The India Cables

Manmohan Singh's apology for anti-Sikh riots a ‘Gandhian moment of moral clarity,' says 2005 cable

TWO DECADES LATER: A victim of the riots at a 2005 demonstration in New Delhi. Photo: Sandeep Saxena   | Photo Credit: Sandeep_Saxena

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's public apology for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is hailed in an American diplomatic cable as a “singular act of political courage'' and an “almost Gandhian moment of moral clarity in India's long march to religious harmony.”

The violence in northern India, primarily in Delhi, targeting members of the Sikh community broke out following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination on October 31, 1984.

Writing on August 12, 2005 ( >38469: unclassified ), Robert O'Blake, Deputy Chief of Mission at the American Embassy in New Delhi, noted that Dr. Singh had done “what no Indian leader in 20 years has been willing to do.”

“The PM's singular act of political courage stands in exquisite contrast to the opportunism and hatred directed by senior GOI officials against Sikhs in 1984. The PM's act of statesmanship will raise his already strong reputation as a representative of the nation's highest Gandhian ideals,” he said, adding that the apology “pre-empted BJP's efforts to capitalize on the (Nanavati Commission) report, which named two high-profile Congress leaders as conspirators in the riots.”

The cable, accessed by The Hindu through WikiLeaks, said the Congress party's “swift action'' against Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar in the wake of the commission's report “raised questions about the fate of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi if a similar commission investigating the 2002 Gujarat riots finds his government at fault.''

In his apology in Parliament on August 12, 2005, Dr. Manmohan Singh said: “I have no hesitation in apologizing to the Sikh community. I apologize not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution.”

The cable, describing the riots as “one of the saddest and darkest moments in recent Indian history,” said: “The PM apology and forced resignation of a minister with long ties to the Gandhi family has surprised Indians who only expected the worst of their politicians. The PM's singular act of political courage will be long-remembered as a momentous — almost Gandhian — moment of moral clarity in India's long march to religious harmony.”

(This article is a part of the series "The India Cables" based on the US diplomatic cables accessed by The Hindu via Wikileaks.)

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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 6:00:56 AM |

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