Jagdish Tytler: My own daughter asks if I killed Sikhs

Jagdish Tytler

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Jagdish Tytler, a former Delhi MP and minister, is among the Congress party members accused of leading the mobs during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Mr Tytler denies any wrongdoing and in March 2009, India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) cleared him. But after an ensuing outcry, his party dropped him as a candidate for the general elections that year. In 2013, a Delhi court ordered the CBI to investigate the allegations against Mr Tytler once more.

In an interview with the BBC's Andrew North, Mr Tytler said he was actually with Indira Gandhi's body in mourning at the key time when he is accused of instigating violence. Below are some edited excerpts from the interview.

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At least 3,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi, and members of the ruling Congress party were widely accused of encouraging the violence.”

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Were you involved in instigating the mobs that killed thousands of Sikhs in November 1984?

First of all, this question is not the right one because I am nowhere involved and nowhere has my name been mentioned. All this perception created by the media is a different thing. The reality is, the court says, the CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation] says "I am not involved".

Where has this perception come from?

The perception came from the Nanavati Commission [set up to investigate the 1984 riots], after 2008. From 1984 to 2007 my name never came up. I was a minister for 11 years and I got elected four times in Sikh-dominated constituencies and I never lost. If I was guilty, people would never have elected me.

Then why have there been investigations into you since? Why do people still say they saw you at those riots?

At the Nanavati Commission, one application was completely false. The second was from Surinder Singh, the main man with whom this whole thing has been built. He says Mr Tytler came and instigated the crowd to go in the gurdwara [Sikh temple] and kill people.

Now, the president and the secretary of the gurdwara say it's a wrong statement. Then Mr Surinder Singh says "I was made to write this because I will get compensation".

So this is a concocted story and I am suffering from this wrong perception. I am a victim of my enemies, maybe within my own party, but I am also a big threat to the [main opposition] BJP. Every known leader of the BJP I have defeated, so they are scared.

If you are innocent of these charges, why did the Congress party withdraw your candidacy at the last elections in 2009?

They did not say this. This is the interesting part. I was given a ticket. Then one journalist in the press conference of the home minister threw a shoe and there was uproar.

So the perception was created that why Mr Tytler - and my colleague Sajjan Kumar - why have they been given tickets?

In this kind of atmosphere, it was harming the party and letting the Congress president [Sonia Gandhi] feel embarrassment and especially the prime minister, who is himself a Sikh - whether Mr Tytler is guilty or not guilty. But I accepted this thing with all my humility.

So you must be angry then with the Congress party for not standing by you?

No, no. It is not like that. What happened is a shameful thing. [The] '84 [riot] is not something anybody can be proud of. And I still say: 'the guilty should be hanged, not punished, should be hanged'. But when this kind of thing happens, I am not above the party. The party has given me a lot.

It appears the Congress party do not want to stand by you?

No, no. I am very proud of my party. We are not above all these things. The party has made me four times a member of parliament. They have given me so much.

When the time came that the party is getting a bad name, then this was a small thing to do for the party.

But we would never do anything like this [take part in 1984 riots]. But such an impression was created that one day my own daughter asked me: "Papa have you killed Sikhs?"

Can you imagine how shamed we felt if my own daughter can think like this? So it is important that it is proved that I am not involved.

But there are still cases being pursued against you - it hasn't gone away, has it?

Excuse me, there is not a single case, not a single case since 1984 till today. Even today there is not a single case. There is an investigation into two affidavits, one has been proven false; the other man himself says that he was made to do it. There is no case. You must get this correct. How can there be a case when there is no complaint?

But I'm struck by the fact that you let the Congress party off, you don't blame them, but it looks like at the very least you have been used as a scapegoat by the Congress party?

No, no. Not a scapegoat. The party is bigger than me. I had my work.

So you had to fall on your sword, for the Congress party?

Yes, well I felt why not. Party gives you everything. Party gives me respect. Party gives me everything that I am today.

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