New Delhi: The 1984 anti-Sikh riots is back in the political spotlight with Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday defending his earlier statement saying that there was no involvement of the Congress party, other than a few leaders in their individual capacity.

The controversy was kicked off after party chief Rahul Gandhi, during a visit to London last week, described the 1984 riots as a “very painful tragedy", but disagreed with the view that the party was “involved". Gandhi’s comments drew a sharp reaction from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a war of words broke out between the two sides.

“The incident took place when Indira (Gandhi) was killed. Rajiv Gandhi was in Calcutta when he got the news. It is absolutely wrong to blame them. There was no Congress involvement except some people. Those people I have been naming for the last 34 years. I have named Sajjan Kumar, Dharam Das Shastri, Arjun Das, Bhagat and one more person. I got those names when I had travelled to the refugee camps on my own. It was not a party matter, it was individuals who did it and they are being tried," said Singh.

Sajjan Kumar could not be immediately reached for a comment. When asked if the Congress party agreed with Singh’s comments, senior party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters: “I am confirming what Captain is saying, but without taking any names. I have said that political careers of key Congress people were damaged, prosecution happened and it was an unfortunate incident...it was a legal procedure." The BJP, however, continued its attack on the Congress party and said that the latter was aggravating the wounds of the Sikh population. “The Congress party did not have a hand in the 1984 riots, in fact the entire party was involved in it. Instead of healing their wounds, they are aggravating them further," said BJP leader R.P. Singh, while addressing a press conference.

Political observers said that the issue should be avoided even though it may not have immediate political repercussions. “Politically, if the Congress party is giving a clarification, it indicates that they are accepting that there is some role. They should not have started the debate and should have avoided it. With no elections in the next few months, it may not lead to political repercussions immediately. As elections get closer, more such issues are likely to be brought up," Ghanshyam Dev, a Punjab-based political analyst said.

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