On December 17, 2018, 34 years after the violent retaliation to then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination, Congress's former MP Sajjan Kumar has been convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for criminal conspiracy to commit murder. The conviction of this anti-Sikh rioter may have come after 34 years, but it’s still welcome as it signals that justice may have been delayed but it has certainly not been denied.
The BJP, Left parties and the AAP welcomed the verdict. On the other hand, while the Congress said it should not be politicised, its spokespersons kept referring to the 2002 Gujarat riots to counter the charges being levied by the BJP.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the conviction was "a delayed vindication of justice". He tweeted, "Justice for the victims of 1984 was buried by the Congress. The NDA restored fairness and accountability... The Congress and the Gandhi family legacy will continue to pay for the sins of the 1984 riots".
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has hailed PM Modi for the success now achieved in the Sajjan Kumar case. (Photo: PTI)
The BJP's party president, Amit Shah, said no one had any doubt on the Congress’ role in the riots. He further said in a tweet, “their leaders and workers went on rampage raising provocative slogans, raping women and murdering men in cold blood. Yet no one was ever punished despite multiple commissions and several eyewitnesses”.
Hailing the verdict Amit Shah thanked Prime Minister Modi “for setting up an SIT in 2015, which initiated re-investigation into several cases of 1984, pending for over three decades.”
I want to thank Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi for setting up an SIT in 2015, which initiated re-investigation into several cases of 1984, pending for over three decades. I am grateful to the Court, which has delivered its judgment, bringing relief to the traumatised families.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) December 17, 2018
Amidst this celebration, it seems Arun Jaitley, who is one of the leading legal luminaries of India and his party president Amit Shah, forgot to read the actual verdict.
Page numbers 192 and 193 of the verdict of the Delhi High Court, delivered by a bench of Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel reads, “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, in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few. Common to these mass crimes were the targeting of minorities and the attacks spearheaded by the 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.”
The Delhi High Court in its judgment also called out the political class for the 'mass killings' of 2002. (Photo: PTI)
This verdict talks about all the major instances of communal violence in the country, including Gujarat in 2002. And it says, like everywhere, here too the victims were minorities and attacks were spearheaded by dominant political actors. Law enforcement agencies worked as facilitators. The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment.
And this also happened when the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat and Amit Shah was the national convener of BJP’s cooperative committee back in 2002. What's even more shocking is that nine months after the Gujarat riots Amit Shah became the home minister of the state and so by default the minister in-charge of the Gujarat Police.
The judiciary has called for a change in criminal law to punish those responsible for riots. Will our politicians listen? (Photo: PTI)
Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Vinod Goel, in their verdict, also called for a change in criminal law to include specific offences for “crimes against humanity” and “genocide”. They said that such loopholes allowed those accused of mass crimes to evade the law. Will the present dispensation and even the other political parties listen to the honourable judges and bring in a law that may deter the next rabble-rouser from manufacturing another riot in the country?
If and when it gets done, it will be led by a political leader of impeccable integrity. It will have to be someone with a clear conscience, one who would dare throw that first stone to rid India of its worst scourge. India awaits that leader whose conscience has not been compromised.