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Acquittal over 1984 anti-Sikh riots sparks protests

Congress Party senior evades murder and riot charges

Acquittal over 1984 anti-Sikh riots sparks protests
Congress Party leader Sajjan Kumar
Swati Deb, New Delhi

May 1, 2013

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Protests have broken out in New Delhi and neighboring provinces after a senior Congress Party leader was acquitted of murder and rioting during deadly anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

Sikh protestors blocked the Jammu-Pathankot Highway in the north and held demonstrations in New Delhi and Haryana state following the verdict on Tuesday which means Sajjan Kumar will only face lesser charges of inciting violence during the rioting which led to 3,000 deaths 29 years ago.

He had been accused of inciting crowds of people to kill Sikhs in New Delhi in retaliation for the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Five other people, including former legislative assembly member Mahendar Yadav, were found guilty of rioting and murder.

“There was a reign of terror for three days during the riots. People were burnt alive,” said Jagdish Kaur, a courtroom witness.

Karnail Singh Peer, a leader of the All India Sikh Students Federation, was held by police for reportedly throwing a shoe at Judge JR Aryan after he delivered the verdict.

Relatives outside the courtroom said they would appeal against the decision.

Sikhs said they planned to switch off lights across Haryana state between eight and nine o’clock today in a further protest.

Many Sikhs consider Kumar to have been instrumental in the 1984 riots after witnesses said that they heard him tell a mob that “not a single Sikh should survive” in the wake of Gandhi’s assassination, the Central Bureau of Investigation said.

The killing took place after Gandhi ordered troops to storm the Golden Temple, a Sikh shrine, at Amritsar in the Punjab, northern India, to flush out and kill Sikh separatists demanding a separate Sikh nation, Khalistan.

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