The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Boom brigade holds tongue

New Delhi, Aug. 8: Twenty-one years is a long time for a political party to change colour. The CPM has dramatically changed its own.

After the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in the capital, top CPM leaders Jyoti Basu and B.T. Ranadive had blasted the Congress establishment in Delhi in the harshest language for allowing mobs to run amok and kill innocent Sikhs at will. The CPM, without mincing words, had then “denounced” the role of “certain Congress leaders” in the killings.

Two decades later, the party seems to have gone into a shell. Its leaders today had to be goaded into giving a response on the ruling UPA’s action taken report. The media was keen to hear what the CPM ' a party once at the forefront of protests against the anti-Sikh riots ' had to say on the ATR rejecting virtually every recommendation of the Nanavati Commission report.

The CPM fell back on an unusual plea. It did not have the time to read either the 15-page ATR or the 347-page Nanavati Commission report. The party will give its response two days later. “We cannot comment on the ATR in isolation,” said party MP Nilotpal Basu at a news conference. Politburo member Brinda Karat, who made waves with her moving performance in Amu ' a film on the 1984 riots ' also said the party was not going to come up with a response today. “We have just received the ATR,” she said.

“We are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied,” Basu added.

In fact, the CPM and the Congress spoke in harmony. The Marxists did not even reflect any shade of the bitter acrimony they had towards the Congress in 1984. But a series of lead articles in the CPM mouthpiece People’s Democracy, authored by top leaders between November and December 1984, bear testimony to the party’s earlier aggression.

In a lead article on December 21, 1984, Jyoti Basu lampooned the Congress for stoking communal passions. “Instead of expressing sorrow at Mrs Gandhi’s death they started looting shops and attacking Sikhs. Thousands of Sikhs were murdered and the children were thrown into fire,” he wrote.

He narrated an incident when Rajiv Gandhi asked him to defer his return to Calcutta when Basu went to Teen Murti Bhavan where Indira Gandhi’s body was kept. Basu stayed back and met Rajiv.

“When I met Rajiv Gandhi I told him he will have to ask his partymen to check their activities if he wanted to stop the communal riots. Rajiv Gandhi told me he has already issued instructions but would have to ask his partymen again,” Basu said.

In the November 11, 1984, edition of People’s Democracy, veteran CPM leader B.T. Ranadive in a lead article wrote: “The CPM denounces the role of certain Congress leaders in Delhi. The killing of the Sikhs, the arson and the lootings ' all have put Indian democracy to shame.”

“The Delhi administration refused to move and handed over the city to anti-socials for three days,” Ranadive stressed.

Today, Nilotpal Basu said they are not demanding Union minister Jagdish Tytler’s resignation even though the Nanavati Commission has put a question mark on his role in the riots.

The UPA government has rejected the commission’s recommendation for a reinvestigation into Tytler’s case. The CPM MP has no issue to pick with the government on this. “Why has the Nanavati Commission said Tytler ‘very probably’ had a hand in the riots if they had ‘credible evidence’ against him'” he asked.

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