While working on an article on police reforms two weeks back, I met several police officers, serving and retired. Most of them, when talking about the politicisation of the police, referred to their inaction in the Gujarat riots of 2002. It was left to me to ask, “and also 1984”. And invariably they all said, “oh yes, 1984” but it was an afterthought. I found that strange. Two of them were from the Delhi Police. How could they, how could anyone, forget 1984?
I am extremely puzzled by the collective amnesia about the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 or a reluctance to equate it with the Gujarat riots.
To my mind, there is no difference between the two. The 1984 riots were as much revenge killings (for the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards) as the Gujarat riots were (for the Godhra train fire). Those riots were as much instigated by politicians (Congress) as the Gujarat ones were (the sangh parivar). In fact, in the 1984 riots, several small time Congress politicians (and some big time ones as well) were seen leading rioters or encouraging them. In both cases, there were hints to the police to go easy on the rioters. In both those involved in the riots could not be brought to book, even though names were well known. In fact, some Delhi politicians who were named in the riots were given ministerial positions in successive Congress governments.
So why this reluctance to remember 1984, even as we keep flogging the Gujarat riots for all it is worth?
We, as a nation, have to do some intensive soul searching about this. And we must never forget 1984 or allow its seriousness to be diluted in any way.