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|January 27, 1998||
Sonia says sorry to Sikhs for Bluestar, 1984 riots
Sonia Gandhi kicked off the party's election campaign in Chandigarh by tendering a veiled apology for the army storming the Golden Temple, and the anti-Sikh riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Addressing a public meeting at the Ramlila grounds, Gandhi also touched upon the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, rising corruption and crime, the slump in the economy and general lack of governability at all levels, in her ten-minute speech in Hindi.
Indirectly referring to Operation Bluestar, Sonia Gandhi said, "Ju kuchh June 6 ko hua, uska mujhe dukh hua (I am anguished by the events of June 6). The then prime minister Indira Gandhi ordered the army into the Sikh community's holiest shrine on June 6, 1984, after Punjabi militants set up their headquarters within the temple complex and conducted their war against the State from there. Subsequently, she was riddled with bullets by her own bodyguards who held her guilty of sacrilege, which in turn resulted in the worst-ever pogrom against Sikhs allegedly by Congressmen.
On the riots, Sonia Gandhi said she could ''understand'' the pain of Sikhs as she herself had experienced it, losing her husband Rajiv and mother-in-law Indira Gandhi that way.
''There is no use recalling what we have collectively lost. No words can balm that pain. Consolation from others always somehow sound hollow,'' she said.
''Three generations of my family have contributed in the fight for the country's independence. I ask you on their behalf to ensure victory to their dreams.''
Punjab and Haryana, she said, was the bread basket of the country. The hardworking people of Punjab have to learn to put back the years of terrorism and contribute to the nation's growth.
Recalling how Rajiv Gandhi dreamt of a prosperous Punjab, Sonia said, ''So much work is still to be done''.
She, however, reminded the people that no progress was possible in a climate of rising caste and communal politics. ''The politics of division is destroying what was carefully nurtured over years by our great leaders.''
''I have never entertained any political ambitions. I do not have any such dreams now. But how can one sit back quitely in such times,'' she asked.
She began her speech with a ''Namaskar,'' and in Punjabi, ''Sat sri akal.'' She ended her address with the slogan ''Jai Hind'' -- ala her mother-in-law -- three times.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal dubbed Sonia's apology as an ''election gimmick.'' He expressed surprise that it was not Congress president Sitaram Kesri but Sonia who was making such statements.
Neither the Congress's election manifesto released on Saturday or the half-a-dozen manifestoes released since 1984 ever mentioned Operation Bluestar or the anti-Sikh riots, he said.
Even Narasimha Rao visited Punjab twice as prime minister but never uttered a single word of sympathy to the Sikhs, he charged.
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