For the first time, the CBI has called the 1984 anti-Sikh riots a conspiracy of “terrifying proportions” involving then Congress MP Sajjan Kumar and the local police. Just how terrifying the conspiracy was was brought out in the testimony of a victim, heard in court for the first time in 27 years.
Nirpreet Kaur was all of 16 when she witnessed the mass killings that followed the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi. A happy teenager with two plaits and a spring in her step, the riots changed her life forever.
Of the bodies strewn around the bylanes of Raj Nagar in the Capital’s Delhi Cantonment, one was of Nirmal Singh, Nirpreet’s father. The girl also saw Kumar standing in a police jeep and ordering the killing of Sikhs.Nirpreet, an eyewitness to her father’s murder, was never questioned. The court summons was sent to a wrong address. Had she known her father’s death was being tried in court, she would have given the same hair-raising testimony that she did in 2011 when the probe was entrusted to the CBI.
CBI prosecutor RS Cheema, while concluding his arguments in the sessions court, has spoken of the “complicity of the police and patronage of local MP Sajjan Kumar” in the riots conspiracy.
Only one FIR (416/1984) was registered for the killing of 30 Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment and against unknown persons. While 10 were charged finally, Kumar never figured as an accused.
Nirpreet’s memories of her father’s killing are still fresh. “The mob caught hold of my father and sprinkled kerosene over him. They didn’t have a match-box, and a policeman standing there said, ‘Doob maro, tum se ek sardar bhi nahi jalta’ (Shame on you! You people can’t even kill a Sikh),” she said.
“When the mob moved a little ahead, my father jumped into a nearby nullah. Seeing my father alive, the mob returned and set him on fire again,” Nirpreet said.
Nirpreet’s home was burnt down. She and her mother took shelter at a nearby gurdwara. When she went back towards her home the next morning,
she saw a mob and heard slogans.
“I saw Sajjan Kumar standing in a police vehicle telling the mob, ‘Ek bhi sardar zinda nahi bachna chahiye. In sardaron ko maro, inhone hamari maa ko maara hain’ (Don’t spare a single Sikh. Kill them, as they killed our mother),” Nirpreet said.
FIR no. 416 didn’t yield any justice. Kumar was never named. The eyewitnesses never made it to court and all the 10 accused were acquitted. The police, which had conspired with the rioters, were both the investigating and prosecuting agency.
Twenty-seven years later, the same daily diaries that spoke of police inaction form crucial evidence for the CBI.
That’s perhaps the reason why Kumar now faces legal heat in a case well chronicled, except in the Delhi Police’s own records. Imagine, despite eyewitness accounts, his name never cropped up in any police chargesheet.