“They say it has been more than 30 years so forget the 1984 massacres, but how can I? Not one day goes by without me thinking about it” — Bhaggi Kaur, survivor of 1984 Sikh massacres.
In November 1984, at least 3000 Sikh men, women and children were killed across four days of killing and looting that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in Delhi.
Sikh men were dragged out of their homes by mobs and shot dead while others were hacked to death, or doused with petrol and burned alive. Numerous Sikh women were raped.
A number of official commissions of inquiry were appointed to investigate these massacres. While some of them found evidence of the compliance of police officials and political leaders from the Congress party in systematic attacks against members of the Sikh community, very few people were convicted in cases related to the violence. After the massacres, the Delhi police, citing lack of evidence, closed investigations into hundreds of cases. Investigations into many other cases, have not been completed even after 30 years. Only a handful of police personnel charged with neglecting their duty and offering protection to the attackers have received any form of official punishment.
What did Amnesty do?
Amnesty International India launched a public campaign in October 2014 ahead of the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Sikh Massacre urging the Indian government to establish an independent team to reinvestigate the cases, and demanding that authorities bring to justice all those responsible for the massacre – whether they are political leaders, police or government officials.
From October 2014 to March 2015, more than 400,000 people across India joined Amnesty India’s campaign by giving ‘missed calls’ on their phones. An online petition page was created and promoted on Amnesty India’s website and promoted through social media platforms. All the signatures were collected and submitted to the Union Law Minister in November 2014. Eminent people like Rabbi Shergil, Gurpreet Ghuggi, Binnu Dhillon, Savita Bhatti, and Nirmal Kaur also supported the campaign.
In March 2015, Amnesty India organized a letter writing event in Delhi where the widows of the victims of the 1984 Sikh massacre wrote letters to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, demanding justice.
An Amnesty International India team also met the Punjab Chief Minister, Parkash Singh Badal on 24 April 2015 and urged him to ask the Union Home Ministry to deliver speedy justice for the 1984 massacre.
In February 2015, the Union Home Ministry announced the formation of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) and asked it to submit its investigation report within six months. The mandate of this team, including its ability to file charges, have not been made public. Multiple inquiries have been constituted in the past which could only recommend action. The reports they submitted have not led to justice for the survivors.
In April 2015, Amnesty International India filed an RTI (Right to information) application to the Ministry of Home Affairs asking for information about the mandate and terms of reference of the Special Investigation Team, and a copy of the report of the Justice Mathur Committee, which had looked at the possibility of setting up an SIT and submitted its report to the central government in January 2015.
Amnesty International India will continue to mobilize more people and continue campaigning to ensure that justice does not continue to be denied.