After almost 34 years justice finally prevailed, when the Delhi High Court convicted veteran Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. The court’s rule came after an appeal was filed by the CBI against the trial court’s order acquitting Kumar, along with other connected appeals. The CBI told the court that the Delhi police and the prosecution had manipulated investigations that led to acquittals in the 1984 cases. The court also slammed the role of the officials of the Delhi Police for conniving in the crimes by not taking any immediate action.
Around 442 rioters were convicted, 49 were sentenced to life imprisonment earlier. Kumar, 73, a politician and member of Indian National Congress was earlier acquitted by the trial court in 2013, but the verdict was challenged by CBI which said that he had been involved in a conspiracy of “terrifying proportions” with the police. The High Court also mentioned how the trial court overlooked the larger dimensions of crime, as it failed to properly address the charges of conspiracy and on December 17, 2018, convicted Kumar and sentenced him to a life imprisonment with a fine of Rs. 5 Lakh and was ordered to not to leave Delhi. After the verdict, Kumar said “I tender my resignation with immediate effect from the primary membership of the Indian National Congress in the wake of the judgment of the high court of Delhi against me” in the letter to Rahul Gandhi.
The riots resulted in over 3000 deaths in the capital and the victims of the riots are from the Sikh community, a religious minority, which constitutes about 2% of the population of the country and has been struggling from past three decades for the justice to prevail. The decision of the court is welcomed and gave a sigh of relief to the community. Jasdev Singh Rai of the Sikh Human Rights Group, called the judgment, “a major milestone for worldwide Sikhs”. Earlier this year in January 2018, the Supreme Court of India decided to form a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) of its own to probe 186 cases related to 1984 anti-Sikh riots that were not further investigated by the Union government. Apart from Kumar, several other high profile Congress leaders are accused for their involvement in the riots, including the recently appointed Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler who was the Minister of the State for Overseas Indian affairs at the time. However, they both deny their involvement in the riots and in 2007 CBI closed the case against Jagdish Tytler. The Nanavati commission found that the allegations against Kamal Nath’s involvement lacked evidence.
The year 1984 holds an important dynamic in the political situation of India. It was in the early 1980s when the Sikh separatists in Punjab demanded a separate country, Khalistan. With the rise in armed Sikh Separatists Movement, the Operation Blue Star was launched in the sacred golden temple of Amritsar which was carried out successfully by the Indian military for eight days in June 1984 to subdue the movement. Four months later the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. In the aftermath around 3000 Sikhs were killed by angry mobs in the capital. In a statement issued by Rajiv Gandhi, on 2nd November 1984 about the violence, he said, “Some people are casting a slur on (Indira Gandhi’s) memory by indulging in acts of hatred and violence. This must stop. This violence is only helping the subversive forces. Communal madness will destroy everything India stands for. As for Prime Minister of India, I can not and will not allow this.”
The judgment of the court is welcomed by every section of the society in general and the Sikh community in particular. While Indira Gandhi got justice when her murderers got hanged, it was high time the Sikh community rebuilds its faith in the justice system of the country.