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Entire Congress Party Is Not to Blame for 1984 Sikh Massacres
By RAJDEEP SARDESAI
N.D.T.V., Jan. 27, 2005
Photo: 1984 Sikh massacres
The Justice Nanavati report on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 is ready and will be given to the Home Ministry next week.
For more than two decades, the sepia-tinted images of the riots, have haunted the nation. But they haven't led to justice for the victims.
The report of the commission could jog public memory once again.
N.D.T.V. has learnt that the Commission will not directly indict the Congress party for its role in the violence.
According to sources, the Commission feels that the violence was 'organised' and 'systematic' in several areas.
But it maintains that the entire Congress party apparatus cannot be held responsible for the acts of individual politicians, hooligans, depraved people and local gangs.
The report, according to sources, does not hold the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi directly responsible in any way for the failure to check the violence.
'How can a prime minister be held responsible for each and every action in a police station or a particular district of Delhi?' is the explanation being given.
However, the role of another former prime minister, late Narasimha Rao, who was home minister at the time, has come under greater scrutiny.
According to sources, the Commission feels that as home minister, Rao did not act quickly and decisively enough in controlling the law and order situation.
There are also no adverse findings against two other union ministers: Kamal Nath and Jagdish Tytler, who deposed before the Commission.
According to sources, the evidence brought against them was weak.
But the Commission has found enough evidence from witnesses to recommend a re-investigation of cases against some party leaders.
These include sitting Congress M.P. from outer Delhi, Sajjan Kumar, former union minister H.K.L. Bhagat and another former Delhi M.P., Dharamdas Shastri.
Ironically, Kumar is the only active politician who could face embarrassment and even he has been acquitted by the Delhi High Court in one major case.
The Commission is also likely to pass strictures against senior Delhi police officers at the time and recommend departmental inquiries against them.
But here again, Commission sources maintain, 'you cannot blame the police as an institution for the failure of individual officers.'
According to sources, the Commission's terms of reference do not allow it to pronounce on the guilt of anyone.
It can only ask for re-investigation in those cases which the police filed as 'untraced' but where witnesses have now come forward to depose against individuals who were part of the mob.
The other category is the cases where people were named by witnesses but not accused.
The Commission received more than 10,000 affidavits and examined 197 witnesses.
But there is a question mark over whether it has come any closer to providing real justice to the victims of the 1984 riots.
Ironically, Justice Nanavati is also heading the commission appointed to inquire into the Gujarat riots.
His report then might only then end up reviving the debate on whether inquiry commissions alone can ensure speedy and genuine justice to the victims of communal riots.
Political reactions to the development reported by N.D.T.V. were muted.
Kumar walked away when told he was one of the politicians against whom action had been recommended.
The Congress has side stepped comments against individual leaders, but it says the report proves the B.J.P. launched a misleading campaign against the party.
'The B.J.P. campaign has been slanderous and this report exposes this,' says Anand Sharma, Congress spokesperson.
It's the B.J.P. which is now reacting cautiously after accusing the Congress of orchestrating the anti-Sikh riots. The N.D.A. government had set up this commission in 2003.
'I don't think this conclusion is possible. All commissions of inquiry before this has blamed the Congress. We will officially react only after seeing the report,' says V.K. Malhotra, B.J.P. spokesperson.
Over the last 20 years, a commission of inquiry and eight committees were set up to investigate the anti-Sikh riots.
Officially, 2733 people were killed but only nine people, none of them Congress workers, have received life sentences.
Only two Congress leaders, Sajjan Kumar and H.K.L. Bhagat, were indicted. But Kumar was acquitted by a lower court in 2002 and his case presently rests with the Delhi High Court. And Bhagat is now medically unfit and cannot make a statement.