Amritsar: A move by Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan to get a clean chit from the
Sikh clergy after his name was dragged into the 1984 anti-Sikh
riots is facing opposition from sections of the community.
Bachchan's plea to the Jathedar (head) of the Akal Takht, the
highest temporal seat of Sikh religion, Gurbachan Singh, through a
letter dated Nov 28, in which he pleaded his innocence in the
anti-Sikh riots, is likely to be considered for discussion by the
five Sikh high priests at a meeting here Dec 22.
The letter was delivered to the Akal Takht head by the Shiromani
Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) member from Mumbai, Gurinder
Singh Bawa. The letter from the actor came after he was invited by
the Punjab government for the inauguration of the Khalsa Heritage
Complex's 'Virasat-e-Khalsa' monument at Anandpur Sahib last month
but he did not come after sections of the Sikh community objected.
In his letter, Bachchan wrote: "I am addressing this letter to you
with a most pained heart. Wild, irresponsible and most unfounded
allegations, by certain sections of the Sikh community, about my
involvement in the inciting of violence against them during the
most unfortunate Sikh riots of 1984, soon after the death of
Shrimati Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, has
caused me acute agony.
"These vicious allegations have caused me deep hurt, particularly
when they were levelled at a time when I had accepted the
invitation from the Punjab government to attend the inaugural
ceremony of the historical Khalsa Heritage Complex at Sri Anandpur
Sahib, the birthplace of the Khalsa Panth. I was indeed looking
forward to attending this sacred ceremony and sharing the immense
pleasure and divine bliss with the Sikh Sangat, but declined
because I did not want to be the cause for any embarrassment at
this historical function.
"Now that the ceremony is over, I wish to take this opportunity to
vehemently and categorically deny these allegations against me
which are completely baseless, false and untrue. The Nehru-Gandhi
family and our family have old ties from our city of origin,
Allahabad. We have been together in each other's hour of grief and
joy, but to allege that I was a part of the crowd that incited
them to raise anti-Sikh slogans is a preposterous and blatant lie.
Quite contrarily, I have always propagated the soothing of injured
feelings and the maintenance of serenity. The unfortunate
incidents of the riots of 1984 against the Sikhs shall always
remain a blot and a dark phase in the history of our country, a
country that prides itself in its secular credentials."
Bachchan even attached a copy of a photograph of his maternal
grandparents, who were from a Sikh family. He pointed out that his
maternal grandfather, Khazan Singh Suri, was a bar-at-law from
England and that his mother, Teji Bachchan, came from a Sikh
Akal Takht head Gurbachan Singh, while acknowledging that he had
got the letter, said: "The matter is linked to Sikh sentiments.
The five Singh Sahibaan (Sikh high priests) will consider his
letter and discuss the matter at their meeting. Whatever they
decide, the next action will be taken accordingly."
Bachchan pointed out that he had come to the holiest of Sikh
shrines, Harmandar Sahib (popularly known as the Golden Temple),
here in December 2007 for prayers after the passing away of his
However, Sikh organisations and independent witnesses have now
come forward claiming that Bachchan, then close to the Gandhi
family, had come out of the All India Institute of Medical
Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi Oct 31, 1984, and instigated crowds.
A California-based Sikh, Manjit Singh, who lived in the Kalu Sarai
area of Delhi then, said in an affidavit to Akal Takht that he
himself saw Bachchan instigating people. Bachchan later became an
MP for three years representing the Congress party.
The All India Sikh Students Federation (AISSF), in a statement,
alleged that Bachchan's slogans were broadcast in 1984 by the
state-owned Doordarshan TV and All India Radio (AIR). The AISSF
said independent witnesses like Jagdish Kaur, Babu Singh Dukhiya
and others who watched the relay on Doordarshan and saw Bachchan
inciting violence are ready to testify in this matter before the
AISSF said the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, which controlled the
Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC), was trying to give
a clean chit to Bachchan.
Nearly 7,000 Sikhs were killed in the November 1984 anti-Sikh
riots in various parts of the country following the assassination
of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards in New Delhi Oct 31,
1984. Over 3,000 were killed in Delhi alone.
(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)