Impunity enjoyed by 1984 riot accused must end: Amnesty
Chandigarh, Oct 31 (IANS) The impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh massacre must end immediately and authorities should ensure that all those responsible, including those with command responsibility, are brought to justice, Amnesty International India said on Tuesday.
“It is shameful that thousands of victims and survivors are still waiting for justice. If the government wants to revive the faith of these people in the justice system, it must end the impunity around the massacre and bring closure to those who have suffered,” said Asmita Basu, Programme Director at Amnesty International India.
Basu was addressing a discussion ‘Chauraasi Ki Nainsaafi: The continuing injustice for the 1984 Sikh massacre’ here.
The event was held to mark the 33rd anniversary of the 1984 carnage against the Sikh community following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards.
The discussion gave a glimpse into the lives of the families of 15 victims and survivors, and their struggle for justice for over three decades.
Among those who attended the discussion were Lt. Gen. H.S. Panag (retd), Leader of Opposition in the Punjab Assembly Sukhpal Singh Khaira, Amnesty International India Program Manager Sanam Sutirath Wazir, lawyer-activist Navkiran Singh, and carnage eyewitness Darshan Kaur, apart from Basu.
“Over the last three decades, at least 12 inquiry commissions and committees have looked into the 1984 killings,” the Amnesty India said.
“Some of them reported that political leaders from the then ruling party were involved in the attacks. However, only a tiny fraction of those responsible have been brought to justice.”
In February 2015, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs constituted a three-member special investigation team (SIT) to reinvestigate criminal cases filed in Delhi in relation to the 1984 Sikh massacre.
Over two years and three term extensions later, the SIT finally stated in 2017 that it had closed 241 cases and filed charges in just 12 cases.
In August, the Supreme Court set up a panel comprising two former judges to examine the SIT’s decisions to close cases.
Amnesty official Wazir said: “The failure of the SIT follows those of its predecessors, and raises questions about whether authorities are genuinely committed to deliver justice. Until those responsible are punished, there will be no closure for the victims of 1984.”
Darshan Kaur, 57, whose husband was killed in the massacre, said: “We have been advised to forget the past and build our future. For a moment put yourself in our shoes. Is it possible to forget the past? Never. For us Justice is the only way forward. Nothing less will do.”
Kaur broke down on several occasions during the discussion while describing how she lost her entire family.
Lt. Gen H.S. Panag said: “Unarmed people were massacred by people from a political party and the state looked the other way.
“It is a sorry state of affairs for our country. If we forget it then such incidents will continue to happen in India. The recommendations of Amnesty International include effective investigation, and the public should be told what SIT is doing, and should be put under scrutiny of the press and the Supreme Court should monitor the same.”
Leader of Opposition Khaira condemned the fact that even after so many years, justice has not been given to the aggrieved.
“This was a massacre not of Sikhs but humanity and the country felt ashamed at several international forums and this will remain till justice is given. Many known people say it should be forgiven and forgotten but as it has been a long time. We cannot forgive such a carnage.”
Over 600,000 people have supported Amnesty International India’s campaign seeking justice for the victims and survivors of the 1984 massacre.
Nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and other places in the anti-Sikh riots in 1984. Congress leaders and activists were accused of targeting Sikhs during the riots.