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'1984 riots was a genocide launched by some Congress leaders'

Last updated on: May 30, 2013 12:19 IST

Sikhs seek justice on NYC streets

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Over 100 members of the Sikh community held a protest in front of a federal court in Manhattan on Wednesday to protest the alleged role of Congress leaders in orchestrating the 1984 riots.

The protestors claimed that hundreds of Sikhs were killed in a "genocidal programme launched by a handful of Congress Party leaders and carried out not only by Congress workers but also by the police".

The rally was held to coincide with the first pre-trial conference, presided over Judge Robert W Sweet, in the case registered against Congress party by the Sikhs For Justice. 

Reportage: Arthur J Pais

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'Charge the leaders of the massacre'

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Judge Sweet refused to dismiss the suit but gave the SFJ time till September to comply with a recent decision in an unrelated case, which deemed that foreign entities can be liable in a United States Court for atrocities committed overseas only under limited circumstances.

The SFJ is likely to argue that Congress has chapters outside India and hence is answerable in an American court. It will also have to reiterate strongly the presence of many alleged victims and witnesses of the 1984 riots across America, particularly in California.

"We brought this case against the Congress party as the government has for years protected the high-ranking members of the party over violence against innocent Sikhs," said Dr Bakhshish Singh, a member of the SFJ.

"The government is not willing to bring the guilty to justice. All that we are saying is that the government should charge the alleged leaders of the massacre, let the court decide their innocence or guilt and give them suitable punishment so that we can all move forward with our lives," he said.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Case against Badal dismissed

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The SFJ is suing the Congress in New York, in connection to the alleged role of some of its leaders in the 1984 riots, because the party has a chapter in the city.

The outfit has also claimed that the government led by Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab has destroyed many families in the state under the guise of its fight against militants.

A court in Wisconsin had recently dismissed the case against Parkash Singh Badal, saying that the SFJ had not served the summons to the Punjab CM during his visit a few months ago. The summons was, according to the court, handed to another member of the Sikh community.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'My father did not belong to any party'

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Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, said his organisation believes that Badal was indeed served and the outfit will seek a new trial in a few weeks.  He suggested that the man who had claimed that he was mistakenly summoned is a cohort of Badal's party.

Mohender Singh, a truck driver from California who was part of the demonstration, said that he was only two years old when his father was hacked to death in the butcher shop he owned in Delhi.

"He did not belong to any political party. All he cared about was earning a livelihood for his family," said Singh.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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'Congress's role will be exposed'

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"I am the person who sued (senior Congress leader) Kamal Nath. A great amount of pressure was put on my wife and family members in India to withdraw the case. But I will not change my mind," he said.

In a statement, Pannun said, "Due to the continuous practice of impunity by successive Indian governments towards the perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh genocide, the victims are forced to approach the US court in pursuit of justice".

Through this lawsuit, Congress's role "in organising genocidal attacks against a religious minority and subsequent-cover up of terming it as anti-Sikh riots will be exposed before the international community," the statement added.

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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