Indira Gandhi was assassinated on 31st October 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards as a revenge for Operation Blue Star. From 1st November to 4th November, Sikhs across the country were killed. The government figures suggest the angry mobs, many of which were led by Congress leaders, brutally murdered 3350 Sikhs. On 19th November 1984, while giving a speech in front of thousands of people, then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi had justified the violence that took place after Gandhi’s assassination. He had said, “Jab bhi koi bada ped girta hai, to dharti thodi hilti hai. (When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.)”
The infamous speech by Rajiv Gandhi
Towards the end of his speech Rajiv Gandhi said, “Hamein Indira ji ka yaad rakhna hai. Hamein yaad rakhna hai ki unki hatya kyun hui. Hamein yaad rakhna hai ki kaun kaun log iske peeche ho sakte hain. Jab Indira ji ki hatya hui thi, to haamre desh mein kuch dange fasaad hue the. Hamein maloom hai ki bharat ki janta ke dil mein kitna krodh aaya, kitna gussa aaya. Aur kuch din ke liye, logon ko laga ki bharat hil raha hai. Lekin jab bhi koi bada ped girta hai to dharti thodi hilti hai. (We should remember Indira Gandhi. We should remember why she was killed. We should remember who can be behind her assassination. When Indira ji was killed, there were some riots in the country. We know how angry the people of India were. And for a few days, people thought that India is shaking. However, whenever a big tree falls, the earth shakes.)” In 2019, Senior Advocate HS Phoolka said that the instruction to kill Sikhs came directly from Rajiv Gandhi’s office.
Role of Amitabh Bachchan in instigating violence against Sikhs
There have been reports that Amitabh Bachchan was also allegedly instigated violence against Sikhs that went unnoticed by the media for a very long time. In 2011, Times of India quoted Jagdish Kaur, one of the prime witnesses in 1984 anti-Sikh riots saying, “I wonder why no one in India lodged case against Amitabh Bachchan for provoking killing of Sikhs.” She said whoever watched Doordarshan at that time know what Bachchan had said. In 2015, CBI summoned Amitabh Bachchan to record his statement about the presence of the main accused Jagdish Tytler at Teen Murti Bhavan on 1st November 1984.
Sajjan Kumar’s conviction
Sajjan Kumar, one of the main accused of the anti-Sikh riots, was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the riots in 2018 by the Delhi High Court. It took 37 years to get a verdict against one of the accused in the riots. Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was a prominent Congress leader in 1984, and he was sentenced in the murder case of five members of a Sikh family.
Case against former MP Chief Minister Kamal Nath
In 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs reopened a case against senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath. He allegedly incited a mob against Sikhs at Gurudwara Rakabganj in Delhi on 31st October 1984, soon after Indira’s assassination. As per the reports, two witnesses came forward to depose against him.
More than 3000 Sikhs killed
As per the government reports, more than 3350 Sikhs were killed in the riots. However, the unofficial figures claim that around 8,000 to 17,000 Sikhs lost their lives.