Former PM’s daughter Daman Singh recalls in her book how the house in Delhi’s Ashok Vihar was saved by her brother-in-law, because he was ‘not a Sikh’.
New Delhi: The controversy over Rahul Gandhi’s comment that no Congressmen were involved in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 refuses to die down.
In his remarks in London on 24 August, the Congress president had also mentioned the apology offered by Dr Manmohan Singh to the Sikh community in 2005, when he was prime minister.
“I have no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution,” the former PM had said in the Rajya Sabha. “On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head in shame that such a thing took place.”
However, not many people know that Manmohan Singh’s family and house in Ashok Vihar, Delhi, also came under attack by a mob. The incident has been narrated by his daughter Daman Singh in her 2014 book Strictly Personal. Daman worked in the field of rural development and is an author.
At the time, Manmohan Singh was the governor of the Reserve Bank of India, and had come to Delhi to pay tribute to prime minister Indira Gandhi who was assassinated on 31 October 1984 by her Sikh bodyguards, for authorising Operation Blue Star at the Golden Temple in Amritsar earlier that year.
Also read: Congress was involved in 1984 anti-Sikh riots – I saw & reported it
He recalls: “I came to lay a wreath when she was lying in state at Teen Murti Bhavan. But I couldn’t attend the funeral. At that time, I was advised that the communal atmosphere was too surcharged. And I could see houses burning, taxi stands burning.”
Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur had built a house in Ashok Vihar, where their eldest daughter Upinder Singh and her husband Vijay Tankha were living. Daman was studying in Anand, Gujarat, at the time.
On 5 November, Daman got a letter from her mother, in which the latter wrote: “A gang came to burn our house in Ashok Vihar, but Vijay saved it. Some people said that actually this house belongs to a Sikh, but Vijay told them he had bought the house and he was the owner. Even Panditji (the priest at the temple opposite the house) joined those people.
“At some places Hindu neighbours came forward and protected their Sikh neighbours, but….(not everywhere). The whole thing is so sickening. Mrs Gandhi’s assassination was bad enough but what has happened afterwards is absolutely disgusting.”
Also read: If Rahul Gandhi can be cornered for 1984, why not Narendra Modi for 2002?
In a later part of the book, Daman writes that when her parents came to Delhi from Mumbai, they spent the first few weeks in Ashok Vihar.
“Several houses in the area still bore the signs of the riots. It was hard to forget what had happened. And it was hard to imagine what would happen in the future. Kiki (Upinder) and Vijay didn’t want our parents to live there, ever. They advised them to sell the house. The house belonged more to my mother than anyone else.”
Finally, the family sold the house in 1986.