New Delhi: Sikh riots' victims activist and AAP member H S Phoolka today caused a flutter by demanding that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi be stripped of Bharat Ratna award as he had “justified” the killings in 1984 carnage, a plea dismissed as cheap politics by Congress.
BJP secretary R P Singh joined Phoolka at the press conference where they made the demand. The two leaders also released a video of Gandhi's speech delivered this day in 1984 at Boat Club on Indira Gandhi's birth anniversary in which he had said “when the big tree falls, the earth shakes”, an apparent reference to the anti-Sikh riots.
“A Prime Minister who justifies the killing of innocent citizens, definitely does not deserve Bharat Ratna. We therefore call upon the government to withdraw the Bharat Ratna conferred upon Rajiv Gandhi,” Phoolka, a lawyer, said.
“A Prime Minister who takes three years even to count the dead bodies of innocent citizens killed in daylight in the capital cannot be a Bharat Ratna,” they said, holding Congress responsible for the massacre.
“We demand Rajiv Gandhi's Bharat Ratna be taken back.” They said they were unable to get the video of the speech as it was “deleted” from the records and archives of Doordarshan.
To a question on his sharing the platform with a BJP leader, Phoolka, who had resigned from all AAP posts but remains a member, noted that leaders from several parties had helped him.
Reacting sharply, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi described the demand as “petty, petulant and ridiculous” and called their charge against the late Congress leader “patently false”.
Singhvi noted that several political careers had ended because of the “aberrations” in 1984 and noted Manmohan Singh as a Prime Minister had apologised and so had Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Former Punjab Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh also rejected Phoolka's contention and said he does not take his demands seriously.
“He has been raising such things to get in the news for the last 31 years.” BJP, however, steered clear of Phoolka's demand with party spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain saying everybody has right to air his opinion in a democracy.
On a party leader joining Phoolka in making the demand, he said he also belonged to the same community whose thousands of members were killed for no fault of theirs. Those demanding that his Bharat Ratna be withdrawn also come from the same community, he said.
Hussain, however, took a swipe at Gandhi, saying the country remembers his statement and people cite his comments during debate on tolerance and intolerance.