November 1984 Sikh massacre and convictions in 2002 Gulberg Society killings

1984 attack

Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, June 17: The Sikh leaders cutting across party lines should feel ashamed. Those pursuing the 2002 Gulberg Society massacre have succeeded in getting some of the accused convicted with the sentence varying from life imprisonment to few years in jail. The victims of anti-Sikh violence in November 1984 following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Delhi and at other places have lost hope of getting any justice.

While a lot of cacophony was raised when Kamal Nath was appointed incharge of the Congress affairs in Punjab earlier this week, no leader concerned  was available today to comment on the failure  to get convictions in November 1984 cases. Nath had to be withdrawn from the Punjab scene within hours as he is perceived to be involved in violence in front of Gurdwara Rakab  Ganj in 1984. The perception has been reinforced as eye witness account appeared last year in the book by journalist Sanjay Suri who was with The Indian Express in Delhi then. Kamal Nath has never been charge-sheeted.

In case of Gulberg Society massacre, a special designated court on Friday awarded life imprisonment to 11 persons convicted for murder while twelve other convicted were given seven years imprisonment and one was given 10 years jail. The  Special Investigating Team  had demanded death sentence.

Ex-Congress  MP Ahsan Jafri and 69 others were killed by the mobs in Gulberg Society, a Muslim locality in Ahmedabad on February 28, 2002. The court has described the tragedy as the  “darkest phase in civil society”. There were a total of 66 accused out of whom eleven  were found guilty of murder, unlawful assembly, loot and arson. Six had died during trial.

It was advocate Teesta Setalvad who had launched relentless struggle to get justice to the victims in these riots. She has described the verdict as ‘weak and diluted’. But then the accused have been sentenced unlike in case of November 1984 anti-Sikh violence. This is the basic issue and it raises question mark over sincerity  and commitment of the leaders who revert to this narrative in every election in Punjab.

When the leaders from Akali Dal and AAP  blasted the Congress for appointing  Kamal Nath as Punjab incharge, they should have also told the people in Delhi and Punjab as what have they done so far to get the accused convicted. Now another SIT has been constituted but this is more a political ploy in view of the forthcoming Assembly election in Punjab in February 2017. It is part of the competitive politics between Akali Dal-BJP combine and AAP.

For years, it was the team led by H S Phoolka that was taking up these cases. He subsequently fell out with the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee and the Akali Dal leadership. He is now part of Aam Aadmi Party. But then Teesta Setalvad is not a member of any political  party but a fearless fighter for human rights.

Several commissions have been constituted to probe November 1984 planned violence without reaching any logical conclusion. Even a section of the victims have now compromised to the situation.

What happened in November 1984 spread over three days in Delhi was total madness  with the connivance of the leaders from the Congress. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi’s justification is also on record when he talked of “when a big tree falls”.

Today when accused in Gulberg Society  massacre have been sentenced, the leaders in Punjab and Delhi who are associated with politics over 1984 tragedy should at least do some introspection  about their  own role. It has been 32 years and a generation has changed. Rather trhan raising heat and dust over  peripheral issues, these leaders should even now focus on getting the guilty convicted, they way Teesta fought these cases.

Both the SGPC and DSGMC  have huge resources at their command. Moreover, the Akali Dal is part of the government in Delhi for the second time since 1984. The Akali Dal should stop exploiting Sikh sentiments on this issue in case the party can’t pursue the cases seriously which has never been done. Let there be no hypocrisy and double-speak.


Jagtar Singh


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