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‘We have been advised to move on, but is that possible?’: 33 years on, 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims await justice

To mark the 33rd anniversary of the carnage, Amnesty International India organised a discussion on ‘Chauraasi Ki Nainsaafi: The Continuing Injustice for the 1984 Sikh Massacre’.

punjab Updated: Nov 01, 2017 10:05 IST
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Amnesty International,Chandigarh,1984 anti-Sikh riots
(From left) Darshan Kaur, a victim of the 1984 riots, human rights lawyer Navkiran Singh, and Lt Gen HS Panag (retd), at an Amnesty meet in Chandigarh on Tuesday. (Sanjeev Sharma/HT)

Darshan Kaur could hardly put her grief into words. But she tried, because it was important. She was speaking at a discussion titled ‘Chauraasi Ki Nainsaafi: The continuing injustice for the 1984 Sikh massacre’, held by Amnesty International India here on Tuesday.

“We have been advised to forget the past and build our future. For a moment, put yourself in our shoes. Is it possible to forget the gory past?” asked Darshan Kaur, who broke down a number of times narrating how her family members were killed.

At least 3,000 Sikh men, women and children were killed, mainly in Delhi, over the course of four days when the riots broke out on November 1, 1984, following assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Lt Gen (retd) HS Panag described it as “unarmed people massacred in a pogrom launched by a political party (Congress) as the state looked the other way”. “If we forget it, then such incidents will continue to happen,” he said.

At least 3,000 Sikh men, women and children were killed, mainly in Delhi, over the course of four days when the riots broke out on November 1, 1984.

He read out recommendations of Amnesty International for effective investigation — that public be made aware of what special investigation team is doing, and that it should be put under scrutiny of the press and the Supreme Court.

He also called insufficient the Rs 10 lakh given as compensation to victims’ families.

Aam Aadmi Party’s Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who is leader of opposition in the Punjab assembly, was also present and said the massacre was “not of Sikhs but of humanity too” and that “the country felt ashamed internationally and that (shame) will remain until justice is given”.

“Many known people say it should be forgiven and forgotten as it has been a long time. We cannot forgive such carnage,” Khaira, who was with the Congress until last year, said. He also broached the topic of alleged fake encounters during militancy in Punjab: “It is unfair to felicitate police officers who killed innocent people in the name of terrorism in Punjab.”

Human rights lawyer Navkiran Singh said families of riot victims have been destroyed and most of the affected were from underprivileged families. “Minorities have to be protected at all costs, and Indian democracy should survive as per the Constitution,” he added.

“If the government wants to revive the faith of these people in the justice system, it must end the impunity around the massacre and bring closure to those who have suffered,” demanded Asmita Basu, programmes director of Amnesty International India

First Published: Oct 31, 2017 19:38 IST