The perpetrators of the anti-Sikh riots were rewarded with senior positions in the Union Cabinet during the Congress regime.
Rajiv Gandhi lost his temper. He had never lost his temper with me, but since I had been warned, I was also prepared. He (Rajiv) said that he did not want me to raise this matter again. He could not agree to prosecute Sajjan Kumar, a committed Congress loyalist, merely because of some false allegations being made against him.”
This is what one of India’s most decorated police officers Julio Ribeiro states in his autobiography, about his meeting with the then Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi; where he tried to press the latter for prosecuting the alleged culprits of the Delhi anti-Sikh riots. One can well imagine the patronage the organisers of anti-Sikh violence, including Sajjan Kumar, enjoyed from the highest corridors of power. Given these circumstances, it is not unimaginable that the culprits of anti-Sikh violence evaded justice for 38 long years. Though the names came up in various commission reports, the cruel game of reports and clean chits continued to compound the misery of the hapless Sikh victims.
After their names popped up in the anti-Sikh riots at Delhi in November, 1984, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler were elected to the Lok Sabha on a Congress ticket. Jagdish Tytler even held ministerial positions in various departments. All this happened when the survivors of the anti- Sikh violence were trying to rebuild their lives and agitating for a closure, ensuring justice. The frustration and anger in the Sikh psyche due to this injustice can be judged from the fact that when in 2009, Jagdish Tytler was given a clean chit by the CBI, there were protests in New Delhi against this development.
In 2014 when the BJP government came to power under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The hopes of justice rekindled after a painful wait of over three decades. The investigations picked up pace, which led to the conviction of Sajjan Kumar, the same Congress MP who the then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi did not even want to prosecute.
In May 2019 speaking at Hoshiarpur, PM Modi termed the Delhi anti-Sikh riots as a “horrendous genocide.” Sikh organisations for a long time wanted the Delhi anti-Sikh violence of November 1984 to be acknowledged as a genocide, which was often brushed aside by previous governments as “riots” suggesting reciprocity of violence by the Sikhs.
The conviction of Sajjan Kumar in 2018 by Delhi High Court for inciting mobs to kill Sikhs and the recent chargesheet by CBI against Jagdish Tytler is a watershed moment in the fight for justice to the victims of November 1984. These developments should be seen vis a vis the clout they exercised whenever there was a Congress ministry in power. This should also be seen as a sign of sustained resolve by the current Modi government to bring the culprits to justice and resolve this long-standing issue which touches the emotional cord with every Sikh.
Interestingly, the voices that tend to criticize Prime Minister Modi’s government as inimical to the interests of religious minorities, have always stayed quiet whenever the Modi Government has protected the Sikh interests. No organization or group has so far appreciated the actions of this government for its professional and efficient prosecution of the accused in anti-Sikh violence of November 1984.
Unfortunately, the narrative has been hijacked by the powers who thrive on hate and negativity. It seems that abusing, and unfairly criticizing Narendra Modi has become an enterprise for some. Bread and butter is being earned out of this “industry”.
It seems that unfazed by this hypocritic attitude by some, the Modi Government will continue to chart its path on the lines of “Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.” The Sikhs worldwide have high hopes from the Modi Government that it will finish what it has started. Without further delays the culprits should face the might of the law. The survivors of November 1984 are waiting for a closure, as the painful cries of their loved ones still echo in their ears.
(Maninder Singh Gill is the President of Friends of Canada & India Foundation)