Scars of 1984 Sikh Massacre Won’t Fade Until Justice is Delivered
Image used for representational purposes.
Image used for representational purposes.(Photo: Lijumol Joseph/The Quint)

Scars of 1984 Sikh Massacre Won’t Fade Until Justice is Delivered

(This year marks the 34th remembrance of the Sikh genocide. This is a personal blog. The views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

For most, November is a month of festivities. Homes are cleaned, walls painted, facades lit up. But for some, darkness still looms large in their lives. Take for instance, the example of Joginder Kaur. For her, November is a month of mourning, sadness and plain horror. This is the month in which she lost everything she had.

Also Read : The 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots Files: 34 Years, 11 Inquiries & Counting

34 Years Since 1984, the Scars Remain

‘’On 1 November, my husband was attacked with swords and sticks; he was lying on charpoy in a vegetative state for three days, the kids were sitting close to him and not ready to move. The mob again entered our home on the third day and killed him. We lost everything in 1984. Our future, our right to progress, everything. My younger son was in depression and one day he left the house and never came back,’’ says Joginder Kaur.

Joginder is not the only one who lost everything that day. Hundreds of families in Delhi still haven’t recovered from the horror of the 1984 Sikh massacre, and justice still eludes them.

While this year marks the 34th anniversary of 1984 Sikh massacre, these familes are still waiting for the perpetrators to be brought to book.

In these 34 years, 12 commissions and committees have investigated the incident but it hasn’t gone beyond that. Many have since, died waiting, their families left to fend for themselves.

In August 2017, the Supreme Court constituted a supervisory body comprising two former Supreme Court judges to see if the closure of the cases by the Special Investigation Team was justified.

Those Who Forget History...

On 11 January 2018, after the supervisory body submitted its report in the Supreme Court, the Court decided to set up its own three-member SIT to probe 186 cases which had not been reopened by the Union government’s SIT. The new team will be headed by a former High Court judge, Justice SN Dhingra. However, nearly ten months later, the third member of the SIT is yet to be appointed.

India has a shameful history of forgetting victims of communal violence; they are often used only as political bait during elections. For the death of 3,000 persons in Delhi alone (during the 1984 massacre), less than one percent have been convicted so far. Only 587 FIRs were registered, and 247 cases were closed.

On 11 August 2018, while speaking to a news agency, Modi highlighted his government’s promptness in bringing justice to the victims of violent crimes.

He said his government would implement the rule of law in true letter and spirit. But four years have passed, and yet the inquiry is nowhere close to completion. It looks like the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) is no different from its predecessors.

They were quick to win the hearts of the community during the 2014 elections by making a public commitment that if voted to power, they would bring justice to the victims of communal violence.

Who Will Bring Justice to 1984 Victims?

For once, politicians should let the politics over the massacres of 1984 take a back seat and let the evidence speak for itself. 34 years may be a long time to wait, but it can turn out to be a historic opportunity for the NDA government to deliver justice while the victims are still alive.

The first and the second generation of victims have grown up to be bitter and angry citizens. It is good for any government to catch early warning signals.

There is a kind of restiveness among the Sikh community within the country and in the Sikh diaspora, over the inexplicable delay in justice to the victims of the 1984 massacre. An embittered population is not good for long-term peace, and the stability of the country. Those among the culprits who are still alive, must be punished, failing which, it a bad precedent would be set.

The Congress has failed the victims of the 1984 Sikh massacre; the BJP has the opportunity to correct this historical wrong, but it seems they too are not interested.

The agony of the victims of 1984 did not end with their personal traumas.

The trauma transcended to the next generation with them suffering the consequences of that violence.

The screams of the victims still echo in the narrow lanes of Delhi where thousands were butchered over three decades ago. It is time for India to learn how to ensure that the brutalities of 1984 do not remain a festering sore.

(Sanam Sutirath Wazir is a human rights activist, and has been working as a researcher with the victims of the 1984 Sikh massacre since 2013.)

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