Hope for the 1984 survivors, finally
By overturning the session court’s order that acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 riots, the Delhi High Court has given hope to thousands of families who have waited for justice for more than 34 years. More than 3,000 Sikhs were burnt alive in the Capital after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and Kumar was among the Congressmen who have routinely been named by eye witnesses in affidavits filed before the several commissions of inquiry that were set up over the years.
By awarding a life sentence to Kumar, the High Court has brought closure to some families who saw their loved ones being burnt alive. Each of them relentlessly pursued justice despite the open use of money and muscle power. They did not turn hostile despite the repeated intimidation. Many of them were, in fact, provided armed bodyguards by the Punjab Police. Justice was long denied to them, but today they can take heart from the observations made in the court room. “It was an extraordinary case where it was going to be impossible to proceed against Sajjan Kumar in the normal scheme of things as there appeared to be ongoing large-scale efforts to suppress cases against him by not even recording them.”
The Central Bureau of Investigation filed an appeal against Kumar’s acquittal in 2013, alleging that he and his accomplices were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”. The agency was not far off the mark. The fact that some Congressmen fanned the widespread violence that claimed so many lives in 1984 has been an open secret for all these decades.
Killings should never be politicised but the killings in the Capital, just like the riots in Gujarat in 2002, became a political handle that the Congress and the BJP regularly use to beat each other with. By stepping in and delivering justice, the court has sent the right signals: justice can be delayed but it cannot be denied. Today’s verdict will not only be celebrated by the family members of those who were killed in Delhi Cantonment but by all those who were affected by the violence. Hundreds of cases still await adjudication and the families of the victims can now draw solace from the fact that it could be their turn to celebrate next.