| A Delhi protester helps up a policeman
New Delhi, Aug. 11: No apology for 21 years and today the country’s biggest head “bow(s)' in shame”.
“I am not standing on any false prestige and I bow my head in shame on behalf of the government and the people of the whole country for what happened in 1984,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
It was the second day of the scramble to save face, this time in the Rajya Sabha, which listened with rapt attention to Singh’s reply to the debate on the Nanavati Commission report on the anti-Sikh riots.
Although the Prime Minister has taken much of the Opposition sting out, first with his promise in the Lok Sabha yesterday to pursue the trail of suspicion that leads to Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, both Congress leaders, and then with the apology, observers were left wondering about the delay.
All the action on behalf of the government followed an empty action taken report on the findings of the commission, both of which were presented on Monday.
Nearly six months had elapsed between the commission submitting the findings and the government preparing the action report, giving enough time to the political authorities ' Singh, Sonia Gandhi and home minister Shivraj Patil ' to formulate a response the Sikh community had been waiting 21 years to receive.
“I do not have any hesitation in apologising because what happened was the negation of nationhood,” Singh said. He did not say what hesitation held his tongue all this time.
Tytler resigned as minister yesterday. Today, Sajjan Kumar quit as chairman of the Delhi Rural Development Board.
Within the Congress, whispers were being heard that the trio of Singh, Sonia and Patil had not taken the advice of other experienced leaders, which explained the belated reaction after the outrage at the government’s handling of the report.
Singh tried to make amends. “All those against whom the commission drew adverse inference, we will have a re-look at them.”
He revealed that the then BJP-led government formed the commission on the basis of a supplementary question. Singh said he believed question hour was not the appropriate time to discuss an important issue, but had kept quiet.
“But Mr Advani, the then home minister, said outside the House that ‘I want to constitute a commission on 1984 anti-Sikh riots but Manmohan Singh stopped me from doing it...’ Mr Advani owes an apology to me on this count.”
Although the government’s response has been late, it has made the BJP apprehensive that, a precedent having been set with two resignations, trouble might be in store for Narendra Modi once the Nanavati report on the Gujarat riots comes out.
Quite unlike his usual soft-spoken self, Singh was in an unsparing mood as he also took on the Akali Dal.
“They were busy dividing the people of Punjab on communal lines,” he said.
At the end of the debate, Patil announced two committees ' one to look into compensation for riot victims and another to consider rehabilitation programmes for the widows and their children.
“I have committed my government to do all we can do to support the widows,” Singh said.