Congress Overseas head Sam Pitroda’s "hua toh hua" remarks on 1984 anti-Sikh riots sparked a massive political controversy on Friday providing enough fodder to the BJP to attack the Congress.
As Pitroda's remarks kicked up a storm, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi said Pitroda has said something completely "out of line" and should apologise for his remarks on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
"What Mr Sam Pitroda has said is absolutely and completely out of line and is not appreciated. I will be communicating this to him directly. He must apologise for his comment," Gandhi said.
He noted that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots were a needless tragedy that caused tremendous pain, and said "justice has to be done" and anybody guilty must be punished.
Rahul Gandhi said former prime minister Manmohan Singh has already apologised and so has former Congress president Sonia Gandhi over the anti-Sikh riots.
"We all have made our position very clear and that is the 1984 happenings were a terrible tragedy and should never have happened," he said.
Earlier, the Congress distanced itself from the comments and asked the leaders of the party to be careful and sensitive in future.
Pitroda, on his part, apologised for his remarks and said that they had been “misrepresented and blown out of proportion.”
“The statement I made was completely twisted, taken out of context because my Hindi isn't good, what I meant was 'jo hua vo bura hua,' I couldn't translate 'bura' in my mind,” he said.
“What I meant was move on. We have other issues to discuss as to what BJP govt did and what it delivered. I feel sorry that my remark was misrepresented, I apologise. This has been blown out of proportion,” he added.
Pitroda on Thursday said, 'hua toh hua' (So what, it happened) about the anti-Sikh riots. He made this remark in response to a question on the riots by a newsman in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh.
The BJP demanded that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi apologise to the nation while ally Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and his wife and union minister Harsimrat Kaur said the comments were "disgraceful" and reflected the mindset of the Gandhis.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said it is a matter of disgrace that the party had no remorse over the Sikh killings and wondered if Rahul Gandhi would "oust his Guru" for the remarks.
Latching on to Pitroda's remarks, PM Modi kept up his attack on the Congress while addressing poll rallies in Rohtak and Mandi in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh respectively.
“How Congress ran this country for 70 years, how their mind works, how they are filled with arrogance, they themselves yesterday summed this up in three words”
“Congress, which ruled for maximum period, has been so much insensitive and that is reflected by the three words spoken yesterday. These words have not been spoken just like that, these words are character and mentality and intentions of the Congress.”
“And which were these words, these were 'hua toh hua',” said PM Modi referring to Pitroda's remarks.
'Hua to hua,' PM Modi repeated a number of times during the course of his speech in Rohtak.
“We can very well understand arrogance of Congress and those who run it in these three words--hua to hua,” said Modi.
“Yesterday, one of the tallest leaders of the Congress speaking in a loud voice on 1984 said '84 ka danga hua to hua'. Do you know who this leader is, he is very close to the Gandhi family, he keeps meeting them on daily basis and is their biggest confidant. This leader was very good friend of (late) Rajiv Gandhi and he is Guru of Congress 'naamdar' (dynast) president,” he said.
“For them, they have no value for life, for them a human being is not a human being,” said Modi.
In Mandi, PM Modi said Pitroda's remarks reflected Congress' mindset.
Stating that the Congress had strived to ensure justice for the 1984 riot victims, Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the party continued to support the quest for justice and stern punishment for those found guilty in the anti-Sikh riots, as also the subsequent acts of violence, including the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
"Violence and riots are unacceptable and unpardonable in our society...
"Any opinion or remark made by any individual to the contrary, including Sam Pitroda, is not the opinion of the Congress party. We advise all leaders to be careful and sensitive," Surjewala said in a statement.
Pitroda said the BJP is attacking Congress leaders with "lies" because they cannot talk about their performance and have no vision to take India forward to inclusively growth and prosperity for all with focus on jobs, kids and more jobs.
He took to Twitter to explain his position over the remarks.
"I have noticed how BJP is again twisting three words from my interview to distort facts, divide us and hide their failures. Sad that they have nothing positive to offer.
"I acknowledged the pain of my Sikh brothers and sisters during difficult times in 1984 and deeply feel for the atrocities that happened.
"But these are things from the past that are not really relevant to this election which is all about what did Modi government do for the last five years. Rajiv Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will never target a group of people based on creed," he said.
"Truth is being distorted, lies are being amplified through social media and targeted. People are systematically being intimidated. However, truth will always prevail and lies will be exposed. It is just a matter of time. Have patience."
Union minister and BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said the statement by Pitroda was "irresponsible".
"Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi must apologise for Sam Pitroda's irresponsible statement," he told reporters.
"Today, he has made an even a more dangerous statement. He says that I can acknowledge the pain of Sikh community, but it is not relevant today."
Another union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said Pitroda had rubbed salt into the wounds of the riot victims
Sukhbir Badal asked Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh whether he would continue to remain with the Congress after Pitroda's "disgraceful” comments.
BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra at a press conference in Delhi in the presence of Nirpreet Kaur, a witness to the riots, said the language used by Pitroda is comparable only to the "insensitive, inhuman" remark made by Rajiv Gandhi who in the aftermath of the "genocide" said that "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes."
Activists of the BJP and Akali Dal staged a protest in Amritsar against Pitroda's remarks.
(With PTI inputs)