New Delhi/Chandigarh, Dec 17 : The BJP, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and several other parties on Monday hailed the Delhi High Court verdict holding Congress leader Sajjan Kumar guilty in the 1984 killing of Sikhs and sentencing him to imprisonment for life, while the Congress said the matter should not be politicised.
The Congress also raked up the 2002 Gujarat riots demanding punishment for Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders alleged to be involved in the communal violence that claimed over 1,000 lives.
BJP chief Amit Shah said that 1984 riot victims had lost all hopes of justice because those responsible for the crimes enjoyed “patronage of Congress leadership” and conviction of Sajjan has once again assured the victims that criminals of 1984 will not go scot free.
“No one ever had any doubts on Congress’s role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Their leaders and workers went on rampage raising provocative slogans, raping women and murdering men in cold blood. Yet no one was ever punished despite multiple commissions and several eyewitnesses,” he said.
In a series of tweets, Shah also said that the Modi government had set up a special investigation team (SIT) in 2015, which initiated re-investigation into several cases.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the conviction was “a delayed vindication of justice”.
“Justice for the victims of 1984 was buried by the Congress. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) restored fairness and accountability… The Congress and the Gandhi family legacy will continue to pay for the sins of the 1984 riots,” Jaitley tweeted.
The Congress, he said, had repeatedly tried to cover up the truth. “But today, he (Sajjan Kumar) has been convicted.”
He also alleged that the Congress has no regret over the riots and its president Rahul Gandhi has not tweeted over the judgement.
BJP General Secretary Ram Madhav welcomed the verdict and thanked Home Minister Rajnath Singh for reopening the cases “deliberately suppressed by the previous government”.
Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal also hailed the apex court ruling.
“It has been a very long and painful wait for innocent victims who were murdered by those in power. Nobody involved in any riot should be allowed to escape no matter how powerful the individual may be,” he said.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj called the 1984 killing of Sikhs following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards a “permanent blot on Delhi”.
“Though much delayed, the high court judgment on Sajjan Kumar is a landmark. State power cannot be used to massacre innocent citizens. Had exemplary punishment been given to perpetrators of the 1984 riots, nobody would have repeated it in 2002.”
Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary said the law has taken 34 long years to finally catch up and deliver justice. “The victims of communal riots must get justice, whether from 1984, from 2002 and whenever else. Political leaders who led, backed and shielded mobs, must be brought to justice,” he said.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said: “Justice delayed but not denied.”
Welcoming the verdict, Akali Dal leader and Delhi MLA Manjinder Singh Sirsa said the next in the list after Sajjan Kumar are Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath.
Sajjan Kumar and five others were tried in a case involving the killing of five Sikhs — Kehar Singh, Gurpreet Singh, Raghuvender Singh, Narender Pal Singh and Kuldeep Singh, who were from the same family — by a mob in Delhi Cantonment’s Raj Nagar.
The Congress leader has been asked to surrender by December 31.
Shiromani Akali Dal leader and union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal demanded action against the Gandhi family, alleging that the family extended political patronage to the perpetrators of the 1984 Sikh massacres.
Talking to reporters in Chandigarh along with senior Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders Bikram Singh Majithia and Daljit Singh Cheema, she said Congress President Rahul Gandhi should tell why he “lied” that the Congress was not involved in the genocide.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that Kumar’s conviction is not a political issue, the cases have been on for over 20 years and there have been several convictions and acquittals. “This should not be seen in a political context and people should not try to seek political mileage from it.”
Party leader Kapil Sibal pointed fingers at Modi who was at the helm of Gujarat during the 2002 riots.
“Kumar doesn’t hold any office nor was given ticket by the party to contest polls, whereas the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, who were involved in the riots, have been given positions of power. The one who was the Chief Minister then has become the Prime Minister now,” Sibal said.
AAP leader H.S. Phoolka, who has been fighting for the victims, also said that court verdict has sent a strong message.