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No progress in fresh investigation into 1984 Sikh massacre cases after one year

February 13, 2016 | By

New Delhi (Feb. 11, 2016): A Special Investigation team (SIT) formed by the Indian government in February 2015 to reinvestigate closed cases related to the 1984 Sikh massacre has not yet filed charges in a single case, Amnesty International India said today.

The Ministry of Home Affairs disclosed this information on 29 December 2015 in response to a Right to Information application filed by Amnesty International India.

A Sikh man burnt alive by a mob in the November 1984 genocide

A Sikh man burnt alive by a mob in the November 1984 genocide

“Tomorrow will mark one year since the formation of the SIT,” said Sanam Wazir, campaigner at Amnesty International India. “Unlike previous commissions appointed to investigate the attacks against Sikhs in 1984, the SIT had the authority to reopen cases and file charges. It raised hopes among victims and survivors that they would finally get justice.

“But the SIT’s apparent lack of progress so far has been baffling.”

60-year-old Lakshmi Kaur, whose husband was killed in the massacre, told Amnesty International India, “With time even the government has started taking this issue very lightly. But the victims who have seen their loved ones being killed cannot move ahead till justice is delivered.”

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted the SIT, which comprises of two senior police officers and a retired judge, on 12 February 2015. The SIT’s terms of reference included reinvestigating criminal cases filed in Delhi in relation to the 1984 Sikh massacre, and filing charges against accused persons where there was sufficient available evidence.

The SIT was given six months to complete this exercise. However in August 2015, the MHA extended the term of the team by one year to August 2016. Amnesty International India filed a Right to Information application in August 2015 seeking the reasons behind the extension. The MHA responded that the information sought was not covered by the RTI law.

November 1984 pogrom of Sikhs [File Photo]

November 1984 pogrom of Sikhs [File Photo]

In its response to another RTI application in December, the MHA stated that the SIT has been looking into 18 “cancelled cases” and 34 files of a committee which had investigated the massacre in the early 1990s. Amnesty International India filed another RTI application seeking details of the cases. The MHA refused to provide this information, stating that it would impede investigations.

On 27 January, the Supreme Court, responding to a petition seeking speedy justice for victims of the massacre, sought information from the central government on the status of the SIT investigation.

“The SIT’s functioning has been marked by a near-complete lack of transparency,” said Sanam Wazir. “It has provided little information to the public about its operations or its investigation.”

“The SIT has a chance to finally deliver justice for the thousands who suffered in 1984. But it appears to be wasting this opportunity.”

Background Information

At least 3000 Sikh men, women and children were killed, mainly in Delhi, in 1984 over the course of four days of killing and looting that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Yet only a tiny fraction of those responsible have been brought to justice.

The Delhi Police closed investigations into hundreds of cases after the massacres, citing lack of evidence. Only a handful of police personnel charged with neglecting their duty and offering protection to the attackers have been punished.

Over 600,000 people supported Amnesty International India’s campaign seeking justice for the victims and survivors of the 1984 massacre in 2015.

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