The massacre of 1984 was a national shame, and it was followed by another: over three decades of impunity for perpetrators of these crimes. Survivors reported that the police refused to register complaints in many cases, and in others they registered vague ‘omnibus FIRs’ covering all the offences in a neighborhood. In Delhi, 587 First Information Reports (FIRs)
related to the massacre were registered, of which the Delhi police closed 247 as ‘untraced’, meaning that they had been unable to trace any evidence. Over 33 years later, only a handful of police personnel charged with neglecting their duty and protecting the attackers have been punished.
This photo digest presents a glimpse into the lives of these forgotten people.The screams of the victims still echo in the narrow lanes of neighbourhoods where thousands were butchered. It is time for India to ensure that the injustice for massacre of 1984 does not remain a festering sore.
Special Investigative Team (SIT): A Disappointment
In February 2015, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), acting on the recommendations of a government-appointed committee, constituted a three-member special investigation team (SIT), comprising two senior police officers and a retired judge. 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 work. However, its functioning was marked by an almost-complete lack of transparency and baffling delays.
For over two years, the SIT sought one extension after another. In 2017, it finally stated that it had closed 241 cases and filed charges in just 12 cases.
In June 2017, Amnesty International India filed a Right to Information application seeking information on the reasons for the closure of cases by the SIT. No information was provided. In August, the Supreme Court set up a panel comprising two former judges to examine the SIT’s decisions to close cases.
As long as the perpetrators of the 1984 massacre remain unpunished, the rule of law in India will remain weakened.