THE World Sikh Organization of Canada has written to Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, welcoming his acknowledgement of the killing of Sikhs in November 1984 as a genocide and calling on him to follow up his announcement with investigations and prosecutions of those responsible for orchestrating and carrying out the killings.
Noting that Rajnath Singh’s acknowledgement has been welcomed by Sikhs in India and across the world, WSO President Dr. Amritpal Singh Shergill in his letter wrote, “India is a signatory to and has ratified the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, which recognizes genocide as an international crime and obligates signatories to prevent and punish actions of genocide. While recognition of 1984 as a genocide was a welcome and necessary first step, we encourage your government to now vigorously pursue investigations and prosecutions of those involved.”
He added: “The recent decision by your government to provide enhanced compensation to the victims of the 1984 genocide is appropriate as these families have suffered for much too long, but the most important step to help heal the wounds of 1984 will be to bring the murderers responsible for the killings to justice.”
New Delhi: Home Minister Rajnath Singh Friday (last week) distributed additional compensation cheques to the kin of 17 victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots at an event here.
A home ministry official said that the enhanced compensation will be given to all the eligible victims. “The riot victims who did not get compensation earlier in the UPA government will be provided Rs. 8.5 lakh [Rs.850,000].”
“It was a token distribution of the additional compensation cheque to the 1984 riot victims. Each cheque was of Rs. 5 lakh [Rs.500,000]. The remaining riot victims will be provided the compensation amount very soon,” the official told IANS.
Rajnath Singh distributed the cheques in west Delhi’s Tilak Vihar area.
As per records, 3,325 people were killed in the riots across the country. Of them, 2,733 were killed in Delhi alone. The others victims belonged to Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, among other states.
In 2006, the UPA government had announced a Rs.717-crore [1 crore = 10 million] rehabilitation package for anti-Sikh riots victims after the Nanavati Commission, which was set up to probe the riots, submitted its report.
According to the package, an ex-gratia amount of Rs.3.5 lakh [Rs.350,000] each to the next of kin riot victims was disbursed. Out of this only Rs.517 crore had been spent and the remaining Rs.200 crore could not be distributed because of dispute over claimants.
Additional relief of Rs.5 lakh [Rs.500,000] was announced by Rajnath Singh in October, five months after the BJP-led NDA government assumed office.
The decision to enhance the compensation was taken just before the by-elections were announced for three assembly seats in Delhi.
The home minister gave the credit of this step to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Describing the 1984 riot as a “genocide”, the home minister said: “It was not riot, it was genocide instead. Hundreds of innocent people were killed. The pain of the kin of riot victims cannot be compensated by even paying crores of rupees.”
After distributing the cheques, Singh said that several persons who had a “role” in the carnage are yet to be punished. “There are several persons who are yet to be punished. I have faith in our judicial system and these persons will definitely get punishment.”
While addressing the kin of riot victims, he said: “No compensation and relief will take away the pain which these family members are facing for the last 30 years. I know that until these persons are punished, victims will not get relief. I want to assure that government is with you and will be with you in even bad days.”
Describing the incident as a “black spot” in the history of India, Singh also requested the chief ministers of all states to inform the home ministry about the status of the disbursement of the enhanced compensation amount.
He said that the government has now constituted a committee under the chairmanship of retired Supreme Court judge G.P. Mathur to address the grievances related to the 1984 riots.
The committee was set up after the home ministry received a large number of complaints from various individuals and associations.
The Committee will also oversee the implementation of the payment of enhanced compensation of Rs.5 lakh [Rs.500,000] per person killed during the riots, as approved by the Union Cabinet.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had earlier demanded re-investigation into all cases related to the 1984 riots. The justice Nanavati Commission had recommended reopening of only four of 241 cases closed by police but the BJP wanted the re-investigation in all other 237 cases.