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Sajjan Kumar Convicted: When will other rioters pay for their sins?

Both before and after the independence, India has suffered multiple riots and the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots which are also known as the 1984 Sikh Massacre is marked in the history as a wide-scale violence that was led by the Congress leaders targeting the Sikhs as an aftermath of the assassination of the then PM Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31 and it killed more than 3,000 Sikhs across India.

The list of such lawlessness and rampage includes dreadful occurrences like the 1969 and 2002 Gujarat Riots, the 1970 Bhiwandi Riots, the 1980 Moradabad Riots, the 1989 Bhagalpur Riots and the Kashmir Riots, the 1992-93 Bombay Riots, the 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots, etc. After the Delhi High Court found Sajjan Kumar guilty in the 1984 anti-Sikh Riots and on Monday sentenced him to jail “for the remainder of his natural life”, the question concerning when other rioters behind the major massacres will be convicted started striking!

Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, 73, was convicted in the killing of five members of a family in Raj Nagar and the torching of a Gurdwara in Delhi on November 1, 1984. A bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel convicted Kumar for criminal conspiracy to commit murder, abetment, delivering speeches instigating violence against the Sikhs and disrupting communal harmony. The court gave a shout-out to the victims who fought for justice for 34 long years and suffered intimidation and harassment and said, “The Truth will prevail and justice will be done”. The court has also cancelled an earlier court order acquitting him of charges in what the judges called “genocide”. It has directed Sajjan Kumar to not leave the city of Delhi and to surrender by December 31. The riots were a ‘crime against humanity’ perpetrated by those who enjoyed ‘political patronage’ the bench asserted.

Similarly, the HC upheld the convictions and awarded varying sentences to the former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal, Girdhari Lal and former MLAs Mahender Yadav and Kishan Khokhar, who were also declared guilty of criminal conspiracy to burn down residences of Sikh families and a Gurdwara in the area during the riots.

AAP leader Ravi Srivastava said, “The conviction of Sajjan Kumar is a welcome judgement. Now, the Court should also book those who have been sheltering or providing protection to the accused like Kumar.”

“Sometimes, some SITs (Special Investigation Teams) are formed to investigate cases like riots; when another government comes, it rejects that SIT report leading to these judgements being prolonged for 34 years. The same happened in the 2002 Gujarat Riots too and those who were involved in the same are at the helm of affairs today. The trials should happen in the Fast Track courts so that the punishment can be given as early as possible giving a lesson to the people who do such violence or genocide,” Srivastava further added.

The saga of gruesome violence disregarding human rights severely cramped the secular social fabric of India and continues to remain a huge hitch in the path of national progress. The tales of death and despair distinctly display the prevailing worst scenario. The Bhiwandi Riots of 1970 that killed 250 people is noted as one of the dangerous of its kind incidents that has happened in Mumbai. The main reason for the riots was a procession taken out to commemorate the birthday of Shivaji. The 1980 Moradabad Riots in Uttar Pradesh brutally took around 400 lives. It reportedly started when the Hindus placed a pig before a mosque and Muslims, in turn, alerted the local police about the proceedings. Allegedly, the cops ignored the complaints and the situation went out of the hands when the policemen shot a few rounds at the common people — the religious clashes continued for four months from August to November.

The impetus to the 1992-93 Bombay Riots that killed 900-1,000 people, both Muslims and Hindus, was the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya, UP, that led to massive communal clashes. Apart from the island city, many other states were also affected in the riots where hundreds of common man became homeless.

The 2002 killings of Muslims in Gujarat or notable Gujarat Riots continue to be a part of the discourse of political party-sponsored violence. The saga of mass murder started with the burning of the Sabarmati Express carrying Hindu pilgrims who were coming back from Ayodhya. This created massive uproar leading to another three-day mass murder episode that killed thousands of people including children. Reportedly, more than 200 people also went missing.

The 2013 Muzaffarnagar Riots is another crying shame on the face of Uttar Pradesh and the reason behind the violence is still unknown. Started with a clash between the Hindus and Muslims on August 21, 2013, lives of more than 50,000 people in the state shattered. Muzaffarnagar Riots led to the death of 62 people while 13 incidents of sexual violence like gang rape were also reported during the riots.

BJP spokesperson Prof. Suhas Pharande stated, “The pending cases should be addressed as fast as possible and the Congress, especially, Rahul Gandhi should answer the nation on this issue. Justice delayed is Justice denied. 34 years are too long and this case should have been concluded way before. Justice should be deployed within 1 or 2 years of such brutal incidents.”

The political blame game is one of the inevitable consequences whenever the country witnesses horrific mass crimes that cause the death of several lakhs of civilians, including Sikhs, Muslims, and Hindus. Commenting on the conviction of Sajjan Kumar, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “This was the worst kind of genocide. Thousands of innocents were burnt and killed by mobs led by the Congress leaders. Instead of ensuring justice, the Congress government indulged in a cover-up.” Keeping the unwritten tradition of blame game alive, senior Congress leader and the former union minister Kapil Sibal hit back at BJP. He said, “Sajjan Kumar had not been allowed to contest elections and held no office. What about the PM (Narendra Modi), who encouraged (riot accused) Maya Kodnani, who was jailed in the 2002 Gujarat riots (she was acquitted in April).” Meanwhile, Delhi BJP leader Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga on Monday started an indefinite hunger strike against Kamal Nath being nominated for the post of the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, alleging that Nath was involved in the anti-Sikh Riots of 1984. He said that the hunger strike will continue till Kamal Nath is replaced by someone else as the CM of Madhya Pradesh. Several BJP leaders are supporting Bagga’s protest.

CPI(M) veteran leader Rabin Deb spoke to AV and expressed, “There are lakhs of cases pending in the Indian Courts and the case of Sajjan Kumar came to a conclusion after 34 long years. This is one of the faces of the governance that runs in our country! As it’s better late than never, if one case has been concluded, other such cases of riots can be given justice soon. If the Judiciary and the government don’t act swiftly on this, I don’t think the state of affairs will change much.”


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