The tragic story of 1984’s Sikh carnage still needs answers as no direct responsibility has been pinned nor has anyone dared to bring forth the collective guilt of the ruling party of that time – India’s largest and oldest party, the Indian National Congress.
Close to thirty years after the gory episode which is said to be the dark spot of Indian democracy, numerous commissions of inquiry have been appointed and their findings publish clear outlines that the Government of that time failed to safeguard the rights of its own people and yet no order or direction has been given to hold the ruling party responsible.
The ongoing interest of the honourable Supreme Court in many happenings in India today is quite welcome, but that same institution opted to remain silent after 1984. Widespread alienation and anger among the Sikhs, mainly young Sikhs, and a cycle of violence went on for a long period which resulted in more tragedies and divisions. No action has been taken so that these events do not happen again. The failure to do so has resulted in a repeat against people of the minorities in different parts of India and the party or people behind these have rarely been pointed out or dealt with as per the rule of law.
After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the Muslims were targeted in several parts of India and likewise in 2002 Muslims were targeted in Gujarat. The latter took place similarly to what happened in Delhi in 1984, but for this the main thrust has been to hold the present and then Chief Minister of the State Mr Modi responsible. The commission set-up to pin point causes of hundreds of Muslims being killed, houses destroyed, businesses burnt and women subjected to brutal rapes, has been unsuccessful in chasing Mr Modi, although some members of his State Government and party have been found guilty and sentenced including Miss Kodnani and Mr Bajrangi respectively.
But in the case of Sikh atrocities of 1984, no political or religious body acting on behalf of the Sikhs have even tried to bring out the collective responsibility or guilt of the ruling party or Government of that time. Barring a few individuals or small time workers of the Congress party whom have been brought to trial after a long period, no convictions have been seen to bring out the responsibility of the Government of that time, whose primary responsibility as of any other elected officials is to safeguard the life and dignity of its people irrespective of religion or affiliation.
The present Chairman of the Press Council of India Mr Katzu has pointed out in his recent article in The Hindu newspaper that this sense of injustice breeds hatred and violence in segments of the aggrieved society be it the Muslims, Sikhs, Christians or other minorities of India.
The moral issue surrounding the 1984 event is still unanswered and needs to be addressed in a meaningful manner by the law and other arms of the government so that a collective guilt of the party in power in 1984 comes out. Law enforcement agencies and other security forces were silent spectators at best and participated in the carnage along with the mobs elsewhere. Even at that time, one of the leading newspapers of the world, the New York Times commented that humanity had collapsed in India over the three days following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
India today being an emerging power on the world scene needs to answer these dark spots and take remedial steps starting with responsibility at the highest levels. This will surely send a message to put an end to the cycle of targeting minorities for political gains. Merely finding guilt of low level workers or functionaries doesn’t answer the questions.
The political and religious party of the Sikhs needs to wake up and put some paperwork in place to seek answers for the collective guilt at the top. The agony of 1984 demands this as Sikhs in particular and Punjab in general has paid a heavy price since. Though some affected people have been compensated by the Government, they are few and far between, and do not take into account the young Sikhs of Punjab who got into this ordeal and have suffered without ever being listened to.