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US refuses to declare 1984 riots in India as genocide

Washington:  The Obama Administration on Tuesday refused to declare the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in India a genocide, but noted that grave human rights violations had occurred.

The White House response in this regard came months after a section of the Sikh community in the US launched an online petition campaign urging the Obama Administration to recognize the 1984 riots as genocide.

The petition created on November 15, 2012, had generated more than 30,000 signatures within weeks.

Each petition that crosses the threshold of 25,000 signatures is reviewed and receives a response.

"During and after the 1984 violence, the United States monitored and publicly reported on the grave human rights violations that occurred and the atrocities committed against members of the Sikh community," the White House response said.

It noted that the US State Department's Official Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, for example, covered the violence and its aftermath in detail, with sections on political killings, disappearances, denial of fair public trials, negative effects on freedom of religion, and the government's response to civil society organizations investigating allegations of human rights violations.

"We continue to condemn -- and more importantly, to work against - violence directed at people based on their religious affiliation. US Government efforts to protect the rights and freedoms of all people have long been a feature of our foreign policy. Our diplomats regularly report on and speak out against violence against minorities around the world," the White House said in response to the online petition.

Expressing disappointment over the response, the proponents of the petition in a statement said that the Obama Administration "fails to take position on Sikh genocide".

"The response ignores the recent discoveries of mass graves of Sikhs killed during 1984 and falls short of taking a position on the issue of Genocide," said a statement issued by Gurpatwant S Pannun, who heads the New York-based 'Sikh for Justice' group.

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