On Monday, November 2, Prime Minister rendra Modi recalled the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and urged the Congress to “drown in shame” instead of lecturing others on tolerance. What happened three decades ago is something that makes every Indian hang his head down in shame not merely because of the event but also because senior Congressmen who should have known better had gone about goading people to violence and providing them with iron rods to go about killing and maiming Sikhs, but more because in three decades the government and the Congress took no steps to punish the guilty. And because of what the Congress and its government failed to do about punishing rabble-rousers and killers, the tion itself ended up projecting the most horrible image of India’s intolerance to the rest of the world. That image has remained. It is possible that the image might get more deeply embedded because of the recent happenings in India.
There is no denying that Prime Minister Modi had legitimate reasons for drawing our attention to what religious or ethnic intolerance can do to the image of a democracy that has proclaimed itself as secular. The act of gross intolerance that the Congress perpetrated 31 years ago has left deep scars even today. However, the typical Indian habit of pretending that two wrongs make a right will take us nowhere. Modi’s attack of the Congress will be seen by most people as the citing of a bad precedent to defend the kind of intolerance that we have been witness to during the last few weeks. We have had a writer of Kartaka killed for his ratiolist views. We have had a man killed by a mob in Uttar Pradesh on the basis of a rumour that he had killed a cow and eaten beef. We have had vigilante groups telling people how they will not be allowed to dress. What ought to be intolerable in a secular country is any act of intolerance. Instead, what we have had is our Prime Minister reminding us how intolerant the Congress was in 1984 and how it went berserk against one community after the assassition of Indira Gandhi. What has really happened is the citing of a bad precedent at a time when the man who had promised us achhe din should have been able to show the world that his government could not even dream of supporting the kind of intolerance that we had on November 2, 1984. Instead, it took him about 10 days to come out with a mild expression of regret at what had happened recently instead of a strong condemtion. By now we are quite familiar with what happens when people cite bad precedents by leaning heavily on the flimsy principle of two wrongs making a right. In the present case, the Congress lost no time in returning the compliment by reminding Modi of the commul riots of 2000 in Gujarat when he was Chief Minister of the State. The Congress has even made the false claim that in the case of the 1984 Delhi holocaust, it maged to control the riots within 72 hours and that every effort was made to give justice to the victims. How can anyone talk of justice when nothing has happened to the main culprits of the riots even 31 years after the event? On the contrary, we had the late Rajiv Gandhi trying to justify the 1984 riots by telling us what happens when a large oak tree falls.
There have been many people telling the Prime Minister what the tion does not like by returning their tiol awards. This number is likely to go on increasing unless there are clear indications that the Prime Minister has got the message and does not intend to perpetuate the perverse principle that two wrongs make a right. He must tell the tion very clearly that henceforth two wrongs will not make a right, and that intolerance of any form (except intolerance of crime) will not be tolerated, and that people will be able to exercise their right to freedom without any fear of vigilante groups or kangaroo courts that have the tacit support of the rulers.