Indian PM Apologizes; Sikhs continue to demand justice

August 12, 2005 | Comments Off on Indian PM Apologizes; Sikhs continue to demand justice

In an ironic turn of events, a Sikh Prime Minister apologized to the Sikh community for the 1984 massacres of Sikhs.  In his speech, however, he still maintained that the massacres were not organized by senior political and police officials, terming them “riots,” impying violence on both sides.  The Prime Minister alternatively referred to the massacres as a “human tragedy,” “this whole mass tragedy,” and “all those ghastly happenings.”  His speech anesthesized the stark reality of the violence and the subsequent 21 years of impunity: meetings organized by Congress Party officials the night of October 31 to distribute weapons and exhort attendees to kill Sikhs; distribution of voter lists identifying Sikh residences and businesses; use of rationed resources, such as kerosene, to kill; dissemination of false rumors of Sikh attacks on Hindus; organized transportation facilitating travel by death squads; systematic killings; attacks on Sikh gurdwaras and desecration of Sikh scriptures; participation and inaction by police; among other characteristics.

PM Singh warned against partisan politics, yet his speech represents a clever political move.  He has apologized for the massacres, but not promised any concrete action beyond further inquiries and committees.  To those who criticized the Nanavati report and the government’s Action Taken Report, the Prime Minister raised the spectre of a return of “terrorism” in Punjab.  Instead, PM Singh would do well to consider the state terrorism employed by Indian security forces during the counter-insurgency operations of the 1980s and 1990s.

Only by vindicating the victims’ rights to knowledge, justice and reparation can the government put the bitterness behind, as the Prime Minister exhorts.  As a BBC article warns, Sonia Gandhi apologized about the massacres over a decade ago, promising action, but nothing resulted from her speech:

For the angry and hurt Sikh community and the outraged media, it is a classic case of too little, too late.

They are not wrong.

In the cases of many Congress leaders who could have been re-investigated it is too late.

Federal interior minister at the time of the riots and former prime minister PV Narasimha Rao is dead. A senior Congress leader named in the investigation HKL Bhagat is old and critically ill….

This is the not the first time that politicians believed to be guilty of inciting or leading communal riots have literally gone scot-free.

Three years on, no one has been brought to justice over the Gujarat riots either….

Why does justice reach a dead end in India while investigating such high-profile riots?…

Independent research has shown that riots in India usually happen with the complicity of police who either covertly participate or turn a blind eye to the violence.

Social worker Teesta Setalvad says the fallout from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the 1992 Mumbai riots prove this point.

“The latest inquiry into the 1984 riots named police officials. The Mumbai riots inquiry named 15 policemen for their involvement. But the governments failed to take any action against them.”…

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has apologised to the Sikhs and promised those named in the report will be investigated.

There is a feeling of deja-vu about this attempt to atone.

Congress chief Sonia Gandhi apologised for the 1984 riots over a decade ago and promised action.

No wonder the Sikhs are bitter and the media is sceptical.

In other related news, the Punjab police arrested members of the Shiromani Akali Dal during protests yesterday; MP Sajjan Kumar, also implicated in Nanavati’s report, resigned from Delhi rural board chief.


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