Indian minister Tytler resigned under opposition pressure

An Indian minister resigned Wednesday following calls from the opposition to step down after he was implicated in the killings of thousands of Sikhs following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.

Jagdish Tytler resigned as minister in charge of non-resident Indian affairs after an inquiry concluded he may have had a role in stoking the riots. At the time of the riots, he was a senior Congress party official. Mr Tytler told the media that he resigned because he did not want to be an embarrassment to the Congress party leadership, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, whose killing sparked the riots in 1984, Financial Times reports.

Before the resignation, Manmohan Singh, prime minister, assured parliament his government would bring justice to the victims of the riots and would provide jobs to all those orphaned by the riots.

Mr Singh said that the government would take all possible steps to reopen the case against individuals named in the report, which was the culmination of an investigation by retired Supreme Court judge G.T. Nanavati.

The prime minister also said the government would make efforts to ensure riots such as those in 1984, and the ones in 2002 in Gujarat between Hindus and Muslims that killed more than 1,000, would never happen again.

Singh's statement - his first since the commission's report was released Monday - came as hundreds of Sikhs protested for a second straight day, demanding officials implicated by the report be prosecuted, a step the government has so far refused to take.

"My government will take all possible steps within the ambit of law," Singh said Wednesday during a stormy debate in Parliament.

"Our government will consult the Law Ministry to bring the guilty to book," he was quoted as saying by AP.

"What happened was a national shame and a great national tragedy," Singh said.

In its report, the commission found there was credible evidence that Tytler was "very probably" involved in organizing attacks on Sikhs in New Delhi. Tytler was a lawmaker and a senior Congress party official at the time of the riots.

Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said the killings would be investigated further, possibly leading to court trials if enough evidence is found, according to AP.

The commission's report also said three other Congress party leaders - Sajjan Kumar, Dharam Das Shastri and H. K. L. Bhagat - may have taken part in the riots.

The 1984 riots broke out after Gandhi was gunned down in retaliation for the Indian army's assault on the Golden Temple, the holiest site in Sikhism, where militant Sikhs had taken refuge. More than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in cities across northern India in three days of rioting.

The commission - set up by the previous Hindu nationalist-led government - was the ninth panel to investigate the killings. Previous investigations, held mostly during Congress party rule, made little progress. Those being investigated held senior party positions.

Photo by CNN

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