June 18, 2021
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'The Difference Between 1984 And 2002'

'The Difference Between 1984 And 2002'
'The Difference Between 1984 And 2002'

H.S. Phoolka, the author of When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, and the lawyer working for the victims of the 1984 riots had this to say on Rahul Gandhi's statement on 1984 and 2002 riots:

Rahul Gandhi says that there is a difference between the Gujarat 2002 and Delhi 1984 riots. To that extent he is right.

In 2002 Gujarat riots, some Hindus were also killed. But in 1984, only the Sikhs died, not one Hindu or non-Sikh was killed. There was no police firing to stop the carnage in Delhi, whereas in Gujarat many people were also killed in police firing to stop the riots.

In Gujarat 130 people have been given life imprisonment, 10 people are given death sentence and one minister is sentenced for 28 years. In the case of 1984, hardly anybody has been punished.

The actual difference is that in case of the Gujarat riots all those cases which were closed by the Police were reopened and reinvestigated by the SIT. The Congress fully supported the formation of this SIT. In a shameful display of double standards, when it comes to the 1984 riot cases, again most of the cases were closed by the Police itself but the Congress is not supporting the demand of formation of SIT.

As per the Nanavati report, submitted in 2005, out of the 587 FIRs registered, the Police closed 241 on its own as untraced, and these were never even sent to Court for trial. It is thus absolutely imperative to form an SIT to reopen and reinvestigate these cases but unfortunately the Congress is not interested in formation of an SIT.

Mr Rahul Gandhi says that the law will take its own course. What course would the law take if in almost half the cases registered, the Police itself closed down the cases and did not even send the cases forward.

If the Congress party supports the SIT in the case of Gujarat, why does it not support the SIT in the case of 1984 riots? What about those 241 cases that the Police closed on its own and did not prosecute? Why not an SIT for those cases? This is a big question that needs to be answered.

Now Rahul Gandhiji says that the law will take its own course. When the police does not even send the cases to the court, what course will the law take?

During the 1984 riots, throughout Delhi, Sikhs had been disarmed by the Police and they were arrested from their houses, if they defended themselves and their children. Even the "Right To Defend" of its citizens had been brutally stripped off, let alone protect them. Wherever any Sikh tried to himself and his children, the Police reached in large numbers and arrested that Sikh from his house, but didn't even touch anyone in the mob. If this is not government's connivance, then we ask Gandhi, what is it?"

As far as the involvement of the Government is concerned, Rahul Gandhi should only see the report of Mishra Commission, a commission appointed by the Congress government only, which clearly states:

"If the Army had been called in the morning of November 1, 1984-and by then about 5,000 Army people were at Delhi- the position would certainly not have been as bad as it turned out to be. 5,000 Army jawans divided into columns and moving into the streets properly armed would not have brought about the death of at least 2,000 people."

Those political leaders who openly led the mob were rewarded and given high positions. Instead of sending them to jail they were given position of power and made ministers. The Congress appointed killers in higher position, like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. This sent a wrong signal and started a dangerous precedent that murders of hundred and thousands of innocents would not be punished, and would rather be rewarded.

If the guilty of 1984 riots had been punished, we wouldn't have seen the riots of Mumbai in 1993 or the riot of Gujarat in 2002 and it was the active connivance of the Congress government in 1984 and its massive cover up for all these decades thereafter, that has prevented justice from being done for the victims of 1984.

Rahul Gandhi's statement is like salt on the wounds of the victims of 1984. Rahul Gandhi should apologise and before that should ensure justice to the victims.

In addition to his book, Mr Phoolka has extensively written on the cases he has persued doggedly for close to 30 years now:

In 2002, we saw a repeat of 1984 in Gujarat, but due to the Supreme Court’s promptness in appointing an independent special investigation team, cases could not be covered up so blatantly. In the case of the 1984 carnage, out of 2,733 officially admitted murders, only nine cases led to convictions. Just over 20 accused have been convicted in 25 years—a conviction rate of less than 1 per cent.

One of the basic principles of criminal jurisprudence is that punishment to the guilty should act as a deterrent for the future. Does such an abysmal rate of conviction and punishment serve to act as a deterrent or does it send out the message that one can get away with committing heinous crimes? Think: if the guilty of 1984 had been punished, perhaps the Gujarat carnage would not have happened.

The year 1984 also completed the evolution of a certain brand of politics of violence—belonging to the ruling party led murderous mobs. It saw the beginning of a disturbing trend of political parties complicit in the mass killing of citizens winning elections with a thumping majority—Rajiv Gandhi’s Congress in December 1984, the Shiv Sena in Mumbai in 1993 and Narendra Modi in Gujarat, in 2002.

It was primarily due to the active role played by the media that official connivance in the killings was highlighted in Gujarat 2002. Nothing of this sort happened in 1984. Barring exceptions, the voice of the media was subdued. But recent media responses to the 1984 riots, and equally to the situation in Gujarat after Godhra, have been encouraging. In 2007, my book When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath, co-authored with senior journalist Manoj Mitta, received tremendous response—there was hardly a newspaper or magazine that did not review it favourably. The Congress party, however, maintained a studied silence, despite all the damaging disclosures in the book.

The controversy had resurfaced  last September because of the summons a US district court issued to Sonia Gandhi in response to the Sikhs for Justice (SOJ) filing a law suit. Azaj Ashraf, writing for the FirstPost, summed up Phoolka’s argument thus:

Sonia has deployed her formidable clout to nudge the UPA into passing the RTI Act, NREGA, and very recently, the Food Security Bill. Couldn’t she have brought her weight to bear upon those intent on stonewalling attempts to send to trial those believed to have engineered the 1984 riots? Perhaps she hasn’t because it would mean implicating the Congress in the grisly riots. Or perhaps, like Vanzara, the accused could threaten to divulge the details of the conspiracy behind the 1984 riots.

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