Sikh carnage cannot go unpunished
By Shyam Khosla
Eminent jurists have faulted Nanawati Commission that enquired into 1984 anti-Sikh riots for expressing vacillating opinions rather than coming up with definite conclusions. Others blame him for not recording the obvious conclusions after tracing the events and recording evidence. He is also accused of shying away from naming the real culprits. However, the Judge was forthright in rejecting the argument that what happened was merely a spontaneous reaction of anger and outrage over the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and concludes that the ?systematic manner? in which Sikhs were killed indicated that the attacks were organised. The violence in the initial stages, he says, was because of the outrage over the assassination. Later, local Congress leaders and workers exploited this popular anger by inciting and encouraging mobs to attack Sikhs. ?But for the backing and help of influential and resourceful persons, killing Sikhs so swiftly and in large numbers could not have happened?, he observes. The Judge goes on to say that there is evidence to show that on the day Mrs. Gandhi was killed meetings were held or the persons who could have organised attacks were contacted and were ?given instructions? to kill Sikhs and loot their houses and shops. Further, ?the attacks were made without much fear of the police, almost suggesting that they were assured that they would not be harmed while committing those acts even thereafter?.
The question that needs to be asked is who called these meetings and where. Who issued the ?instructions? to the local Congress leaders and workers to kill and gave ?assurances? that the killers won'tbe harmed? No ordinary person could have issued instructions and given these assurances. The person or persons concerned must be holding high public offices or must be big bosses in the Party. The then Lt. Governor of Delhi P.G. Gavai says the rot that led to the carnage was ?at the top?. He accuses the Union Government of ?deliberately delaying? the calling of Army on November 1 when the mass killings began. Gavai has unkind words to say about the then Home Minister who later rose to be the Prime Minister. ?Rao hid like a rat for three days after the riots broke out?, he says and adds that the only time the then Home Minister called him was to protect his friends. Harsh words about a leader who is no more.
Who wanted to teach Sikhs a ?lesson?? The Commission has exonerated Rajiv Gandhi on the premise that allegations of his involvement in the crime can'tbe believed.
Will the Prime Minister who gave a solemn commitment to Parliament to take all possible steps within the ambit of law order a thorough probe into the crucial question of who organised the carnage and with whose consent. Who wanted to teach Sikhs a ?lesson?? The Commission has exonerated Rajiv Gandhi on the premise that allegations of his involvement in the crime can'tbe believed. However, the fact remains that the then Prime Minister virtually justified the massacre by telling a public meeting in the national capital that the earth shakes when a big tree falls. Yet another relevant question is why did the Congress indulge in mass killing of Sikhs. The popular perception is that it was to exploit the hurt psyche of Hindus because of Indira Gandhi'sassassination and happenings in Punjab for electoral benefits. It did succeed in its evil design in the election that followed by projecting Sikhs as a threat to national unity.
The decision to force Jagdish Tytler to quit the Council of Minister was taken only after the Congress party was isolated on its sterile and farcical Action Taken Report. It is unlikely to enhance the Party'sprestige as the belated action was taken for political exigencies rather than political morality. Tytler was indicted by the Commission in no uncertain terms and his continuation as a minister was untenable. Nanawati says there was ?credible evidence? that Jagdish Tytler was ?very probably? involved in organising attacks on the Sikhs and recommended further investigations and further action as may be found necessary. The Government'sview that the Commission was not absolutely sure about Tytler'sinvolvement in the riots is untenable. The party put the criminal jurisprudence on its head by claiming that a person can'tbe prosecuted on the basis of probability. The fact is that cases are registered on the basis of probability and it is only at the stage of conviction that the system insists on charges proved beyond a reasonable doubt. The Commission also found ?credible evidence? against D. D. Shastri for instigating his men to organise attacks. It asked the Government to examine relevant material and order investigations. The Commission recommended probes in seven cases in which witnesses accused Sajjan Kumar specifically but no chargesheets were filed. Further action, it said, might be taken under the law, if there was justification in the complaints. In the case of Bhagat too the Commission found ?credible evidence? that he was very probably involved in the riots but recommended no action in view of his failing health. This is unacceptable. The Commission was not set up to entertain mercy petitions. Countless local workers of the Congress find mention in the report but they have managed to escape punishment for their crimes. The Prime Minister'sassurance that all possible steps will be taken under the ambit of law wherever the Commission has named any specific individual as needing further examination or specific case needing reopening and re-examination will be tested on the ground. Let him honour his commitment.