New Delhi: Hours after the Delhi High Court convicted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riot case and sentenced him to life imprisonment, politicians across party lines welcomed the judgement saying that justice has been delayed but delivered finally.
Thirty-four years after the gruesome killings, the Delhi High Court said that the violence was a “crime against humanity” engineered by politicians with assistance from police. Setting aside the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar, the court convicted him and five others saying that “criminals” had escaped prosecution and punishment for over two decades.
Who Said What:
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley welcomed the conviction of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and also took a swipe at the opposition party for choosing Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh chief minister, claiming that Sikhs consider him “culpable” in the violence against the community.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal hailed the conviction of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case, saying the verdict has given confidence that the law would soon catch other Congress leaders allegedly involved in the “genocide”.
BJP president Amit Shah said that no one had any doubt on its role in the riots and alleged its “leaders and workers went on rampage raising provocative slogans” and “murdering men in cold blood”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the verdict convicting the 73-year-old Congress leader’s conviction. “It has been a very long and painful wait for innocent victims who were murdered by those in power. Nobody involved in any riot should be allowed to escape no matter how powerful the individual may be,” Kejriwal said on Twitter.
“We hail the justice granted to the Sikh community, although delayed by 34 years. The painful stories that we heard bring to fore the ugly memories and pain of untold dimensions. We hope that all the criminals will be sentenced soon,” said Maharashtra Sikh Association (MSA) convener Bal Malkit Singh.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said that justice to victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots was delayed but not denied. “Justice delayed but not denied. #84riots,” Abdullah had tweeted.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh described it as a case of justice finally delivered to the victims of one of independent India’s worst instances of communal violence.
Meanwhile, Congress said conviction of Sajjan Kumar should not be politicised. “It should not be linked to the political atmosphere prevailing in the country. The law should take its course, there are appeals,” senior Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
What happened in the Court?
Sajjan Kumar was asked to surrender by December 31 and directed not to leave Delhi. “In the summer of 1947, during partition, this country witnessed horrific mass crimes where lakhs of civilians, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus, were massacred,” the bench had said.
“Thirty-seven years later, the country again witnessed to another enormous human tragedy. Following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, on October 31, 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards, a communal frenzy was unleashed.
“For four days between November 1 to November 4, all over Delhi, 2,733 Sikhs were brutally murdered. Their houses were destroyed. In the rest of the country too, thousands of Sikhs were killed,” the bench observed in its 203-page order.
The court said, “A majority of the perpetrators of these horrific mass crimes enjoyed political patronage and were aided by an indifferent law enforcement agency.”
The court convicted the Congress leader under various counts of Indian Penal Code (IPC) including murder, criminal conspiracy, delivering provocative speeches instigating violence against Sikhs, mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy the house and injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class.
The CBI had filed an appeal challenging the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar and said that the trial court “erred in acquitting Sajjan Kumar as it was he who had instigated the mob during the riots”.
In October, the High Court reserved its order on the pleas challenging that trial court judgement on Sajjan Kumar but convicted the other five in the killing of five people in Delhi Cantonment area following Indira Gandhi’s killing.
The HC Division Bench upheld the trial court April 30, 2013 judgement convicting five other accused — former councillor Balwan Khokhar, former legislator Mahender Yadav, Krishan Khokar, Girdhari Lal and Retired Captain Bhagmal — for their involvement in the case.
The five have filed appeals against their conviction. Khokar, Bhagmal, and Lal, who were sentenced to life imprisonment, are currently in jail while the HC has asked Yadav and Krishan to surrender by December 31 and not to leave Delhi.
The HC enhanced the punishment of Yadav and Krishan to 10 years in jail and slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh on each convict.
Sajjan Kumar and the others were charged with the killing of five Sikhs — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh, and Kuldeep Singh, who were members from the same family — by a mob in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area on October 31, 1984.
The HC said the accused had been brought to justice primarily on account of the courage and perseverance of three witnesses: Jagdish Kaur, whose husband, son and three cousins were the five who were killed; Jagsher Singh, another cousin of Jagdish Kaur, and Nirpreet Kaur, who saw the Gurudwara being burnt down and her father being burnt to death.
The court appreciated the CBI saying it was able to win the confidence of the witnesses who spoke up and remained glued to the truth at the trial.
In the riots, thousands of Sikhs were killed as a clash broke out after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
About the anti-Sikh riots
About 2,800 Sikhs were killed across India, including 2,100 in Delhi, during the clash that broke out after then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.
Of the 650 cases registered in connection with anti-Sikh riots in Delhi, 267 were closed as untraced by the Delhi Police. Of these 267 cases, five were later taken up by the CBI. The SIT also scrutinised the records of 18 cancelled cases.
The SIT found 60 cases appropriate for further investigation. It filed “untraced report” in 52 cases in the last one-and-a-half years.
(With agency inputs)