The 1984 anti-Sikh massacre could have been avoided had the then home minister PV Narasimha Rao acted upon the advice of late Inder Kumar Gujral’s advice to call in the Army at the earliest to tackle the violence following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.

Singh was speaking at a function on Wednesday to mark the 100th birth anniversary of IK Gujral. Gujral was the 12th Prime Minister of India between April 1997 and March 1998 and propounded the ‘Gujral Doctrine’ of five principles for maintaining good relations with India’s neighbours.

“When the sad event of 1984 took place, Gujral ji on that very sad evening went to the then Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao and said to him that the situation is so grave that it is necessary for the government to call the army at the earliest. If that advice would have been heeded, perhaps the massacre that took place in 1984 could have been avoided,” Manmohan Singh said.

Singh, when he was the Prime Minister, had apologised in the Parliament over the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.

In his apology in Parliament on August 12, 2005, Dr Manmohan Singh had said: “I have no hesitation in apologizing to the Sikh community. 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.”

“I bow my head in shame that such a thing happened,” the Congress leader had said on the floor of the House.

The 1984 riots followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. At least 3000 innocent Sikhs were killed, mainly in Delhi and Punjab.

Further sharing his bond with Gujral after the Emergency of 1975-77, Dr Manmohan Singh said: “He was the minister of Information and Broadcasting and he had problems with some aspects of the management of emergency and then he was removed to the planning commission as minister of state. I was then an economic advisor with the ministry of finance… Thereafter our relationship grew”.

“ Gujaral ji and I were born in the same district of Jhelum in Pakistan and that was a bond which sustained us for a large part of the journey that he and I have travelled together (to become Prime Ministers)..,” Singh added.

Former President Pranab Mukherjee, who also spoke at the event, regretted the then Congress High Command’s decision to withdraw support from IK Gujral-led United Front government in 1998 and added that if such a decision had not been taken, BJP would not have come to power.