The government may not have officially announced it, but the fact that it is now public that it has decided to constitute a Special Investigation Team to look into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is clearly with an eye to the Delhi elections. The horrific riots following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is a blot in the Congress’ copybook which simply refuses to go away. But, the fact is that successive governments have used the carnage as a political tool to either benefit electorally or beat rivals. This time around, the government has acted after a report by a panel headed by retired Justice GP Mathur found that 225 cases need probing. The main accused are people like Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar who allegedly egged on the riots if not participated in them. There have been as many as 11 committees which have looked into the riots. And yet, it is now found that crucial evidence and testimony have been overlooked. The Akalis seem to have chosen a propitious electoral moment to ask for cases against some Congress leaders to be reopened. In all this politics, the cause of the victims seems all but forgotten.
This government has hiked the rates of compensation, but that is hardly real justice coming as it does so late in the day. A whole generation has grown up in relief camps, many have died without seeing justice done for the deaths of their loved ones. In many ways, the political class does not seem to want closure on this, preferring to pull it out of the mothballs whenever it suits them. There are at least 15 seats in this Delhi election whose outcome can be influenced by the Sikh vote. However, the question of rehabilitation has never been adequately addressed. The manner in which the Delhi riots have been treated is of a piece with communal violence elsewhere.
If the next SIT can affix responsibility and speed up rehabilitation, then it will have served some purpose. But, after so many years of living in a legal twilight zone, many survivors have little hope that this will be last investigative body to look into what Union home minister Rajnath Singh termed a genocide.