1984 riots: 10 panels later, no action against politicians, policemen yet (24th anniversary of 1984 carnage)

October 31st, 2008 - 10:23 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) It was exactly 24 years ago that former prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, triggering violence, mainly in Delhi, against the community. Nearly 3,000 Sikhs were massacred. But despite two commissions and eight committees set up to identify those responsible for the riots, not one politician or senior police official has been punished.Some of the panels even recommended registration of cases against top Congress politicians but many of the prime accused were never charged with the crimes they were accused of committing.

The government has only doled out compensation to relatives of those killed in the sectarian violence - the worst since the 1947 partition - after a commission headed by retired judge G.T. Nanavati submitted its report in August 2005.

In his report, Nanavati claimed there was evidence against Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and H.K.L. Bhagat for instigating the mobs to attack and kill Sikhs. But the commission failed to pinpoint the role of the Congress functionaries.

A few people have been convicted and given life imprisonment. But no one was given death sentence.

“Both the Marwah Committee (the first enquiry panel formed in 1984) and Nanavati commissions failed to bring out the truth on the 1984 carnage. They failed to fix the responsibility of the state but only criticised the role of police officials,” says Vrinda Grover, a senior lawyer who has closely tracked the various committees and commissions set up since 1984.

In her reckoning, there has been a travesty of justice.

“Not a single politician has been held responsible for the carnage. One committee found six IPS (Indian Police Service) officials directly responsible due to their negligence in duty and recommended termination of their service without holding any further inquiry.

“Strangely, no action was ever taken against them and they retired. But officers at the junior rung were made scapegoats,” Grover told IANS.

Journalist Manoj Mitta, who has chronicled the investigations for over two decades, says the political class “benefitted” from the lumbering confusions of the various committees.

“Both the Nanavati and Mishra Commissions (set up in 1985) were cover up jobs and both saved the skins of politicians and the police,” says Mitta, co-author of a book, “When a Tree Shook Delhi” - a powerful narrative that meticulously details accounts of the massacres.

Mitta believes that thousands of lives could have been saved had people in positions of administrative importance merely done their job.

Despite Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance - he himself is a Sikh - that his government would take all possible steps to reopen or further examine individual cases recommended by the Nanavati Commission, nothing has been done to bring the guilty to book.

“He apologised to the community for the riots and assured them of speedy and fair justice to victims. But what has happened? Nothing.” fumes Trilochan Singh, whose brother was killed in the violence that paralysed Delhi for four long days.

Then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated Oct 31, 1984. Over the next four days, nearly 3,000 Sikhs were set upon and killed in a murder frenzy allegedly planned and led by Congress activists.

The then Congress government was widely criticised for its inaction.

Gurcharan Singh Babbar, president of the All India Sikh Conference, said the story of the investigation of the riots was an “astounding example of how the political establishment used the administrative machinery to blatantly obfuscate the truth, protect the guilty and obstruct the course of justice”.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) closed all cases against Tytler in November 2007 after it submitted a report to a city court stating that no evidence or witness was found to corroborate the allegations against Tytler of leading murderous mobs.

But an Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Sanjeev Jain hauled up the CBI for misleading the court and asked it to reopen cases against Tytler.

Babbar said the community wants the Supreme Court to answer for the failure in not taking action against the perpetrators of the 1984 riots.

“If the Supreme Court can take suo-moto cognisance of issues like the spread of dengue in Delhi, the sealing of commercial enterprises being run from residential premises, the fodder scam of Bihar and pollution in the Yamuna, isn’t the matter of Sikhs important enough for it to take action?” Babbar asked.

The Nanavati commission held then police commissioner S.C. Tandon directly responsible for the riots. But he too, like many others, escaped punishment.

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