Human Rights Watch, New York, October 30, 2004
On the twentieth anniversary of the mass killings of Sikhs, the new
Congress-led government should launch fresh investigations into and make
a public commitment to prosecute the planners and implementers of the
violence, Human Rights Watch said today.
In 1984, in retaliation for the assassination of Prime Minister Indira
Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, angry mobs, some allegedly
organized by members of the Congress party, attacked and killed
thousands of Sikhs. From November 1 to November 4, gangs attacked the
symbols and structures of the Sikh faith, the properties of Sikhs, and
killed whole families by burning them alive. The residences and
properties of Sikhs were identified through government-issued voter
Victim groups, lawyers and activists have long alleged state complicity
in the violence. For three days the police failed to act, as gangs
carrying weapons and kerosene roamed the streets, exhorting non-Sikhs to
kill Sikhs and loot and burn their properties.
“Seven government-appointed commissions have investigated these
attacks,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch. "But the
commissions were all either whitewashes or they were met with official
stonewalling and obstruction.”
The report of the latest commission, the Nanavati Commission, was due
November 1, but has been delayed for another two months.
“The time for commissions that do not lead to prosecutions is over,”
said Adams. “After two decades, the prosecutors and police should act.
There is more than enough evidence to do so now.”
Human Rights Watch called for an end to political protection for
organizers of the violence. Some of those allegedly involved in the
pogrom currently occupy posts in the government or are members of
parliament. Both the judiciary and administrative inquiry commissions
have failed to hold these perpetrators accountable.
“For two decades high-ranking members of the Congress party have enjoyed
political impunity for this violence,” said Adams. “The fact that many
of the alleged planners of the violence were and are members of the
Congress party should not be a barrier to justice for the victims.”
Human Rights Watch commended ENSAAF (www.ensaaf.org), an organization
dedicated to fighting impunity in India, for its 150-page report, Twenty
Years of Impunity, analyzing the patterns of the pogroms and the
attitudes and practices of impunity revealed by previously unpublished
government documents and other materials.
“With many connected to the violence now enjoying prominent positions in
public life, the ENSAAF report makes it clear that India continues to
ignore this dark chapter of its modern history at its own risk,” said
Adams. “Only a conscious exercise of political will on the part of the
new government of Prime Minister Singh can bring about justice for the