Sikhs’ Lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi
By Sajjad Shaukat
Pakistani media is so engaged with the coverage of internal issues and acts of terrorism that some important news are not highlighted. In this context, a lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi, President of ruling Congress Party of India regarding the genocide of the Sikhs in 1984 was ignored by our journalists, while even Indian renowned newspapers pointed out it.
In this respect, “The Times of India” and “The Hindu” reported that a day after she landed in the US for a medical check up, on a complaint by a Sikh group, a federal court in New York issued summons to Congress President Sonia Gandhi for “shielding, protecting and inciting leaders and workers of her party who were involved in attacks on Sikhs in November 1984.
However, a lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi has been filed by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), a US-based human rights group, under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA).
Although Sonia Gandhi is on a medical visit to New York, yet Sikh’s psychological injury appeared to have deeper scars which forced SFJ along with Jasbir Singh and Mohender Singh, whose relatives were killed during days of rioting in New Delhi in 1984. They filed a collective plaintiff against her on September 3, this year, seeking compensatory and punitive damages. They claimed that Sonia Gandhi played a role in inciting and protecting Indian officials and Congress members including Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, and Jagdish Tytler who were involved in anti-Sikh violence.
The 27-page complaint against Gandhi revealed that between November 1 and 4, 1984 about 30,000 members of the Sikh community were intentionally tortured, raped and murdered by groups which were incited, organized, controlled and armed by the ruling Congress party under the direction of its President Sonia Gandhi.
According to attorney Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor to SFJ, “the lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi is motivated by an interest in seeking some form of justice for the victims of November 1984 massacre…will raise awareness to the international community regarding denial of justice to the victims and is a mean of holding parties in power accountable for their gross violations of human rights…also offering the potential to deter future abuses.” He argued that Sonia Gandhi’s conduct of protecting the perpetrators of November 1984 genocide gave rise to liability applicable under international and domestic laws, and international treaties and federal common law.
The legal complaint also indicated that in August, 2013, a group of Congress workers attacked a colony in New Delhi where some witnesses of the anti-Sikh riots live.
Nevertheless, the summons by the court asked Sonia Gandhi to serve an answer to the complainant within 21 days of receipt. It is notable that in June 1984, Indian military, led by General Kuldip Singh Brar had launched attack on the Golden Temple, the holiest shrine of the Sikhs in 1984, to arrest Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the only leader who had boldly been fighting for the genuine rights of the Sikhs. The Indian Army supported by troops and armoured vehicles broke all records of the state terrorism and extra-judicial killings through that barbaric operation, called the ‘Operation Blue Star’
The brutality of the ‘Operation Blue Star’ was not confined to the Golden Temple. Indian armed forces simultaneously attacked 40 other historical gurdwaras all over East Punjab.
When Sikhs in other states came to know about the desecration of the Golden Temple and massacre of their brethren, they quickly left for Punjab. New Delhi tried to stop them before they could reach Punjab. Many Sikhs were assassinated on the way and many others were arrested.
According to an estimate, about 50,000 Sikhs were killed within a few days. The whole Amritsar city was sealed and was burnt. A number of tourists either were murdered or arrested. Shops belonging to Sikhs were looted and their houses were set ablaze by Hindu mobs. In most of the cases, Sikh women were molested and some persons of their community were also burnt.
In the same year of November, 1984, two dedicated Sikhs named Beant Singh and Satwant Singh who were posted at Premier Indira Gandhi’s residence in New Delhi, killed her. Then Hindu riots erupted in the capital and other cities in which more then 15,000 Sikhs were murdered in broad daylight by the supporters of Indira Gandhi, while police watched silently so as to provide the Hindus with free hand to massacre Sikhs.
The memory recall underscores worst episodes of genocide of Sikh community (1984) in India, in which many Sikhs were killed, tortured, women raped and children stabbed to death, while Sikh properties were looted, destroyed and usurped by hooligans who were involved in cleansing of entire Sikh community. This led to many widows with their young babies to be fed without any support—spouses, parentless children, bereaved parents and young-grown up sisters who were raped on having reached their marriageable age. Sikh humiliation was at peak as their women were subjected to rape in the presence of their male relatives during anti-Sikh riots in India.
The Sikh community stealthily left India having lost their near and dear ones, throwing away their flourishing business, lovely homes and green farms where they were brought up along with their peers, relatives and friends. The entire community was disgracefully shattered and forced to live a substandard life, while their movements were subjected constantly to surveillance.
It was impossible for the Sikhs to forget the abusive crimes committed by Indian Congress activists against them in 1984. Hence, they filed a case against Sonaia Gandhi, the President of Congress Party of India, as she “conspired, aided and abetted others” including local police officers, fellow Congress workers and paramilitary troops,” which committed brutal acts against the Sikhs.
It is expected that US Justice System will maintain its repute and deliver fair justice to the bereaved Sikh community which is still moaning their wounds and seeking a platform to address their psychological grievances.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations