31 October 2017 - thirty three years have passed since the anti-Sikh pogrom carried out in Delhi between 31st October and 4th November 1984, following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh body guards. The official figure of those massacred in the violence stands at 2700, while according to unofficial estimates it is closer to 4000 in Delhi alone. The genocide spread to another 40 cities including Kanpur, Bokaro, Ranchi etc. over the next few days resulting in about another 5000 deaths. The number of those maimed, raped, or disappeared, and the loss to property and livelihoods remain unaccounted. About 50,000 people are estimated to have been displaced. In Delhi, the worst violence occurred in the resettlement colonies like Trilokpuri, Mangolpuri, Sualtanpuri, and even among them the worst sufferers were the poorest, the Labana and Siklidar Sikhs.
In the fact-findings carried out by PUDR and PUCL resulting in the report Who Are the Guilty (1984), 16 MPs, corporators, youth congress leaders, 13 policemen and 196 others were named on the basis of victms’ accounts. Prominent Congress (I) figures whose names repeatedly came up included HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, and Jagdish Tytler. The fact that neither Sajjan Kumar nor Jagdish Tytler have been brought to justice is symptomatic of the concerted denial of justice in the 1984 massacre. The see-sawing is apparent from the case of Sajjan Kunar, who was indicted in 2010, acquitted in 2013 in a case filed by Bibi Jagdish Kaur, was given anticipatory bail in December 2016 after the case was reopened in 2015, and in July 2017 has been asked by the High Court to respond to a petition asking for cancellation of bail. The case of one of those convicted, Balwant Khokhar, then a Youth Congress leader also named in the PUDR-PUCL report, convicted in the same case in 2013 has again gone into appeal in 2017, on the basis of supposed inconsistencies in the testimonies. It needs to be remembered that the testimonies were collected at various times over twenty years. The entire rigmarole of justice around the 1984 killings is underlined by the fact that between the Ved Marwah Committee set up in November 1984 and the report of the Nanavati Commission submitted in 2005, there have been as many as 11 commissions/committees of inquiry, and yet justice eludes the victims.
Today, the anti-Sikh pogrom is a forgotten story which is brought up sporadically in political discourse for instance, the BJP challenging the Congress party’s self-image as a ‘secular’ party. While BJP did set up an SIT in 2015, nothing has come of it. The effects of the carnage left the next generation of those who were very young at that time, scarred, as they saw their widowed mothers struggle to make ends meet, for instance those in the Widow’s Colony in Tilak Nagar.
To forget 1984, is to further the injustice done not just to those who died or were injured, but to the survivors and the long struggles for justice fought by the likes of Jagdish Kaur, Gurcharan Singh (who lost the use of his legs as he was burnt in the pogrom and died in 2009), and countless others. PUDR salutes the struggles for justice of those who have fought and continue to fight, and calls upon the judiciary to give at least a semblance of justice by punishing the guilty.
Cijo Joy and Anushka Singh
31st October 2017