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Table ’84 riots report

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Table ’84 riots report

The delay suggests the Congress still does not have the will to overcome the taint of the riots

Posted online: Monday, May 09, 2005 at 0007 hours IST

The UPA government ought to realise that the tabling of the Nanavati Commission’s report into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is not just a technical demand or a political pressure tactic. Rather, the tabling of the Report should be seen as the very basis of any moral authority this government can claim. The UPA has consistently claimed to differentiate itself from the NDA on many counts. But its decision to postpone tabling the Nanavati Commission’s report makes a mockery of its claims to provide a different and more legitimate government. For one thing, the government simply has no credible argument to delay tabling the report. Its so-called arguments are mere technicalities with little substance.

But, most importantly, by not tabling the report the Congress Party is lending credence to the following charges against it. First, that it still does not have the political will to overcome the taint it incurred because of the association of some party members with the 1984 riots. It has no concern for truth, or justice, for the victims of those riots. Second, the BJP is often accused of having no interest in bringing the perpetrators of riots to justice. Congress’s procrastination on this report suggests that it does not have much interest in bringing justice to the riot victims either. If the party was not complicit in the riots, it should not fear the tabling of the report. If, on the other hand, some of its members were, Congress should use this opportunity to overcome its past complicities in this matter. Either way, tabling the report is the only way to shore up the party’s claims to being different when it comes to its record on communal riots. Third, the Congress has no interest in setting new benchmarks of constitutional propriety or conduct. Parliament, and the public at large, have a right to know the contents of the report. Not all the claims made in the report need to be — or will be — accepted. If the Congress party has reason to find fault with the claims of the Report, it can do so in public. But there can be no getting away from a full discussion of its contents.

Although justice for the riot victims is still a distant gleam, we at least owe them this much. The claim of a Congress spokesperson that the NDA had no right to ask for the tabling of the Report since the party was not present in Parliament is completely beside the point. The Nanavati Commission Report is about matters that are too serious to be used cavalierly in a debate. On this issue, the Congress government is on trial, not the NDA. The Congress allies should put pressure on the party to table the Report. Immediately.

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