Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh told Canadian Sikhs on Monday that "by constantly reminding of the 1984 riots, sometimes you unwittingly vitiate the creative thinking of the Sikh community". Ahead of Singh's visit here, there was an attempt to raise the 1984 riots issue in Canadian Parliament when a group of Sikh MPs moved a petition seeking the Canadian government recognise the carnage as 'genocide'.
"I am the Prime Minister of India. Two years we had J J Singh as the Sikh commander of the Indian army, we have Sikhs as ambassadors. Punjab is today run by Shiromani Akali Dal," he pointed out.
Singh, the first Sikh to ascend to the post of the Prime Minister of India, said: "I have on behalf of the Government of India apologised, on behalf of the nation apologised for what happened in 1984." He described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as "horrible" and said it should never have happened. "We can't get away from our past but the challenge is to look ahead in a world increasingly globalised, integrated whether you are here or in India," he said.
"Sikhs have made a name and achieved fame. Sikhs want to move ahead from 1984. Sometimes unwittingly we create an atmosphere which sets the unhappiness of the Sikh community. Therefore, it is incumbent on the Sikh diaspora to strengthen the bonds of India-Canada relations," he said.
The Prime Minister urged all of Indo-Canadians to remain united and respect each other. "I have only one word to say that we should not bring to this country some of the divisive elements of politics back at home. You would well know that it does not help to advance the cause of the community. It does not help by living in the past," Singh said.
Singh admitted there are possible "weaknesses" in the Indian legal system in dealing with the cases of 1984 anti-Sikh riots but said his government was trying to address them.
"There are concerns about those who perpetrated these crimes must be brought to book. There are possible weaknesses in the Indian legal system, as there may be in the Canadian system. We are trying to address these issues," Singh said.
"Our Government, the UPA Government, has opened up all cases for compensation, we are open to provide relief, succour to victims, the relatives so they can once again lead a life of dignity," he told Indo-Canadian MPs and provincial legislators at Toronto's Royal York hotel on Monday. The Prime Minister assured the Indo-Canadian community that he has taken note of the concerns raised by them and promised to act on them.
"I promise you that when I get back home, I will set up some mechanism to deliberate on the issues that have been raised here or raised elsewhere in the Indo-Canadian community," he said.
Commending contributions made by Indo-Canadians, he said: "The name and fame that you have earned through your hard work has helped to change the people's perspective in the Western world of what India has earned, what India stands for and what India can do and this alone I think entitles you to earn our gratitude."
Singh said: "I am very happy that you have flourished in this land. That is the pride we have in your achievements. When I was Finance Minister what I learnt was that the people of India were very keen to prove that given the appropriate environment Indians were second to none.
"We have to ensure that people don't have to go out of India to Silicon Valley for this to happen. I would like to say that you have distinguished yourselves in all walks of life, whether it is politics, whether it is industry, whether it is trade and whether it is science and technology. In each of these areas people of Indian origin have done us proud." PTI