Raising issue of justice for victims of 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom mainly during poll time


Jagtar Singh

Chandigarh, November 2: It is 32 years when innocent Sikhs in Delhi were subjected to brutality that was unprecedented in India since partition of the country in 1947. Barbaric might be a soft term for burning to death hundreds of Sikhs by putting tyres around their necks in the streets of  India’s capital, a city that otherwise is supposed to be the most secure.  The dance of death, rape of women and burning of property went on for three days. However, there has been no closure as there has been no justice. The Sikh  bodies too should  share the blame  for this situation. In Gujarat, a resolute Teesta Setalvad pursued  cases of 2002 riots to the logical conclusion and succeeded in some of them. Nothing like that happened in case of 1984 anti-Sikh violence.

Earlier, it was the Akali Dal that used to rake up  Operation Bluestar and November 1984 anti-Sikh violence during elections. Now this party has the company in Aam Aadmi Party. Some leaders of this party would sit on one day fast on November 3 at Gurdwara Amb Sahib in Mohali to seek justice. AAP made its first assertion in the Punjab political arena by winning four seats in 2014 Lok Sabha election that surprised even the AAP leadership as the party had failed miserably all over the country.  However, it is only a few months before the Assembly elections due in February 2017 that these people in Punjab have remembered the tragedy. Of course, the first AAP government in Delhi had announced to set up SIT to re-open probe into that tragedy.

At the political level, November 1984 has ceased to be a factor influencing voter behaviour. The Sikhs in Delhi too changed their attitude towards the Congress within a decade. The Sikhs outside Punjab have different concerns. The Delhi Akali Dal headed by Paramjit Singh Sarna opted for the Congress in Delhi as the Shiromani Akali Dal got into political arrangement with the BJP. Delhi too had a two party system before AAP made its appearance in the national capital.

Advocate H S Phoolka had been pursuing these cases but he had some issues with the SGPC later. Phoolka is now one of the AAP faces in Punjab. AAP MLA Jarnail Singh shot into prominence when as a journalist, he threw a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram to  draw the attention on 1984 violence. He later joined AAP. However, these people have little impact on the political discourse in Punjab that is dictated by a different dynamics.

Hundreds of Sikhs migrated to Punjab after November 1984 violence and they continue to stage demonstrations  seeking relief from the government. These victims now dictate their terms when some party tries to use them. The benefits sought are mainly at personal level. It is the Akali Dal-BJP alliance that has been in power in the state since 2007.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh apologised in Parliament for what happened in November 1984 and this could have paved the way for closure. However, this was a half measure. The bigger culprits-the senior Delhi Congress leaders-  are still to be punished. Of course, trials are going on but it has taken too long. Going by the cliché, justice delayed is justice denied.

While nothing much has been done in these cases,  there was success in some cases as even a minister was awarded punishment in Gujarat. The riots took place when  Narendra Modi was the chief minister and the administration, like in Delhi in 1984, looked the other way. There are parallels.

The cases in Gujarat were pursued with total commitment and dedication that has been missing in case of November 1984 anti-Sikh violence. The dedication of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee and the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee was limited mainly to allocation of funds  to pursue the cases. It was mainly Phoolka and his team that was entrusted with this responsibility. He fell out with these bodies subsequently.

Now he is among those who would perform the ritual of sitting on fast tomorrow.


Jagtar Singh


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