The Congress was not involved in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 that followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has said, triggering a huge uproar.
Nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed after Mrs Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi's grandmother, was shot by her Sikh bodyguards. Several Congress leaders, including Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are under investigation for instigating the riots. The leaders have denied the allegations.
Mr Gandhi, who is on a two-day visit to the UK, yesterday told an audience of UK-based parliamentarians and local leaders that while the riot was a tragedy, he disagreed with the view that the Congress was "involved".
"I think any violence done against anybody is wrong. There are legal processes ongoing in India but as far as I'm concerned anything done that was wrong during that period should be punished and I would support that 100 per cent," he said. "I have no confusion in my mind about that. It was a tragedy, it was a painful experience. You say that the Congress party was involved in that, I don't agree with that. Certainly there was violence, certainly there was tragedy."
Back home, Akali leader Sukhbir Singh Badal was livid. Mr Gandhi, he said, was trying to protect his party leaders involved in the "genocide".
"Rahul Gandhi has rubbed salt into the wounds of Sikh 'quom' (community) by saying that Congress was not involved in 1984 anti-Sikh riots," Mr Badal was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
Mr Badal said he wanted to ask Rahul Gandhi that if Congress leaders were not involved in the riots why the party withdrew election nominations to party leaders HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. "Why was Jagdish Tytler removed from the ministry in the Manmohan Singh-led government," he said, pointing out that Mr Singh had also apologised for the riots.
In 2005, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh apologised and later, then Congress chief and Rahul Gandhi's mother Sonia Gandhi had expressed regrets for the riots.
In his apology in Parliament in August 2005, Dr Manmohan Singh said: "I apologize 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."
In an interview to news agency Press Trust of India in 2014, Rahul Gandhi had said he shared their sentiments.