The wounds of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 are still painful for those who lost their loved ones in them. Given the numbers and chaos involved in such mob violence, it is always difficult to affix responsibility.
Even so, many are not willing to accept that the Congress leader
Sajjan Kumar who has been acquitted by a special CBI court of charges in one of the three 1984 cases against him is really innocent.
The verdict, however, must be of some comfort to the Congress. It has long faced allegations from the BJP that the Congress is in no position to speak of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 riots when the 1984 riots took place under its watch.
While the judicial process will take its own course, where the Congress and subsequent governments have erred is in not providing relief to the many who were scarred by the riots.
Around 3,000 Sikhs are said to have died in the catastrophic riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Twenty eight years on, a whole generation has grown up in the shadow of those terrible events. Many were displaced from their homes in the aftermath of the riots and they and their children have grown up nursing a sense of victimhood.
When additional sessions judge AR Aryan acquitted Mr Kumar of murder, dacoity and criminal conspiracy in court, a young Sikh man hurled a shoe at him. A hopeless Jagdish Kaur, the original complainant, howled that if Mr Kumar could not be hanged, she should be killed instead.
Such sentiments are understandable given the immense suffering of the survivors. Perhaps, some of it could have been minimised if the State had ensured that they did not remain marginalised and ghettoised. Studies have shown that many of the children who witnessed unspeakable brutalities during the riots have grown up to become substance abusers and psychologically marred.
They have grown up in homes where the adults have nursed grievances and sorrows, not a conducive atmosphere for a young person. Many had to drop out of school due to economic hardship.
India can take pride that today Sikhs occupy a central role in its culture and politics. But this loses a bit of its sheen when the needs of the 1984 survivors are still to be addressed. Mr Kumar’s trials are far from over as are those of another accused Jagdish Tytler against whom a case has been reopened. So clearly, closure is a long way away, both for the victims and the accused.