On October 31, when the country observed the 28th death anniversary of former prime minister Indira Gandhi and Congress leaders across the country sang paeans in praise of her, they forgot to even mention about the brutal anti-Sikh riots that followed her brutal killing. 28 years hence, there has been no justice for over 2000 victims of the riots that had the obvious patronage of some Congress leaders and the then government.
The bestiality of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom can be judged not only from the scale of violence but also the State’s tacit and pre-meditated role in fudging evidence, hampering investigations and thus denying and stonewalling any justice. Like the more recent Gujarat riots of 2002, the anti-Sikh riots are one of the darkest periods of post-partition history of the country. Unfortunately, while in the Gujarat case, there has been some justice with stern punishment for BJP leader Maya Kodnani and several others, even though many other guilty persons are still free, in the 1984 riots case, no such justice has ever been delivered.
This is a shame because such riots do not only impact the lives of the victims and their families, and trigger massive displacements, they also adversely impact the collective psyche of a community and this damage can only be undone to some extent by delivering justice and bringing to book the persons who were responsible for the riots, not just the men who went on a rampage on roads, setting houses on fire and killing innocent people but also those who sat in their plush homes and patronized them, as well as those who conveniently looked the other way when they should have used their official positions to save the lives of the victimized community and dealt sternly with rioters.
There is nothing that can wash off the stains of such brutal incidents but the only thing that can be done is to ensure that these are not repeated in future. That can only be done if the country’s legal justice system is willing to take its course in such large scale violence and vandalism that have a political background.