Now that former Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, is set to be India’s next Prime Minister, Congress Party officials and others, including some Sikhs, are stating that the 1984 pogroms chapter has closed:

[T]he deep distrust that once existed between the community and the party no longer exists.

One reason is the sheer length of time which has elapsed since the horrific riots of 1984, when Sikhs were singled out to be lynched and torched to death in public.

“Time is a great healer, and it has done the same to the relationship between Congress and the Sikhs,” said Punjab-based political scientist Professor PS Verma…

“Now the appointment of Manmohan Singh, the process of reconciliation, inevitably, will get a big push,” he said.

However, both legally and morally, the appointment of one Sikh to a government position cannot close the chapter for the thousands of victims of the 1984 pogroms against Sikhs.  Appointing one Sikh does not demonstrate a Party’s commitment to secularism.  Rather, the Congress Party government should fulfill the survivors’ international rights to knowledge, justice and reparations if it hopes for true and lasting reconciliation.  It must acknowledge and remember the violations suffered by individual Sikhs, with a full investigation into the facts; provide an effective remedy, encompassing an investigation of the abuses and prosecution of perpetrators; and grant full reparations, including restitution, compensation and rehabilitation.  The government must also commit to guarantees of non-repetition.

Manmohan Singh has vowed to prevent any recurrence of the 2002 Gujarat pogroms against Muslims or the 1984 pogroms against Sikhs:

“It is very unfortunate that communal riots take place from time to time in our country,” [Dr. Singh] said, an implicit acknowledgment that they have also occurred under governments led by his party, the Indian National Congress. “We as a nation must have a firm determination that these things should never happen.”

His statement, however, does not recognize the role of senior political party leaders and police officers in organizing and instigating the violence.  Dr. Singh must also commit to taking action to bring perpetrators to justice:

“Certainly and naturally I feel very good,” Shakeel Ahamad, of the Islamic Relief Committee of Gujarat, said about of the prime minister’s remarks. “But I want to listen something from Manmohan about what he is doing for Gujarat now. What about the trials? What about Modi? What about the structural violence, the harassment of Muslims? There is still harassment going on.”

During 1993, Manmohan Singh represented India at the UN World Conference on Human Rights in Vienna.  1993 was the height of the counterinsurgency operations instituted by Director General of Punjab Police KPS Gill. Human Rights Watch described these operations as “the most extreme example of a policy in which the ends appeared to justify any and all means, including torture and murder.”  [See or ENSAAF for more information on the decade of disappearances and systematic human rights abuses perpetrated by security forces in Punjab.]

Manmohan Singh himself has never won an election, but was appointed to the Rajya Sabha, Indian Parliament’s upper house.  He served as Finance Minister in the early and mid-1990s, under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao.  During the carnage of 1984, Rao served as Home Minister, and was responsible for the delay in calling the Army into Delhi to stop the violence and the failure to establish a joint control room that would have facilitated the Army’s work.  Ultimate responsibility for the failure to prevent the pogroms rested with Rao.

Other News

In developments in cases pending against newly-elected Congress MP Sajjan Kumar and others for their roles in perpetrating violence during the carnage of 1984, the Delhi High Court issued notice against Kumar, seeking his reply in a case, and fixing the next hearing for July 17.  On July 17, the court will also hear arguments from the CBI regarding its delay in filing an appeal against the acquittal of Kumar and others.


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