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34 years on, a drop of justice for '84 Sikh pogrom victims

34 years on, a drop of justice for 84 Sikh pogrom victims
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New Delhi: Thirty-four years after the anti-Sikh riots, the Delhi High Court on Monday sentenced Congress veteran Sajjan Kumar to life in the first conviction of a politician in the communal frenzy, holding it was perpetrated by those who enjoyed "political patronage". Describing the riots as "crimes against humanity", the High Court awarded Kumar life term for "remainder of his natural life", convicting him of criminal conspiracy and abetment in commission of crimes of murder, promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion and doing acts prejudicial to maintenance of communal harmony and defiling and destruction of a Gurdwara.

The case in which Kumar has been convicted relates to killing of five Sikhs in Raj Nagar part-I area in Palam Colony in South West Delhi on November 1-2, 1984 during the deadly riots in the national capital and other parts of the country. According to official accounts, 2,733 Sikhs were killed between November 1 and 4, 1984 following the assassination of the then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31.

The court directed Kumar, who was then a Lok Sabha MP from Outer Delhi, and other five convicts to surrender by December 31, 2018 and not to leave the city of Delhi. Kumar's lawyer Anil Sharma said that the Congress leader intends to appeal against the verdict in the Supreme Court. Six accused, including Kumar, were sent for trial in 2010 and three years later, the lower court convicted five of the accused but acquitted the Congress leader of all the charges.

Quashing the acquittal on appeals by the CBI, a bench of justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel said the accused in the case were brought to justice "primarily on account of the courage and perseverance of three eyewitnesses" — Jagdish Kaur, her cousin Jagsher Singh and Nirpreet Kaur. Jagdish Kaur's husband, son and three cousins — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh — were the five killed in the instant case.

Nirpreet Kaur had witnessed the Gurdwara being burnt down and her father being burnt alive by the raging mobs, the Bench also noted. Jagdish Kaur and Narpreet Kaur said although 34 years is a long time, they were determined to "unmask the accused" and their their fight for justice will go on.

"This verdict has brought some relief. No one should face the kind of injustice we have faced all these years," said Jagdish Kaur. See inside

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