On 8 May, during this year’s Lok Sabha elections, the prime minister Narendra Modi addressed a rally in the Fatehabad town in Haryana. The town borders the state of Punjab and has a significant Sikh population. “This chowkidar of yours promised the Sikh society and the country that he will punish the perpetrators of the 1984 riots,” Modi told the crowd. “I am confident that the process of giving life sentences or death sentences to the guilty has been started.” Modi also referred to the Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s remark—“1984 happened, so what?”—to label the party as an “enemy” of the Sikh community. It should be noted that Pitroda had apologised for his remark and the Congress president Rahul Gandhi also criticised Pitroda for the comment. In another rally, in Punjab, the Bharatiya Janata Party national president Amit Shah asserted that the BJP and Narendra Modi were well-wishers of the Sikh community. “In 1984, thousands of Sikhs were killed and none of the accused were punished,” Shah said. “But after the Modi government came to power, families of the victims finally got justice.” Shah asserted that Sajjan Kumar, a three-time member of parliament from the Congress, was convicted for killing five members of a Sikh family and sent to jail by the special investigation team constituted by the Modi government.
However, despite anger against the incumbent Congress state government in Punjab, the Lok Sabha elections did not yield significant results for the opposition parties. The Shiromani Akali Dal, a BJP ally, did not have a good showing and the “Modi wave” failed to have any impact in the state. During these elections, the Akali Dal and the BJP repeatedly raised the 1984 massacre with a lot of bombast. The 1984 Sikh massacre is an unforgettable tragedy in the history of the Indian republic. Several human-rights activists and intellectuals believe that if the 1984 massacre had not happened, the 1992 anti-minority riots and the 2002 anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat would not have occurred either. The 1984 and 2002 massacres get raised as poll planks in every election and the BJP’s leaders have consistently used the 1984 massacre to deflect questions on the 2002 pogroms.
So, do the BJP and Modi—the 2002 massacre of Muslims occurred on his watch—have the moral right to talk about the 1984 massacre? Can the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh truly be well-wishers of the Sikh community? The RSS’s agenda is to homogenise India into a nation with one colour, one ideology and one culture and the Sangh Parivar’s leaders, big or small, constantly spread hate against minority communities. Along with these questions, we also need to find answers to the Sangh’s role when the state of Punjab was burning in the decade of the 1980s.