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Manmohan: I bow my head in shame

Friday 12 August 2005, by PARSAI*Gargi

``There were lapses in 1984. We do not still know the truth."

I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but to the whole nation Past cannot be undone but we have the option to build a better future

NEW DELHI: In an extraordinary gesture, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday apologised to the nation for the 1984 killing of thousands of Sikhs soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. He reiterated that in deference to the sentiments expressed in Parliament, the Government would re-open and re-examine "within the ambit of law" cases against individuals and police officials named in the Nanavati Commission Report.

"I have no hesitation in apologising not only to the Sikh community but to the whole nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood and of the Indian Constitution. On behalf of the Government and the entire people of the country, I bow my head in shame for what happened," Dr. Singh said intervening in a discussion in the Rajya Sabha on a motion under Rule 168 moved by the BJP for modification of the Action Taken Report of the Nanavati Commission on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and action against those indicted in the report.

Question hour was suspended to take up the discussion with the rider that this would not be treated as a precedent. The motion was defeated by voice vote.

Confessing that speaking on the occasion was "a great emotional strain" for him, he said it was time for introspection that such "ghastly tragedies" in which 4,000 people were killed never took place again.

"I do not stand on false prestige. To err is human. There were lapses in 1984. Several commissions have been set up. We still do not know the truth. The search must go on."

Appealing to political parties not to follow partisan goals and play upon the sentiments of innocent Sikh youth, Dr. Singh said the Congress did not set up the Nanavati Commission. "We had no choice on the terms of the Commission or on who would head it. It has conclusively stated that there is no evidence whatsoever of the involvement of the Congress leadership in the 1984 incidents. That lie, which has been used for 21 years to poison the Sikh minds, has been nailed.’’

The Government would do all that was possible to rehabilitate the victims and give them a life of dignity. "The past cannot be undone but we have the option to build a better future."

Dr. Singh said the death of Indira Gandhi was a great tragedy. Her death, at the hands of her own bodyguards, was equally shameful. What took place after her death was a "national shame," a great national tragedy.

See online : The Hindu

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