1984: Hostages of misfortune

1984: Hostages of misfortune

The plight of the victims of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 is a tragedy lying frozen in time, even if sporadically revived. A session's court in Delhi...

The plight of the victims of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 is a tragedy lying frozen in time, even if sporadically revived. A session's court in Delhi has ordered reopening of the case against former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler for his alleged role in inciting murder during the riots.

The rioting touched off by the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi had indeed plunged the nation into a tragedy at a time when Rajiv Gandhi had just taken over. The Government took steps to bring the situation under control, but three senior Congress leaders of Delhi were accused of inciting the mobs to target the Sikhs: H K L Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.

The violence was at no stage found to be government-inspired but politically fomented by individuals. Bhagat is no more while Tytler and Sajjan Kumar are around facing charges. The former's case has been particularly dodgy: the CBI filed a closure report in 2007 and he got a clean chit in September; within four months, again, the court rejected the closure report. The CBI filed another closure report in April 2009 which was accepted by the court. This seems to have gone full circle with its reopening again.

The rioting did not concern any two communities and the human part of it lies in the fact that what is presently on is a matter between the kin of the victims and the alleged perpetrators of violence. It does relate to the suffering of a minority group and, as such, it is apt to be seen in a sequence of major riots targeting the minority groups in the country; Bhagalpur in Bihar, Meerut and Maliana in UP and in different parts of the country after the demolition of the Babri Masjid; Gujarat of 2002 is a class apart, inasmuch as that many political leaders of the Congress were found implicated, nobody ever saw them as government-directed.

Moreover, members of the two communities kept themselves scrupulously apart from the lunatic fringe. A The anti-Sikh riots happened almost three decades back but the cases have dragged on since, reviving painful memories. This makes out a strong case for fast-track courts to leave out the scope for rejection and acceptance of closure reports. What it comes down eventually to is the ceaseless struggle by the family members of the victims to bring the guilty to book.

However, a point of greater worry is the way the CBI has often been made to become a football amid political maneuvering. It is the foremost investigating agency and its manipulation by rulers of the day is nothing short of subverting its aims; Anna Hazare's repeated demand to free the CBI of government control is thus not without merit

This is virtually an election year for the country; polls are due in several States a few months away in a run-up to the general election next year. Politics is not far when even it comes to extracting political advantage out of a human tragedy as the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. While Tytler, in his appearances on news channels, has understandably pleaded innocence, the Akali leaders too have jumped into the fray indicting him.

Deputy Chief Minister of Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal and Akali Dal chief Avatar Singh Makkar have reacted on expected lines, politicizing a human tragedy and manipulation of investigating mechanisms may not produce the results that the political class wants to measure up to its expectations.

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