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OPINION | With Too Many Lapses and Delays, Anti-Sikh Riots Verdict Not a Victory But a Mere Step in Right Direction

The Delhi Court's order unlikely to bring the families that survived the violence any satisfaction of justice. It will prove to be a mere lazily applied band aid over an old and deep wound.

Sanjay Suri | News18.com

Updated:November 21, 2018, 7:43 PM IST
OPINION | With Too Many Lapses and Delays, Anti-Sikh Riots Verdict Not a Victory But a Mere Step in Right Direction
Family members of victims of 1984 anti-Sikh riots celebrate outside the Patiala House Court in New Delhi, Tuesday, Nov 20, 2018, after the pronouncement of the first death punishment in the case. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh)

The death sentence in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots is a symbolic justice that we have been hungry for, for far too long. And no, this is not justice at last, but only a token reassurance that can at best send out a message to limit the complaint that nothing was done. That complaint will be limited, not silenced. We are looking at a denial of justice in more than 3,000 murders committed over a span of a couple of days in Delhi. These are two persons convicted, 34 years later.

There’s no certainty on how long this conviction will stay. The Delhi Police had in 1994 closed the case for want of evidence. It was reopened by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) in 2015. A political decision seems to have been taken on the need to reach a conclusion, to show that this was not another wasted SIT formation. So this death sentence ruling is a gap that will no doubt get picked up by the defence in its appeal.

This is not justice, this is just a talking point for the political leadership. No matter how cynically we choose to see this — and there is an overwhelming reason to see it no other way — this order does take some of the sting out of the disbelieving observation over a generation and more that so many were killed in India’s capital city and that nobody was ever punished for it. The great value of this judgment is that the lack of such would be much worse.

Forget that this order will bring the families that survived the violence any reassurance, let alone any satisfaction of justice. It will prove to be a mere lazily applied band aid over an old and deep wound. And an SIT cannot realistically be expected to do more, except for an investigation. The fact is, it is the Delhi Police that betrayed the Sikhs of Delhi then - when it was not itself an accomplice to the killing - but there is no substitute for investigation by Delhi Police. It has the necessary recorded information to act upon and the reason it has not done so yet is because it has never been given firm orders.

If justice was the aim, Delhi Police needed to be given orders leading on from the Ved Marwah report into the killings. It is these records that have specific information for police to potentially act upon. Delhi Police handed the records conveniently to the Ranganath Mishra Commission and those records have gone missing. The second inquiry, by the Nanavati Commission, pointed this out. If the government is serious about delivering justice on the 1984 massacres, those records need to be dug out and act upon.

The Patiala House awarding death sentence for convict Yashpal Singh and announced life imprisonment for another convict Naresh Sherawat in the anti-Sikh riots case is a small step, but no substitute for the steps that still need to be taken over the records that the government has hidden from itself, and steps towards full justice.

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