NEW DELHI — As their 5-year-old daughter watched from the lap of her cousin, assassinated Parliament member Lalit Maken and his wife were cremated here Thursday at a funeral attended by 10,000 followers--Hindus and Sikhs.
The couple and another man were shot to death early Wednesday by two men who escaped on a stolen motor scooter.
At the cremation ceremony, another member of Parliament charged that Maken, a popular labor leader and a political ally of Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was killed by terrorists misled by a report charging that he incited mobs against Sikhs after the assassination of Indira Gandhi last fall.
"Extremists killed him, misled by the report" of two civil liberties organizations, said Jagdish Tytler, a member of the ruling Congress-I Party from the Delhi union territory. "It was false witness."
Fears for Own Life
Tytler, standing on the steps leading to the sandalwood cremation pyre as a wailing crowd of mourners surged around him, said he feared that he also might be killed.
The bodies of Maken, 34, who was elected to Parliament in Rajiv Gandhi's landslide in December, and his politician wife, Getanjali, were driven four miles through the streets of New and Old Delhi--the new capital area and the ancient city built by the Mogul emperors--atop an open truck bed. Police were able to control the crowds of mostly young, mostly Hindu Congress-I workers, dressed in the white-spun cotton party uniforms.
Despite speculation that Maken may have been assassinated by Sikh terrorists, many Sikhs attended the cremation, including a delegation from the main Sikh temple.
"He (Maken) was the only liberal man in Parliament, the voice of labor who understood the heart of the people," said Dilbagh Singh, 40, a Sikh telephone-company engineer who lived near Maken in the industrial west side of the capital.
Dilbagh Singh said he did not believe reports that Maken had encouraged low-level party workers to attack Sikhs and torch Sikh homes and businesses during November's post-assassination riots.
In a mostly undocumented report issued by the People's Union for Civil Liberties and the People's Union for Democratic Rights, two attorneys' groups that generally take an anti-government stance, it was alleged that Maken bribed and gave liquor to members of the violent mobs that attacked Sikhs.
Meanwhile, some in the funeral crowd speculated that people other than Sikhs might be responsible for the deaths. "I think it was a capitalist who did it because he (Maken) was so much for the labor cause," said Mamchand Rewaria, general secretary of the All-India Scheduled Caste Federation.
Police have made no arrests. Indian Home Minister S.B. Chavan told Parliament that Maken had received a threatening letter four days before his assassination. On Wednesday, a relative said Maken had been warned two months ago by the prime minister's office that he was on a terrorist "hit list."