US Sidesteps Questions on Visa Revoking of Congress Leaders for 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

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Washington, DC – The United States on Friday (January 31) cited technicalities of visa process while answering questions on visa revoking for Congress Party leaders as their leader Rahul Gandhi in an interview admitted that some of Congress members were involved in the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards following an assault by Indian government forces on the holiest Sikh Shrine Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Appearing in an interview with Arnab Goswami of Times Now, Rahul Gandhi, the vice president of Congress Party, acknowledged that there were some members of Congress who were involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots saying, “Some Congress men were probably involved.”

The US government had revoked the visa of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi citing his involvement in 2002 Gujarat riots in which majority of Muslims were killed but on Friday asked to comment if Congress leaders would face the same fate, Marie Harf, the State Department Deputy Spokesperson said, “I don’t – I haven’t seen that, those comments.”

Senior Congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are facing cases in courts for allegedly instigating rioters after Mrs Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984, but there has been no action from the leadership of the Congress party against them.

When asked further if the US had issued visas and would revoke those for such tainted Congress leaders, Harf said, “Visa records are confidential. I’m not sure I can share that information even if I knew it.”

On the ongoing case of Modi’s visa for the US, Harf reiterated earlier US stand saying, “We said he’s free to apply for a visa, and we’ll make a decision based on the process that we have in place here.”

In India, the political parties immediately reacted to Gandhi’s admission during the interview that “some Congress men were probably involved” and also his claim that unlike the Modi government in Gujarat in 2002, the union government headed by his father in 1984 had tried to stop the riots.

Gandhi told Arnab in the interview, “The difference between the 84 riots and the riots in Gujarat was that in 1984 the Government was trying to stop the riots. I remember, I was a child then, I remember the Government was doing everything it could to stop the riots. In Gujarat the opposite was the case. The Government in Gujarat was actually abetting and pushing the riots further. So there is a huge difference between the two things, saying that innocent people dying is absolutely wrong.”

With the main opposition party Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) calling for action after the Gandhi interview with Goswami was aired on Times Now, the emerging Aam Adami Party (AAP) leader and the incumbent Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal went a step further, meeting Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung with the intention of reopening the 1984 riot cases and constituting a SIT (Special Investigative Team) to probe them. The regional party, the Akali Dal In Punjab, meanwhile, raised the voice over the issue, demanding immediate action against named Congress leaders.

There were allegedly more than 8,000 deaths, including 3,000 in Delhi only and the allegations were that the acts of violence were organized with the support from the Delhi police officials and the central government headed by Indira Gandhi’s son, Rajiv Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi, the father of Rahul Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother’s death and, when asked about the riots, said “when a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”

In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported the Government of India had “yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings”. The 2011 WikiLeaks cable leaks revealed that the United States was convinced about the complicity of the Indian government ruled by the Indian National Congress in the riots, and termed it as “opportunism” and “hatred” of the Congress government against Sikhs. The United States has denied to recognize the riots as genocide, but do acknowledge that “grave human rights violations” did take place. Also in 2011, a new set of mass graves were discovered in Haryana, and Human Rights Watch reported that “Widespread anti-Sikh attacks in Haryana were part of broader revenge attacks” in India.

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