Fresh investigation into 1984 Sikh massacre opens more cases, but still lacks transparency
India: 2 September 2016 10:25 am
The opening of new cases by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the Central government to reinvestigate closed cases related to the 1984 Sikh massacre is a welcome development, but the team’s functioning must be more transparent and prompt, said Amnesty International India today.
On 29 August, the SIT announced that it had identified 28 cases for further investigation, and invited people familiar with the cases to testify before it. In July 2016, the SIT had identified 49 cases for reinvestigation. When asked about the progress of the investigation, however, the head of the SIT asked Amnesty International India to contact the Ministry of Home Affairs.
“The opening of more cases by the SIT is encouraging, but the functioning of the team has been marked by a worrying lack of transparency,” said Sanamdeep Singh Wazir, Campaigner at Amnesty International India.
“The SIT needs to conduct prompt and transparent investigations into the cases, including by makings its proceedings and findings accessible to the media and the public. Victims and witnesses who fear reprisal must be allowed to request confidential hearings.”
On 23 June, Amnesty International India organized an event as part of a campaign seeking justice for the massacre, where civil society members made a series of recommendations related to effective investigations, comprehensive remedy and reparation, and legal and police reform, to be submitted to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs.
Among those who attended were former judges Markandey Katju, Rajinder Sachar and Anil Dev Singh; author Kuldip Nayar; human rights lawyers H.S. Phoolka and Vrinda Grover, writer Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay and journalists Seema Mustafa, Hartosh Bal and Siddharth Varadarajan. Also present were former MP Tarlochan Singh; Kanwar Sandhu of the Aam Aadmi Party, Manjeet Singh GK of the Shiromani Akali Dal, and Hannan Mollah of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
“For the last thirty plus years, the entire pursuit of justice for 1984 has been woven around the hope that some of the big names will be punished. This piece-meal approach of some cases being re-opened each time will be of no use till the big names are punished,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
“It is a good thing that these cases have been re-opened after 31 years. But the SIT needs to speed up the investigation,” said Tarlochan Singh.
The SIT, which comprises two senior police officers and a retired judge, was constituted on 12 February 2015. Its 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. The progress of the investigation has been slow. In December 2015, the Ministry of Home Affairs disclosed in a reply to a Right to Information application that the SIT had not filed charges in a single case.
After the 1984 massacre, in which over 3,000 Sikh men, women and children were killed, the Delhi police had closed investigations into hundreds of cases, citing lack of evidence.
Only a handful of police personnel charged with neglecting their duty and offering protection to the attackers in the 1984 massacre have received any form of official punishment.
“The SIT has a chance to finally deliver justice for the thousands who suffered in 1984. It must not let this opportunity go to waste,” said Sanamdeep Singh Wazir.
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