Fortuitously, two prominent columnists confront the question that pops up each time 2002 Gujarat riots are discussed.
First, Mukul Kesavan in the Telegraph: What about 1984?
There had been communal violence right through the early history of the republic with mostly Muslims at the receiving end. The complicity of the lower echelons of the state apparatus in this violence — Uttar Pradesh’s Provincial Armed Constabulary was notorious for its institutionalized animus against Muslims — was widely recognized. But the scale on which Sikhs were killed, the participation of Congressmen at every level, the total complicity of the police and the fact that the butchery happened in the country’s capital, in Delhi, made 1984 a watershed in the history of the republic...
Let us return to our question, namely, “What makes Modi and the BJP worse than the Congress and its dynasts, given the horror of 1984?” The answer is simple and unedifying. The Congress, by a kind of historical default, is a pluralist party that is opportunistically communal while the BJP is an ideologically communal (or majoritarian) party that is opportunistically ‘secular’. The difference between the Congress and the BJP doesn’t lie mainly in the willingness of the former to express contrition about pogroms it helped organize; it is, perhaps, best illustrated by the fact that twenty years after the 1984 pogrom, the Congress assumed office with a Sikh at the helm who served as prime minister for two terms.
Read at the Telegraph: What about 1984?
And Hartosh Singh Bal in the Open gets to the heart of the problem in pointing to the role of media and pliant editors, after pointing out that "Modi is not just unfit for the post of Prime Minister; he is unfit for any public office": The End of Shame:
The Congress reacted very differently in the aftermath of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and Kamal Nath were rewarded for their roles in the killings, and even though Tytler and Sajjan Kumar have subsequently faced cases in court, Kamal Nath has escaped unscathed.
The Congress got away then in a way it cannot now because for much of the 1980s after the massacres, the media abdicated its role. Caught up in the myth of Rajiv Gandhi, it largely ignored the deliberate distortion of evidence before several commissions, the coercion of witnesses and the complicity of the Delhi Police. Many editors of the time who continue to lecture us on public morality today forget that, from 1985 to 1989, they presided over one of the media’s biggest post-Independence failures.
And to buttress his claim, Bal quotes what a prominent editor, Vir Sanghvi, wrote about the 1984 riots a decade back:
‘On the more substantive issue of whether the administration allowed Delhi to burn, all the commissions have been unanimous: yes, it did, but this was because of incompetence and negligence, not because of any sinister design. If there is a parallel, it is with the 1993 Bombay riots rather than with Gujarat.’
Read the full piece at the Open website: The End of Shame