ganga canal at Muradnagar, hardly 40 km from Delhi.
The brutal killings there could never have become public knowledge had it not been for two survivors. One of them, Babuddin, a handloom worker from Bihar, survived the .303 barrage from PAC rifles, fired from close range.
Vir Bahadur Singh was then the Congress chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. The party had a majority in the state assembly. The central government was led by none other than Rahul Gandhi’s father, Rajiv Gandhi.
Yet, that massacre happened. And similar killings took place elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh: Maliyana, Moradabad, Allahabad, Aligarh et al.
There was no Narendra Modi then. And the BJP had just two seats in the Lok Sabha.
The story is not just about police brutality or the state openly showing its bias against one community. It is about a deeper malaise in the Indian polity. Inquiries after inquiries and commissions after commissions have held the state responsible for killings of hundreds of Muslims. Did the Congress even apologise for its failure to protect innocent lives?
And here is Rahul Gandhi, the young Congress aspirant for the country’s top job who wants his party to be voted back to power simply because Modi presided over one terrible riot.
(30.01.2014 – Mohd Asim Khan can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed are personal.)