Justice delayed — and denied

IT’S a tragedy that 21 years after the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 that claimed nearly 3,000 lives, justice continues to be denied to the victims and their families. After a long wait of two decades, an attempt has been made to identify those responsible for the shame of ‘84 carnage and yet it has failed to clearly put the guilty in the dock. Justice has been delayed — and denied.

Even the one individual, federal minister Jagdish Tytler, named by the commission, has been given the benefit of doubt saying the minister was "probably" responsible for the violence. No wonder Tytler refuses to step down insisting he’s innocent. Which in effect means no one is still held responsible and brought to justice for the wholesale killing of the Sikhs 21 years ago.

What happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 was most unfortunate. More tragic is the fact that those who orchestrated the dance of death for several days right in the capital continue to roam free mocking the great democracy that is India and its legendarily independent judiciary. It was an affront to India’s plural ethos and traditions of tolerance. Frenzied mobs went on the rampage killing men, women and children and burning down every thing in their way even as the administration watched in morbid fascination.

In complete contrast with this is what recently happened in Britain after the London bombings. The British responded with remarkable restraint to 7/7 attacks and didn’t go after the Muslims in vengeance. That day in October ‘84, three thousand lives could have been saved if the Delhi authorities had responded swiftly to the first sign of trouble.

It’s a mystery why the army wasn’t called in when it became clear that the Delhi Police was in no shape to control the mob. If brought in, the Indian army —known for its discipline and secular character —could have brought the situation under control in no time. Again, the anti-Muslim riots following the Babri Masjid demolition could have been stopped immediately if the army had been roped in. The federal government and state governments should learn from these costly mistakes.

Doubtless the Nanavati report suffers from many weaknesses. Yet the report’s drift is clear and it has identified the guilty. The Congress-led UPA government must act against those named by the panel. Also it must ensure all those responsible for the ‘84 outrage and not named in the report are brought to justice too. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, himself a Sikh, can’t be indifferent to the pain and anguish of his community. Justice must be done to the ‘84 victims not because the PM is a Sikh but because another tragedy of this magnitude must be prevented.

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