After protests, Congress drops Tytler, Sajjan Kumar (Roundup)

April 9th, 2009 - 9:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, April 9 (IANS) Bowing to protests by Sikhs here and in Punjab, the Congress party Thursday dropped Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar as its Lok Sabha candidates over their alleged involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
Not wanting to hurt its appeal among Sikhs, the Congress decided after intense deliberations that it would be best not to field Tytler and Sajjan Kumar, who were to be two of its seven Lok Sabha candidates from Delhi.

Congress leader Janardhan Dwivedi, an aide to party president Sonia Gandhi, said in the evening that it had been decided that “they will not be the Lok Sabha candidates” in general elections starting April 16.

He added that both Tytler (Delhi North-East) and Sajjan Kumar (South Delhi) had opted out of the contest so as not to vitiate the atmosphere in the run up to the April-May polls.

Their replacements would be announced shortly, the Congress said.

The announcement came on a day of vocal Sikh protests against their candidature. Both men have denied involvement in the killings of more than 3,000 Sikhs in the wake of the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by two of her two Sikh bodyguards in October 1984.

But the allegations have dogged them, and the issue grabbed the national focus again Tuesday after a Sikh journalist, Jarnail Singh, tossed a shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram to protest against the reported clean chit given to Tytler by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Shortly before the Congress announced it was axing both men, Tytler insisted he was innocent and accused the media as well as political rivals of tarnishing his image without evidence.

“I don’t think I should fight (the elections),” Tytler told hordes of journalists at his house in the heart of Delhi. He said he would abide by whatever Sonia Gandhi decided.

Both Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are long-time Congress activists in Delhi and have each been elected thrice to the Lok Sabha.

Among the first to welcome the Congress decision Thursday was journalist Jarnail Singh but he added that justice still needed to be done to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh savagery.

“But I am not feeling victorious,” Jarnail Singh told IANS. “If those who lost their near and dear ones think it’s good, it’s fine. But the culprits of the riots should be brought to book.”

The Congress immediately took a high moral ground.

“The Congress has responded very sensitively to the people’s reactions,” said party spokesman Manish Tewari.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ridiculed the Congress, saying the issue of Tytler’s and Sajjan Kumar’s involvement in the 1984 riots could never be brushed aside.

“Sajjan Kumar and Tytler are two unfortunate faces of the 1984 violence. Ticket is not the matter. They should be booked. Fundamentally, the issue remains,” said BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad.

Hundreds of slogan-shouting Sikh men and women gathered earlier in the day outside a Delhi court which was to decide on the CBI’s closure report in the Tytler case. However, the court put off the hearing to April 28.

There were emotive scenes and elderly survivors of the 1984 killings joined hands with younger Sikhs to break police barricades to try storming the court premises.

“So what if the date of court hearing is changed? We will come again and continue our protests until Tytler is given his due punishment,” Harvinder Singh Khurana of the Akali Dal said outside the court complex.

“I am a victim of those riots. But this is not about the woes of one family. It is about the pain of the entire Sikh community,” Khurana added.

Ajai Kaur, 75, said she lost seven members of her family, including a four-year-old, in those riots that claimed over 2,000 lives in Delhi alone after mobs took over the streets to avenge Indira Gandhi’s death.

“All these years I have waited for justice,” she said. “Another few days’ wait is nothing. I will protest until I die.”

Furious protesters burned Tytler’s effigies, some hurled dark threats if they did not get justice.

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