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Congress fights backlash on Pitroda

Congress distances itself from Sam Pitroda's "hua to hua" words

  • Published 11.05.19, 7:22 AM
  • Updated 11.05.19, 7:22 AM
  • 2 mins read
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Sam Pitroda (Wikimedia Commons)

Sam Pitroda on Friday said his statement on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots was taken out of context and twisted, and offered an apology if anyone’s feelings were hurt.

Ab kya hai ’84 ka? Baat toh kariye aapne kya kiya paanch saal mein. Uski baat karein. ’84 mein hua toh hua.… (Now what about ’84? Talk about what you have done in the past five years. What happened in 1984 has happened,’’ Pitroda, the president of the Indian Overseas Congress, had told news agency ANI on Thursday evening.

Pitroda’s statement, in response to a question about Narendra Modi raising the anti-Sikh riots in election speeches, was seized on by the BJP to attack the Congress ahead of polling in Delhi and Punjab where the wounds of 1984 are still raw.

The Congress distanced itself from the words, issuing a detailed statement in which it stressed that it supported the quest for justice for the victims of the anti-Sikh riots, and stern punishment for those found guilty in this as well as subsequent violence, including the 2002 Gujarat riots.

“Violence and riots are unacceptable and unpardonable in our society,” the party said. “Any opinion or remark made by any individual to the contrary, including Shri Sam Pitroda, is not the opinion of the Congress party. We advise all leaders to be careful and sensitive,’’ the statement by Congress media in-charge Randeep Surjewala said.

Pitroda told the media that his words had been “completely twisted” and “taken out of context” because his Hindi was “not that good”. What he had meant to say was that what had happened in 1984 was bad, but that Modi should speak about his own performance as Prime Minister. If any feelings were hurt, Pitroda said, “I apologise”.

Through the day, the BJP harped on Pitroda’s words.

“Punjab is angry at the statements of Congress leaders. They will vote BJP-Akali Dal,’’ the Prime Minister told an election rally at Hoshiarpur in the evening. Earlier, at a public meeting at Rohtak in Haryana, he said the words “hua toh hua” reflect the character and mentality of the Congress.

BJP president Amit Shah dug in with a tweet: “Agony of the entire Sikh community. Suffering of all those Sikh families killed by Congress leaders in 1984. Attack on Delhi’s secular ethos. All Summed up in these three words by Sam Pitroda — Hua To Hua. India will never forgive #MurdererCongress for its sins.’’

Surjewala said that for the BJP, riots were a vote-garnering exercise in every election, and that the party did not care for ensuring closure or justice. “People should see through this Machiavellian game of deception, distraction and distortion by Shri Narendra Modi,” he said.

Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who said it was “shocking” if Pitroda had said those words, asserted that it was wrong of Modi to link then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi to the riots. “The involvement of some individuals in the 1984 riots does not mean Modi can implicate Rajiv Gandhi or the Congress party in it,” he said. By the same yardstick, Modi should also have been implicated in the Gujarat riots.

Singh continued: “Modi should not forget that the names of several BJP and RSS leaders had figured in the 1984 riots FIR.”

The chief minister called for action in accordance with law against all those found guilty in the anti-Sikh riots.