New Delhi: Terming the 1984 killings of Sikhs the “first major state-sponsored riots”, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) on Monday said the 2002 Gujarat violence would not have happened if the 1984 guilty had been given exemplary punishment without delay.
On Monday, the Delhi High Court held Congress leader Sajjan Kumar guilty in the killing of some Sikhs and sentenced him to imprisonment for life, 34 long years after the brutal violence shook the national capital and other places.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj told IANS: “If exemplary punishment had been given to the perpetrators of 1984 riots, nobody would have repeated it in 2002.”
He said the conviction of a senior political leader like Sajjan Kumar showed that the judiciary had started to work now and justice was being served to the victims.
The Greater Kailash MLA underlined that the High Court had compared the 1984 and 2002 riots, saying both had “political patronage” and “state sponsorship”.
“We have been saying that the 2002 riots were clearly state-sponsored. The BJP was in power in Gujarat and at the Centre. Now speedy justice should be served for the 2002 riots as well. There should be legal proceeding against those involved, including the political higher-ups (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi and (BJP President) Amit Shah,” he said.
The 2002 Gujarat riots erupted after a coach of the Sabarmati Express was set on fire at Godhra, killing 59 Hindus. More than 1,000 people were killed in the riots, most victims being Muslims.
The 1984 bloodbath followed the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi here on October 31, 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
While Modi was given a clean chit by the special investigation team (SIT) in connection with the 2002 riots, it has been challenged before the Supreme Court.
Bharadwaj accused both the Congress and BJP of not giving justice to the innocents.
“Justice should also be served for 2002… But if the same timeline used in 1984 is followed, it will take a long time,” he added.
The Delhi High Court said the 1984 violence was “neither the first instance of a mass crime nor, tragically, the last.
“The mass killings in Punjab, Delhi and elsewhere during the country’s partition remains a collective painful memory as is the killings of innocent Sikhs in November 1984. There has been a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha in 2008 and in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013 to name a few,” the judge said.
It said the things “common to these mass crimes were the targeting of minorities and the attacks spearheaded by the dominant political actors being facilitated by the law enforcement agencies”.
Delhi government spokesperson Nagendra Sharma also said that if those who aided, abetted and committed the 1984 riots had been punished without delay, “then nobody would have dared to repeat such brutal and ghastly crimes through state patronage in 2002”.
Calling the BJP and its ally Akali Dal “hypocritical and opportunistic”, Sharma wondered what prevented them from setting up an SIT to probe the 1984 riots for more than three decades?
An AAP statement said: “What is extremely surprising is why the BJP, which was in power at the Centre between 1998-2004, did nothing for a concrete probe into the 1984 riots and what is further surprising that even Shiromani Akali Dal was a part of this government.”
It said it was Arvind Kejriwal who recommended setting up an independent SIT to probe the 1984 riots during his first term as Delhi Chief Minister in 2013-14.
“Then Congress-appointed Delhi LG Najeeb Jung did not allow this… What is further shocking is that after Modi took power in May 2014, it set up a committee to ascertain whether any SIT was required,” the AAP said.
The Delhi Assembly in 2015 passed a resolution dubbing the 1984 violence a genocide.