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Indian Congress leader faces new riot probe

Court to reopen 1984 case in which thousands died

Swati Deb, New Delhi

April 11, 2013

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A court in New Delhi has ordered the reopening of a case against a prominent Congress Party leader over his role in deadly anti-Sikh riots in 1984.

A previous investigation by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) originally cleared Jagdish Tytler, a former Overseas Affairs minister in the federal government headed by Manmohan Singh. 

At least 3,000 Sikhs were killed in what activists say were revenge attacks following the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984.

Gandhi was shot dead by two Sikh bodyguards. Months earlier she had ordered troops to storm the Golden Temple at Amritsar in the Punjab, to flush out and kill Sikh separatists.

Rights groups allege several Congress Party members, including Tytler, were leading the riots in Delhi following Gandhi’s killing.

Tytler is suspected of encouraging a mob to attack and kill three Sikh men at a shrine in New Delhi. Yesterday the Delhi court ordered the CBI to probe the allegation.

Tytler denies any involvement. He claims he was at Gandhi’s residence at the time of the riots.

The court ordered the reopening following a petition from Lakhwinder Kaur, the widow of one of the riot victims.

She is challenging a CBI report submitted in 2009, which she says omits testimonies from two major witnesses.

“The CBI had time to question Tytler's driver … but they had no time to record the statements of the witnesses who had seen Tytler at the scene of the incident. Are they [the CBI] investigating at the command of Tytler?” one of Kaur’s lawyers asked yesterday.

The Congress Party yesterday said it would be "premature" to judge Tytler at this stage. 

 "If there is something conclusive, we will examine it," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told reporters.

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