Justice eludes Sikhs
Justice eludes Sikhs, An estimated three thousand members of the Sikh community died across the nation in the violence that triggered after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984.
An estimated three thousand members of the Sikh community died across the nation in the violence that triggered after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. That those killed had no role in the assassination carried out by Gandhi’s security guards is not in doubt. Also not in doubt is the fact that the killing was a sequel to her ordering security forces to free the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the community’s principal shrine from the armed militants who had seized it. The contentious part is whether the violence was spontaneous or was organised.
But the fact remains that thirty years down, few have got justice and a few more have received compensation. And many alleged that masterminds of riots have gone unpunished. Of them, Congressmen Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar have worked the judicial system to escape punishment, so far.
Successive governments have apologised to an angry community and promised justice. As Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, a Sikh himself, had tendered an unconditional apology to the community and the nation. But as Punjab Lok Sabha polls showed last year, the lawyers who had taken up the cases of victims’ families through the labyrinthine court procedures in Delhi, won, making a political point.
Eleven committees and commissions have gone into the whole matter. Yet, allegations persist that crucial evidence and testimony have been overlooked. There is now a move to set up a 12th, in the form of a special investigation team (SIT) after a panel headed by retired Justice G P Mathur found 225 cases worth fresh probing.
There is no official announcement, but the word has gone out in time for the Delhi elections – which makes one suspect a political motive to woo the Sikhs of Delhi. It is likely that the government that takes office after the Delhi polls will take up the matter. It is to be seen how the NDA government at the Centre, having one more stick to beat the Congress, deals with the issue. This government has hiked the rates of compensation, but that is hardly real justice, coming as it does so late in the day.
There is always the temptation to make political capital out of a tragedy. In the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls, one saw comparisons being made between the 1984 riots and those that occurred in Gujarat in 2002 – as if one was better than the other. For Akali Dal, senior NDA partner ruling in Punjab, this has always been a political point to score vis-a-vis the Centre.
Hence, no purpose would be served and justice would remain elusive to the victims, unless the government is serious about conducting the probe, fixes responsibilities on individuals and groups and punishes the guilty. After three decades, most victims in Delhi where maximum killings occurred continue to live in slums. They have little to look forward to, except a sense of relief and satisfaction.