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Opinion | The lapse of 1984

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior Congress leader Dr. Karan Singh, former vice-president Hamid Ansari, former President Pranab Mukherjee and EAM S Jaishankar pay tributes to former prime minister IK Gujran on his 100th birth anniversary, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)Premium
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, senior Congress leader Dr. Karan Singh, former vice-president Hamid Ansari, former President Pranab Mukherjee and EAM S Jaishankar pay tributes to former prime minister IK Gujran on his 100th birth anniversary, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo)

Manmohan Singh's words should serve as an occasion for us to reflect on the very notion that citizens’ lives should depend on the response of an individual in a position of power

For decades before 1984, the year had etched itself in the mindspace of a global intelligentsia as an Orwellian marker of a dystopic future. The year itself proved a nightmare. Not in Oceania, but India—especially in Delhi and other cities of the northern region after the 31 October assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The mob violence in the capital that followed has been a touchy issue for the Congress party, and so any openness from its leaders on what was going on with governance during those dark days is refreshing, if such a word can be used in a context as grim as this. Either way, it is to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s credit that he has said what he did on Thursday.

Speaking at a function to mark the centenary birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral, Singh recounted what Gujral had conveyed to the home minister at the time. “When the sad event of 84 took place, I.K. Gujralji went to the then home minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and told him the situation is so grave that it’s necessary for the government to call the Army at the earliest," said Singh, “If that advice had been heeded, perhaps the 84 massacre could have been avoided."

As expressions of regret go, it couldn’t be any clearer. Instead of a brouhaha getting stirred up over the former prime minister’s words, it should serve as an occasion for us to reflect on the very notion that citizens’ lives should depend on the response of an individual in a position of power.

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