FOR 34 YEARS after the massacre of about 3000 Sikhs in Delhi, the investigating agencies, the prosecution and the judiciary would have us believe that the marauding mobs were on their own and that no senior political leader was instigating them.
This was despite hundreds of eye witnesses who came on record to assert that some of the (at that time) young Congress leaders were present at the troubled spots. These included Sajjan Kumar, Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler among others. No one ever said they were there to control the mobs or ask the police to stop the violence. Many in fact said that they were instigating the mobs but neither the police nor the prosecuting agencies could help judiciary to pin down the accused.
A variety of Judicial inquiries, Commissions, Special Investigation Teams and Special Courts failed to pin down even a single top political leader even though a small number of local residents were prosecuted and given minor punishments.
The conviction and sentencing of Sajjan Kumar by the Delhi High Court has come as some balm on the wounds of those whose kith and kin were murdered but there is little cause for celebrations.
It was only last month that in first such punishment one of the accused was awarded the death sentence. Convict Yashpal Singh, who was accused of killing two persons during the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi's Mahipalpur area, was given the death sentence. The other convict, Naresh Sherawat, was awarded a life sentence.
Witnesses Nirpreet Kaur and Jagsher Singh
The conviction and sentencing of Sajjan Kumar by the Delhi High Court has come as some balm on the wounds of those whose kith and kin were murdered but there is little cause for celebrations. The hardships that the families of the victims had to endure and which completely threw their lives in a disarray can not be compensated.
Congress remained in power for most of these 34 years and the leaders who were widely perceived to be involved in instigating the mobs kept on enjoying the fruits of power and influence. It was widely known that witnesses were threatened and the prosecuting agencies failed to pin down the leaders.
The award of death sentence last month, the first of its kind in 34 years, and the life term to Sajjan Kumar (in pic) till the end of his natural life, are the outcomes that should satisfy those who had been pointing out at lack of action against influential political leaders.
It was the tenacity and perseverance of three witnesses - Jagdish Kaur whose husband, son and three cousins were killed by the marauding mobs, Nirpreet Kaur whose father was burnt alive and Jagsher Singh, a cousin of Jagdish Kaur - that finally led to the conviction and sentencing of Sajjan Kumar.
Jagdish Kaur, 77, (in pic) who can barely walk, had made innumerable visits to courts to ensure justice. She has resolved to fight it in the highest court too if the guilty files an appeal in Supreme Court.
She had stepped up her fight after Delhi’s Karkardooma court had convicted five persons for these killings, awarding life sentence to former Congress MLA Mahendra Yadav and councillor Balwan Khokar and three-year imprisonment to three others for rioting on April 30, 2013.
The then Congress MP Sajjan Kumar, who was one of the accused, was let off, prompting Jagdish Kaur and Jagsher Singh, along with the CBI, to appeal the acquittal in the Delhi High Court.
R S Cheema and H S Phoolka
Due credit must go to lawyers H S Phoolka and R S Cheema for pursuing the case relentlessly. Phoolka even gave up his prestigious post of Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly to devote his full time to fight such cases.
The noose may be tightening around some others too but the undue delay in giving the sentence is a poor reflection on the justice delivery system in the country. With no less than three crore cases pending in the courts, including one crore cases in Supreme Court and the various High Courts, justice remains a far cry for the common man.
(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career. This article was published by lokmarg.com and is being reproduced here courtesy Lokmarg. - Ed)
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