A horrific pogrom of Sikhs 35 years ago—often referred to as a genocide—could have been averted, according to India's only Sikh prime minister.
Manmohan Singh, who left office in 2014, said this at an event commemorating the 100th birth anniversary of another prime minister, Inder Kumar Gujral.
According to Singh, Gujral visited the then home minister in 1984, Narasimha Rao, advising him to call out the army to prevent mobs from attacking Sikhs in the wake of the assassination of a long-serving prime minister, Indira Gandhi.
"If that advice would have been heeded, perhaps the massacre that took place in 1984 could have been avoided," Singh said.
Rao, who died in 2012, was prime minister from 1991 to 1996.
Many Sikhs around the world believe that he and other senior Congress party officials encouraged a far-reaching and orchestrated attack on Sikhs in retaliation for the murder of Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
Indian police did not intervene as Sikh homes were burned to the ground, Sikh women were raped by gangs, and several thousand Sikhs were killed in Delhi and other cities in India.
This genocidal behaviour set the stage for a similar pogrom directed against Muslims 18 years later in the western state of Gujarat, which was then ruled by Narendra Modi.
Modi is the current prime minister of India and his party embraces a political ideology known as Hindutva, which asserts that the country is a Hindu nation and that Islam and Christianity are foreign to the country.
This alarms members of minorities and their allies, who fear that the current repressive political atmosphere could lead to another even larger genocide.
Singh's public comments are significant in that it's the first time a senior Congress leader has pointed the finger at Rao.
Rao appointed Singh, an Oxford-educated economist, as finance minister in 1991. Together, they worked to liberalize India's economy.