Twenty-five years after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India, the US-based Sikh organisations have moved away from demonstrations to a “justice awareness campaign”.
The strategy has clearly shifted to bringing the issue to the fore with the help of human rights organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In New York, a spokesman for Human Rights Watch issued a statement: “The victims of the 1984 massacres have waited for the law to take its course and, sadly, they are still waiting. India needs to change its enduring culture of impunity before its citizens place trust in the rule of law in other conflict areas, like Kashmir and Naxalite-affected states.”
On Monday, a delegation of Sikhs for Justice claimed to have met officials from the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) as well those from the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.
The USCIRF’s International Religious Freedom Report for 2009 released last week has a single paragraph on the riots, a sign that the issue has slowly gone off radar. One of the founders of the advocacy group, Sikhs for Justice, Gurpatwant Pannun, a New York-based lawyer, acknowledges as much, “They don’t have the basic facts which we now have with authenticated documents. Just creating a hue and cry will not help.”
Sikhs for Justice is also attempting to link the 1984 riots to other “attacks” on religious minorities in India, like the ones in Gujarat and Orissa.
For now, the next step for them is to seek judicial enquiries by high court judges in these states, starting with a PIL in Delhi in January 2010.