- Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots
- Familiar pattern of mass killings in Mubai, Gujarat, Odisha, UP: court
- Court said targeting of minorities was common to these mass crimes
The Delhi High Court order convicting Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots also had a reference to other mass killings and said bringing criminals to justice in such incidents was a challenge as they enjoyed political patronage and managed to avoid punishment. "Neither crimes against humanity nor genocide is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently," said the judges.
Sajjan Kumar, 73, was held guilty in the killing of five people of a family in November 1984, in the riots that followed the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the four-day mob killings of Sikhs in Delhi and some other cities.
The court listed other incidents like this in the history of independent India, when a minority community was targeted.
"In India, the riots in early November 1984 in which in Delhi alone 2,733 Sikhs and nearly 3,350 all over the country were brutally murdered (these are official figures) was neither the first instance of a mass crime nor, tragically, the last. The mass killings in Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere during the country's partition remains a collective painful memory as is the killings of innocent Sikhs in November 1984. There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008 and in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few," the judges said.
The order noted that what was common to these mass crimes was the targeting of minorities and that the attacks were spearheaded by dominant political actors being facilitated by the law enforcement agencies.
"The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment. Bringing such criminals to justice poses a serious challenge to our legal system. As these appeals themselves demonstrate, decades pass by before they can be made answerable..." the court order said.
The court said till 2006, the victims of the 1984 riots "had every reason to believe they had been abandoned" as all the trials had ended in acquittals and the prospects looked bleak about acting against the powerful people involved.
"While in the 2002 Gujarat riots cases, the Supreme Court did set up an SIT (Special Investigation Team)... until 2017, no SIT was constituted to investigate the 1984 riots," said the judges.
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