India: 20 Years of Impunity for Sikh Massacres Must End
(California) On the twentieth anniversary of the systematic massacres of Sikhs throughout India, human rights organizations call for a full account of the atrocities and a sustained effort to prosecute its planners and perpetrators.
During the first week of November 1984, senior political and government leaders organized and implemented pogroms against Sikhs throughout the country, in response to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Through government voter lists and other official records, gangs marked the residences, businesses and religious places of Sikhs, and proceeded to destroy the properties and massacre the Sikhs inside. Congress party leaders and workers incited mobs to violence by spreading rumors, and provided them with weapons and kerosene to implement their murderous intent. Government-owned buses and railways brought the assailants to the Sikhs' homes.
Twenty years later, the Indian government continues to deny justice to the survivors of November 1984. Government appointed commissions of inquiry mandated to investigate the massacres have acted to cover-up the scope of the violence, and omit the deadly role of the Congress party and civil administration. Because of police manipulation and destruction of evidence and the biases of government prosecutors, significant perpetrators remain unpunished.
Ensaaf, a US-based organization dedicated to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations in India, recently released Twenty Years of Impunity, a 150-page in-depth report discussing the November 1984 pogroms. By analyzing thousands of government papers, the report reveals the systematic and organized manner in which state institutions, such as the Delhi Police, and Congress officials perpetrated mass murder in November 1984 and later justified the violence in inquiry proceedings. After a thorough discussion of administrative and judicial impunity, the report applies the international law of genocide and crimes against humanity to the pogroms, relating the massacres with international understandings of gross violations of human rights.
Several days ago, Human Rights Watch commended Ensaaf for its report. It also joined Ensaaf in demanding sincere investigations and prosecutions and an end to political protections for perpetrators, as well as an express display of commitment from India's new government to ensure justice.
Recent attention to the 2002 Gujarat pogroms emphasizes the urgent need for governmental consistency. "Because the perpetrators of November 1984 were never brought to justice, it established the practice of communal electioneering, which we saw replicated against the Muslim minority in Bombay in 1992 and again in Gujarat in 2002. Unless this system is thoroughly investigated and exposed, and the perpetrators of these crimes are brought to justice, organized attacks against India's minorities will continue with impunity," said Jaskaran Kaur, Executive Director of Ensaaf.