Those in power must be held accountable for their crimes
The ghastly memories of the state organized genocide of thousands of people of the Sikh faith, from November 1-3, 1984, in Delhi, Kanpur and other places continue to haunt the families and future generations of the victims. It continues to irk and anger all justice-loving people in our country and abroad.
Justice has eluded the victims of November 1984 for the past 28 years. Those guilty of master-minding and executing the violence have remained unpunished.
Despite all official efforts to present this organised politically motivated crime as a “riot”, the facts have by now become well known among all politically conscious people. It is impossible to forget how, following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, leaders of the ruling Congress Party led armed gangs to loot and plunder the properties of the Sikhs and destroy their lives, with the full assistance of the police. They burnt men alive, raped and mutilated women, and mercilessly killed young children. Numerous investigations have shown with incontrovertible facts, that this genocide targeted against Sikhs was meticulously planned by the ruling Congress Party and executed with the full support of the administration. That this had the full backing of the central state was revealed in the refusal of the then Home Minister and future Prime Minister, the late Narasimha Rao, to take action despite pleas by eminent citizens in personal meetings with him and his top officials. It was confirmed by the arrogant and fascist justification for this genocide provided by Indira Gandhi's successor as Prime Minister, the late Rajiv Gandhi when he declared in front of the whole world — "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes".
Far from being punished for this monstrous crime, the main leaders of the Congress Party who masterminded it were rewarded with promotions and plum ministerial positions. The top officers of the police and administration who actively connived in the genocide and in disarming the Sikhs were also rewarded with promotions and other rewards.
While those in power organised the genocide, people across all religious faiths and beliefs came out to protect those under attack, even at great risk to their own lives. These are by now well established facts. They prove that it is the State which is communal and not our people. The people of all religious faiths respect everyone’s right to conscience, and stand ready to protect each other.
Facts show that the 1950 Constitution, despite proclaiming India to be a "secular and democratic Republic", allows political parties to organise communal violence for their own narrow political ends and get away with it. The police and state administration fulfill the bidding of the ruling party. Neither the elected people’s representatives nor the state authorities are accountable to the people for their criminal acts of commission and omission. What exists in the name of the “rule of law” is in reality the arbitrary rule of a small minority with unlimited powers to do what it pleases.
The Congress and BJP organized the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992 and the subsequent communal massacres in Surat, Mumbai and other towns. The BJP organized the genocide of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002. This genocide too was meticulously planned, following and improving upon the methods used by the Congress Party during the 1984 genocide. The genocide of Christians in Orissa, of Bodos, Bengali Muslims and others in Assam more recently, all have followed a similar pattern.
The experience of our people over the last 28 years has shown that we cannot expect those who are the organizers of communal genocide to either ensure justice or prevent future genocides. We cannot expect the Indian state and political parties like Congress or BJP to do so.
The experience of our people over the last 28 years has also raised certain important questions in this context.
- Do we, the people, have any control over our elected representatives when they flagrantly violate their responsibility, of protecting the citizens?
- Do we have any control over our public servants, when the police who are supposed to protect us look the other way, actively disarm and persecute the victims and protect the mass murderers and rapists?
- Do we have any control over our legal and judicial system, which has systematically denied us justice and allowed itself to be manipulated according to the political interests of the party in power?
Many respected jurists and activists who have been dealing with the problem of state organized genocides have demanded a law that would ensure that organizers of communal genocide are punished. Such a law must first and foremost consider state terror, including state organized communal violence, as organised genocide and not as a set of individual criminal acts. It must ensure that the organisers of 1984, 1993, and 2002 amongst other genocides are severely punished, so that no party can dare to repeat such a heinous crime.
Those in positions of power and authority should be held accountable and guilty when they violate their duty and responsibility of providing safety and protection to the citizens. Only then is it even conceivable that the party or parties that organised the crime can be convicted, and not merely the mobs used to execute it. Hence any law to curb communal and sectarian violence must include the principle of command responsibility.
We cannot expect the organizers and perpetrators of the crime to punish themselves for it. Only when people have political power in their hands can they ensure an end to state organized communal violence and state terrorism of all forms and punishment of the guilty. With political power in their hands, people can ensure that those in positions of command be accountable for their responsibility of preventing communal massacres and violence, that mechanisms be put in place to ensure that those guilty of such heinous crimes are punished, regardless of their social position. Thus, the struggle to put an end to state organized communal and sectarian violence is integrally linked with the question of placing political power in the hands of the working class and people.