NEW DELHI: The former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday tweeted a sharp attack at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, suggesting that there has been a spike in instances of lynching after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
“Before 2014, the word ‘lynching’ was practically unheard of. #ThankYouModiJi,” the 51-year-old Congress leader said in a Twitter post on Tuesday in Hindi and English.
Gandhi’s swipe at PM Modi comes against a backdrop of instances of lynching of two accused following instances of alleged desecrations at Sikh shrines in Punjab over the past week. On Saturday, a man was killed over an alleged sacrilege bid at the Golden Temple. The following day, a second person was beaten to death for reportedly disrespecting the Sikh flag at a gurudwara in Punjab’s Kapurthala district.
Amid simmering tensions over the two incidents, a row broke out on Monday over Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu’s comment at a public meeting on Sunday who demanded public execution for those found guilty of sacrilege “Anyone can make a mistake, but this is not a mistake, this is a conspiracy to weaken and finish the society,” he added.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Tom Vadakkan promptly clapped back. “The dynast should remember 1984 and the anti-Sikh riots — that’s what set precedent to the act of lynching,” said Vadakkan, who was in the Congress for years before the one-time aide to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, joined the BJP in 2020.
“Why is Congress dragging BJP into this state (Punjab) matter? This is their election game plan.”
Former minister and senior BJP leader Prakash Javadekar also hit back at Rahul Gandhi.
“Get facts right. 2000+ Sikhs were lynched in 1984 & Congress justified it. Selective amnesia will not work. We condemn all lynching,” Javadekar said.
The 1984 riots took place when mobs, some allegedly including members of the Congress party, killed members of the Sikh community in retaliation for the assasination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s by her Sikh bodyguards. Over 2,700 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone.
To be sure, the National Crime Records Bureau, the government agency mandated to compile crime statistics, does not maintain figures of lynching. It did make an effort in 2017 but never published the data that was collected, reportedly due to flaws in the data since lynching is not classified as a separate offence in the penal code.
A Supreme Court recommendation in 2018 to enact a special law to penalise lynching is still pending consideration.