- Sheila Dikshit took charge as Delhi Congress chief today
- Jagdish Tytler was at the event, and it turned controversial
- Mr Tytler, 74, was seen in the front rows, which provoked criticism
As Sheila Dikshit took charge as Delhi Congress chief today, the presence of 1984 riots-accused Jagdish Tytler at the event became controversial. Mr Tytler, 74, was seen in the front rows, which provoked criticism that the Congress was "again rubbing salt into the wounds of Sikhs".
"Why should he not come, we are privileged to have him here," Ms Dikshit said in a comment that was instantly attacked.
Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, an ally of the ruling BJP, said: "Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi to Rahul Gandhi, Tytler was their right hand man. It is a clear signal to Sikhs of the country." Another leader of her Akali Dal, Manjinder Singh Sirsa, said the Congress deliberately had Mr Tytler in the forefront to intimidate 1984 witnesses. "The Congress wants to send a message to the witnesses that the party high command supports Tytler and nobody should even try to testify against him," he said.
Mr Tytler, a former union minister, has been a persistent embarrassment for the Congress, which has been pummelled by the BJP, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and other parties over allegations of shielding its leaders accused in the anti-Sikh riots. At least 3,000 people were killed in the violence that erupted in the aftermath of the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
Mr Tytler argues that the charges against him have not been proved. "What can a man say when the Court has given a verdict. You also mention my name. Why? Is there an FIR? Is there a case? No? Then why do you take my name? Someone said that and you believed it," he told reporters indignantly.
But he has been accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of inciting a mob that killed three persons. The CBI later tried to close the case but the court has not accepted it.
Mr Tytler became a minister in the Manmohan Singh government in 2004 but had to quit as the 1984 riot allegations kept dogging him.
The allegations came back to haunt the party after another riot-accused leader, Sajjan Kumar, was sentenced to life in jail in December by the Delhi High Court, which cancelled an earlier court order letting him off.
Mr Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were both accused by riot victims of leading mobs and goading them to target Sikhs in Delhi.
Kamal Nath, another Congress leader whose name has come up in witness accounts, faced protests after he was picked by party president Rahul Gandhi as Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
In April last, Mr Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were asked to leave the stage before Rahul Gandhi's arrival for a protest fast at Mahatma Gandhi's memorial Rajghat in Delhi.
They were ordered to sit below, with ordinary Congress workers.