SAD trying to defame Rajiv Gandhi: Punjab chief minister

Amarinder Singh

Chandigarh (PTI): Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has accused the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) of resorting to “false propaganda” to malign former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Lashing out at SAD President Sukhbir Badal for raising questions about the late Rajiv Gandhi’s role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the chief minister alleged there were persistent efforts by Akali leaders to defame the former prime minister.

Rajiv Gandhi, he said, was not even in Delhi when the violence broke out.

“Rajiv was in Contai, some 150 kms from Kolkata, on an election tour of West Bengal,” Amarinder Singh pointed out, accusing Sukhbir Badal of deliberately misinterpreting Jagdish Tytler’s statements in a recent TV interview.

The chief minister criticised Badal for trying to link Rajiv Gandhi with a sting operation which, he emphasised, Tytler had dismissed as being “doctored”.

“It is a matter of record that by the time Rajiv returned to Delhi, on being informed of his mother’s assassination, rioting had already erupted,” chief minister Singh said in a statement.

“In his TV interview Tytler has, in fact, categorically stated that Rajiv went around with him to try and control the situation, which had seriously escalated by the time he was sworn in as prime minister. Rajiv had issued clear instructions to all party MLAs to go back to their constituencies and defuse the situation at any cost,” the Punjab chief minister said.

Media reports in the wake of the riots showed that Rajiv Gandhi unequivocally condemned the violence and warned of stringent action against anyone found to be indulging in communal violence, he said.

“After their botched attempts to spread false propaganda by misconstruing Tytler’s TV interview, the Akalis were now taking refuge in a video, which the Congress leader had categorically rejected as metamorphosed, in a desperate bid to give credence to their fabrication,” said the chief minister.

He was referring to a video released by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) President Manjit Singh GK on February 5. The video was of a purported sting operation recorded in 2011, which GK said was received by him from an unknown person on February 3.

Claiming that Badal was trying to allegedly fan passions by taking certain portions of Tytler’s statement out of context, Amarinder Singh termed it “the height of irresponsible behaviour”.

Had there been any involvement of Rajiv in the riots, the same would have been exposed long back, he said.

“Have not the people of Punjab already suffered enough due to the terrorism that swept the state in the wake of the 1984 riots,” he asked Badal.

The chief minister said it was unfortunate that the Akalis were allegedly playing into the hands of divisive forces.

Badal had claimed last week that the central government has urged the Justice SN Dhingra-led special investigation team (SIT) to look into “the role of Rajiv Gandhi”.