Jagdish Tytler was amid a group of women who had come to his New Delhi residence on Raksha Bandhan day to tie rakhi on his hand. As the women left, Tytler claimed that three of them were widows of Sikhs killed in the 1984 riots. He said: "You should have heard them speak, they were praising me for saving their lives as well as those of their near and dear ones, including children, during the riots. You go to my area, Sangam Vihar, and you can hear many Sardar families saying this. But the Nanavati Commission and the media seem to have fallen for the vilification campaign against me engineered by political adversaries." In an interview he gave Venkitesh Ramakrishnan, Tytler outlined his plans to counter the "campaign" and reclaim his "rightful political space". Excerpts:
Your statement in Parliament saying that your name was dragged into the Nanavati Commission report took many by surprise. What was the rationale behind the statement?
So much was and is being said about me within and outside Parliament in relation to the Nanavati Commission report. I thought I should place on record my reactions too.
Did the urge to do this emanate from a feeling that the Congress was not doing enough to defend you?
No, there is no such feeling. But I thought I should place on record the facts from my side too.
There is a view that your statement is not founded on sound political logic. You resign from the Union Council of Ministers on the basis of the report, virtually granting it authenticity, but later castigate it and question its credibility...
I have repeatedly said that my resignation should in no way be viewed as granting authenticity to the charges against me. In fact, even the Union Cabinet, which has gone through the report, in all probability in consultation with the Law Ministry and the Attorney-General's office, has said there is no merit in the charges against me. The government's Action Taken Report [ATR] made it clear that the observation of the Commission was such that it was not absolutely sure about my involvement in the riots. But, the Opposition BJP [Bharatiya Janata Party] and the NDA [National Democratic Alliance] as well as my friends, the communists, picked up the report in such a manner that they made it into a larger-than-life issue. This situation caused Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to say that he is ready to go in for a re-investigation of the cases. And, I thought, when the Prime Minister said something like that it was not morally right for me to continue as a Minister. In fact, I wrote my resignation letter within minutes of the Prime Minister making the "re-investigation" statement in Parliament. I was sitting behind him in the Lok Sabha and as soon as he made the statement I went out and wrote my resignation letter.
Why do you think the Prime Minister decided to go in for re-investigation? Obviously, he was convinced of the deficiencies in the ATR.
I think what weighed with him was the sentiment of the House. The Opposition BJP and the [Shiromani] Akali Dal were naturally calling for a re-investigation. But our own partners, the communists, were demanding the same. The representations were so vociferous that the Prime Minister, as the leader of the government, was compelled to make a political response. So, he must have decided to clear all doubts once and for all. And I, on my part, decided that I should not hold office when this re-investigation is on.
But you have said that there is a conspiracy behind the charges against you.
I have the facts to make this assertion. The cases that have been stated in the Nanavati Commission report with reference to me relate to the burning of Gurdwara Pul Bangash and the killings of Shri Thakur Singh and Shri Badal Singh. Interestingly, FIRs were filed on both counts in 1984 itself and the judgments were given in 1997. In one case, 13 people were convicted and in another 31 were acquitted. I was not named in the FIRs of either of the criminal cases and naturally there was no conviction or acquittal. But all of a sudden, after 21 years, my name appears in a report of a commission, which was rustled up by the BJP government. If this does not smell of conspiracy, what does?
But you have also said that you suspect even some Congress leaders as being part of the conspiracy.
Of course, I feel so. See, there is this perception in large sections of the party's rank and file that I am the only person who is capable of replacing Sheila Dixit as the Chief Minister of Delhi. Put bluntly, there is a threat perception among quite a number of Delhi Congress leaders about me. The present Delhi government leaves a lot to be desired and the people are looking for an alternative personality within the Congress. It is in this context and the context of my acceptability that I feel that some of my party people must also have taken part in this conspiracy.
Sajjan Kumar, another Member of Parliament from Delhi, has been named in the report and he too has resigned, as Chairperson of the Delhi Rural Development Board. Do you think that he is also being persecuted?Please do not take our names together.
So how do you propose to counter the perceived persecution?
My resignation is itself one of the counter moves. I want the truth to come out. The inquiry has to take place in a time-bound manner, whoever conducts it, the highest court or the highest investigating agency. I want it desperately that the inquiry must be time-bound. Politically, I have always been with the people of my constituency, whether I am an MP or not. My social status does not depend on official positions. But once I am cleared legally of the 1984 charges, I may have to take up some serious political exposes.What kind of exposes?Wait and watch.