Seeking to put behind memories of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Home Minister P. Chidambaram today said the country has moved on since the “tragic incident” and that it was time to “forgive” and build a new India.
“It is time that we move on to build a new India where every citizen irrespective of faith has equal place,” he said, addressing a function to felicitate him for his role in removing names of 142 Sikhs from a ‘Black list’.
Recalling the tragic incidents in 1984 after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards, Chidambaram said the country has moved on since then and one small step of removing names of large number Sikhs from the ‘Black list’ was left which has been addressed to by the government recently.
“We have moved on when Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, we have moved on subsequently, we have moved on when Manmohan Singh made that poignant speech asking for forgiveness, we moved on since Sonia Gandhi became Congress president,” he said.
The Home Minister was referring to Singh’s speech in Parliament in 2005 where he apologised to the Sikh community for the incident.
“One small step had remained and that is to remove the names of large number of names from what is called Black List.
I am happy that I played a small and humble part in removing 142 names from the Black List,” the Home Minister said.
In a significant decision, the government had removed from its “blacklist” the names of 142 wanted terrorists and their associates, including the heads of various Sikh extremist groups.
Noting that government was would initiate all possible steps to address grievances of the Sikh community, Chidambaram said government would issue orders “shortly” to help the Sikhs who have returned from Afghanistan following violence in the neighbouring country.
“For a Sikh living anywhere in the world, India is the homeland, India is the home. Therefore whenever any Sikh from anywhere in the world returns to his home, we have a duty to welcome him to India,” the Home Minister said.
Thousands of Sikh families have come to India from Afghanistan since violence erupted in early 1980s. The Kendriya Guru Singh Sabha (KGSS), which organised today’s function, requested Chidambaram to look into their grievances as these families are living as refugees they are facing lot of problems.
He said the issue of Sikhs who have come to India from Afghanistan is being addressed to orders are being issued to help them.
Referring to Sikhs’ complaint that they face difficulties in getting visa to visit Nankana Sahib, he said the issue is also being addressed to.
“I know that sometimes there are difficulties in getting visa. This issue is also being addressed to,” he said.
Showering praise on the Sikh community for their contribution towards the nation, he assured the gathering of all support to the community by the government.
“We hold the community in high esteem...We stand by every community, every minority community, every disadvantaged person and we promise equal place and equal rights,” he said.
The KGSS presented a memorandum to the Home Minister with nine demands including early payment of remaining compensation to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Addressing the gathering, Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit thanked Mr. Chidambaram for his role in removing names of 142 persons from the ‘blacklist’
“The matter was pending for so many years. The government has accepted the demand (for removal of the names from the blacklist). We thank you (Mr. Chidambaram). He is courageous,” said Ms. Dikshit.