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How to Look at Delhi Court’s Decision Awarding Strict Punishment to Killer of Sikhs in a 1984 Related Case?

November 21, 2018 | By

A trial court in Delhi yesterday (on Nov. 20) awarded death sentenced to convict Yashpal and imprisonment for life to Naresh Sehrawat in a case related to killings of Sikhs in November 1984.

Naresh Sehrawat (L) and Yashpal (R) [File Photo]

They were taken into custody on November 14, 2018 after they were convicted by the trial court and were out on bail before that. They were convicted for murdering Hardev Singh Avtar Singh by setting them on fire in south Delhi’s Mahipalpur during genocidal massacre of Sikhs in 1984.

Widespread Impunity Remains a Hard Fact:

Even after conviction and punishment of Yashpal and Naresh Sehrawat impunity as a state policy in November 1984 Sikh genocide related cases remains a hard fact. The Indian judicial system took 34 years to pronounce them guilty. Moreover, this case was one of the few cases where the Indian court are holding trials of the culprits and witnesses are still alive. In an outnumbering majority of cases related to the 1984 Sikh genocide no proceedings for holding trial of culprits were ever initiated any many victims and witnesses passed away awaiting such proceedings.

Indian State’s Policy of Denial:

The Indian state is leaving no stone unturned to halt the process of international recognition for the fact of 1984 Sikh Genocide and has put in all resources to deny the fact of 1984 Sikh genocide. Recently, India’s Counsel General in USA got summons from a US District Court on a civil suit filed by a Sikh activist Swaranjit Singh Khalsa who was had made efforts to get the 1984 Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day law passed in the Connecticut state of the United States. India’s Counsel General had attempted to deny the fact of 1984 Sikh genocide and even went on to justify the genocide of the Sikhs by saying that the killings were in response to acts of (alleged) “Sikh terrorists”. [READ MORE]

Involvement of State System and Punishment for Individuals in Isolated Cases:

Sikhs were subjected to genocidal violence in November 1984 throughout the Indian subcontinent barring the Sikh homeland Punjab. The genocide was committed with active participation of the Indian state system – from political leadership, not only of Congress party but of BJP also, with the support of ideologues (e.g. see Nana Deshmukh’s November 8, 1984 paper), active and passive participation of police and administrative infrastructure. By punishing few individuals after three decades the Indian state cannot escape from the responsibility of the 1984 Sikh genocide or from the blame of crushing the hope for justice with blind impunity.

How Earlier Death Sentence Convicts Were Accommodated – Kishori Lal’s Case:

This is not the first case in which death sentenced is awarded to any of the culprits who had murdered Sikhs during the 1984 Sikh Genocide. Earlier one Kishori Lal was awarded death sentence on 7 counts for his involvement in massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. But all seven counted of death punishment were commuted to imprisonment for life. All this did not end here as the Delhi government led by Shiela Dikshit announced to grant him premature release on the pretext of ‘good behavior’ in February 2012 the decision was, however, halted after strong opposition from the Sikhs. (No reports in media on the status came to the notice of author of these lines of his release after that).

How the Decision Should Be Looked At?

The trial court’s decision to convict and sentence two of the culprits of ‘1984 Sikh Genocide’ (notably, genocide is not recognized as a crime in Indian law and punishment is granted only for killing individuals and not for participating in mass crime like Crimes Against Humanity or the Genocide) cannot be termed as totally insignificant move. The decision has its own significance.

The has brought a sense of satisfaction for the victims’ families who were engaged in a war like struggle for justice in most adverse situation

Firstly, it has brought a sense of satisfaction for the victims’ families and the legal team who were engaged in a war like struggle for justice in most adverse situation. Secondly, it must be admitted that holding culprits guilty and awarding them punishment at any stage meets ends of justice but it must be remembered that delay continues take toll of its meaningfulness, that’s why it is said that ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’. The delay of 34 years has reduced its significance to large extent but it’s still a welcome decision.

Advocate Harwinder Singh Phoolka who is legal fight to ensure punishment for the culprits of 1984 through Indian courts

Thirdly, the decision should not be stretches to cover the whole canvas and claim that complete justice for 1984 Sikh genocide or even to think that complete justice for the 1984 Sikh genocide is possible with in the Indian system. The course of past three decades has clarified that complete justice for 1984 Sikh genocide is not possible with in the Indian state system. Especially in a situation when the Indian state is denying the fact of 1984 Sikh Genocide.

How to look at takes of Pro-Indian state Sikh politicians?

Pro-Indian state politicians are trying to project this decision. They are projecting the decision to invoke a sense amongst the Sikh masses that the complete justice for the 1984 Sikh genocide is possible with the Indian state system. SAD (Badal) patron Parkash Singh Badal did not miss the opportunity to secure the credit for its political alliance with the BJP and said that the decision was result of strict steps taken by the NDA government.

After 34 years of the 1984 Sikh Genocide the Indian state want to counter the fact of denial of justice and impunity by allowing punishment for culprits in isolated decision and pro-Indian state Sikh politicians are playing leading role helping the state in this regard.

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