Canadian Sikhs outraged at Kamal Nath’s selection as Madhya Pradesh’s Chief Minister: WSO

Rahul Gandhi flanked by MP Congress leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath.

THE World Sikh Organization of Canada on Thursday said that it is outraged by the selection of Kamal Nath as the next Chief Minister of the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. Nath is accused of leading a mob that burned several Sikhs alive in Delhi during the 1984 Sikh Genocide. The appointment of Nath follows the victory of the Congress party in the recent Madhya Pradesh election.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made the announcement of Nath’s selection on Thursday. The Congress Party announced from its Twitter handle that “an era of change is upon MP with him [Kamal Nath] at the helm.”

Nath was identified by numerous witnesses, including Indian Express reporter Sanjay Suri, as having controlled a mob of 4,000 people that attacked Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, a prominent Sikh shrine in Delhi, on November 1, 1984, following the assassination of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi. Suri, testified under oath that he found that Kamal Nath was ‘controlling the crowd’ which he said was ‘looking to him for directions.’ Several Sikhs were burnt alive by the mob.

On November 3, The Statesman newspaper reported: “Policemen criticized the role of politicians too. Several councillors, they alleged, interceded on behalf of violent mobs when policemen tried to stop arson. Officers wondered what Mr Kamal Nath was doing at Rakab Ganj.”

Nath has denied his involvement in the killings. However, according to Justice Nanavati, who chaired a commission to investigate the 1984 Sikh Genocide, and the role of government officials, Nath has failed to satisfactorily explain his role, the length of time he stayed and why he did not contact the police to help quell the violence.

The Government of India’s Nanavati Commission Report also acknowledges “but for the backing and help of influential and resourceful persons, killing of Sikhs so swiftly and in large numbers could not have happened.”

While several individuals who took part in the attacks on Sikhs during the 1984 Sikh Genocide have been tried and convicted, senior government leaders who orchestrated the violence have not been brought to justice.

In March 2010, Nath, then India’s Minister of Road Transport and Highways, was greeted by protests from the Sikh community during a visit to Canada. Sikhs had then called on the Canadian government to deny Nath a visa to enter the country.

WSO President Mukhbir Singh said, “It is absolutely outrageous that Kamal Nath, an individual accused of leading a mob that burnt Sikhs alive during the 1984 Sikh Genocide can be appointed a Chief Minister in India. Large-scale impunity for those involved in orchestrating the 1984 Sikh Genocide has remained an affront to the Sikh community and an insult to human rights in India. Today’s appointment is just another example of this. The selection of Kamal Nath was celebrated by India’s Congress Party as “an era of change” but for Sikhs, it is simply more of the same appalling disregard for Sikh human rights in India as we have seen for the past 35 years.”