29 years on, Sajjan Kumar acquitted in 1984 riots case

New Delhi, April 30 (IANS) A Delhi court Tuesday acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a case related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. As anguished protests broke out among gathered crowds, an angry man hurled a shoe at the judge inside the courtroom.

Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal came almost three decades after an estimated 3,000 Sikhs were killed in three days of riots in India’s capital and elsewhere.

District Judge J.R. Aryan convicted the other five accused in the case related to the killing of five people in Delhi Cantonment area during violence against the Sikhs following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi on Oct 31, 1984.

As protests erupted among crowds outside the Karkardooma court complex, All India Sikh Federation president Karnail Singh Peer Mohammad flung a shoe at the judge.

“He (Mohammad) never intended to hit the judge but he wanted to show his resentment towards the judicial system which has failed to give justice to the Sikhs. He is in police custody,” Mohammad’s lawyer told reporters.

The court acquitted Sajjan Kumar but convicted five other accused for rioting, being armed with deadly weapons and murder.

The Congress leader was facing trial along with Balwan Khokkar, Mahender Yadav, Girdhari Lal, Kishan Khokkar and Captain Bhagmal for allegedly conspiring and inciting a mob against the Sikh community.

Accused Kishan Khokkar, and Mahender Yadav were charged under section 147 (rioting) and section 148 (rioting, armed with deadly weapon), while the other accused Balwan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal were charged under sections 147, 148, and 302 (murder).

The case against Sajjan Kumar was registered in 2005 on a recommendation of the Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission which inquired into the riots.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed two charge sheets against Sajjan Kumar and others in January 2010.

The present case deals with the death of five Sikhs – Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh – who were members of the same family and were killed by the mob in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar area.

Kehar and Gurpreet were the husband and son respectively of complainant and eye-witness Jagdish Kaur.

Raghuvender, Narender and Kuldeep were her brothers.

The order led to furore amongst members of the Sikh community, camped outside the court complex since early morning, who were hopeful that the Congress leader would be brought to justice.

Slogans like “shame shame” against the Congress were heard and some people tried to climb over barricades and storm the court complex.

A ruckus ensued inside the courtroom too when the judge acquitted Sajjan Kumar and the victims’ family refused to vacate the court room.

“I would not leave this court till the prime accused Sajjan Kumar is convicted for murder. He should get death penalty. Hang him, otherwise I will die here,” shouted Jagdish Kaur.

Many women were seen crying openly.

“Congress is a party of murderers. Though we respect court, we are sad with this judgment. We never thought that he will be acquitted,” said a woman protester.

“Is this what we have waited for in the past 29 years? They killed so many people and are let off the hook. Sikhs have always been discriminated against in this country,” said another protestor.

“Our hopes have been shattered. We thought like Tytler, the court will take a serious view against Sajjan Kumar,” she said.

On April 10, a Delhi Court ordered the reopening of a case against another Congress leader, Jagdish Tytler, in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

Tytler is accused of instigating a mob that led to the murder of three men who had taken shelter at the Pul Bangash Gurdwara in north Delhi on Nov 1, 1984.

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