Former Punjab CM created a furore with his comment that his party colleague Jagdish Tytler was not involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots

Former Punjab Chief Minister AMARINDER SINGH of the Congress created a furore in the Sikh world with his comment that his party colleague Jagdish Tytler was not involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Many saw that as a costly faux pas by the Punjab strongman, who is locked in a bitter contest against Arun Jaitley of the BJP in Amritsar. In this conversation with Chander Suta Dogra, Capt. Singh has a different take on the developments.

Your remark absolving Jagdish Tytler of involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots created a storm in the Sikh world. How do you justify it?

What I said is hundred per cent correct. If the Akalis want to make an issue of it, let them. But I will not stop saying the truth as I saw and heard it. I have not given him a clean chit; that is for the courts and the investigation machinery to do. All I said was that after four days of touring the riot-affected areas in Delhi, many people named several Congress leaders but did not take Mr. Tytler’s name. It came up several months later during an election.

The Sikhs are upset and want action against you.

It is only the Akalis who are fanning the issue. I have never lied in my life and will not lie now just because it will help me politically. I have said this about Mr. Tytler for the last 30 years and will say it for 30 more years. If I have not heard his name, I have not heard it.

In popular perception in Punjab and elsewhere, people see him as someone who was involved in the riots. The CBI has been asked to re-open investigation of the cases against him. The Congress has also denied him ticket twice for the same reason.

I hold Mr. Badal guilty of asking for military action on the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, which eventually led to Operation Bluestar. Why don’t people talk about that? I have a document that shows that in March 1984, Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had met the then Home Minister [P. V.] Narasimha Rao in the presence of three top bureaucrats and asked them to take military action against the militants [holed up] in the Golden Temple. If 1984 flares up, this issue will also come up and he wants to stay away from it.

1984 is at centre stage of the Akali manifesto, which has promised fast-track courts.

They say that in every manifesto and then forget about it. But we will produce all documents and then he will be tried by the community for doing this to the holy shrine. Do not forget, it was I who resigned from Parliament in protest against the Army action.

Are religious issues really relevant in Punjab anymore? Aren’t people more concerned about development?

Sikhs have been a persecuted community for 500 years. The sacrifices made by them, observed in the form of ghallughara divas, are still current in our talk. Similarly, Operation Bluestar has gone down in our history. But these issues come to the fore only when they are fanned for political benefit as the Akalis are doing.

The Aam Admi Party is doing quite well in Punjab. Do you it striking root here?

I think they are like a summer storm. They have come and will disappear. But people are fed up with corruption. At thana level, police and patwari level, it is rampant in Punjab. The only way out is to give exemplary punishment. I think the Parliament should pass a law that anyone caught for corruption should be in jail for 50 years.