Manoj Mitta, 05 November 2009, 12:29 PM IST The following is the speech I delivered in the British parliament before the All Party Human Rights Group on November 4, 2009, at an event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Sikh massacre of 1984: The debate raging in Britain over MPs' expenses is an indicator that accountability is "work in progress" even in an advanced democracy. Different countries, however, have different levels of accountability. The 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi shows that India, the country that prides itself as the world's largest democracy, has a rather low level of accountability - or, conversely, a high level of impunity. That mobs were allowed to have a free run of India's capital for three days, in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination, raises serious questions about the autonomy of its law and order machinery. That in his first public meeting barely a fortnight later, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, rather than condemning it, likened the carnage to the reverberations caused by the fall of a mighty tree betrays the illiberal character of India's democracy. That he did not permit Parliament to debate the whitewash done through an in camera inquiry conducted by a sitting Supreme Court judge, and that Parliament never even offered a condolence motion to the victims of the 1984 carnage expose the disdain for human rights displayed by the highest institutions in India. That barely 20 persons have been convicted for murder in these 25 years as against the official death toll of 2,733 is a poor reflection on the integrity of India's criminal justice system. That the manner in which the investigating agency, prosecution and courts colluded to acquit Congress leaders H K L Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar, despite all the evidence against them, rips apart India's pretensions to the rule of law. The gap between the precept and practice of the rule of law is so wide in India that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself acknowledged in Parliament four years ago that even after a dozen official inquiries into the 1984 carnage, "We all know that we still do not know the truth, and the search must go on." Despite such an exhortation by the Prime Minister to continue the search for truth, the official meetings in Delhi, corresponding to this event in the British parliament, have been confined to commemorating the 25 years of Indira Gandhi's assassination. Given the complicity of its own leaders, dead or alive, the government remains trapped in the mindset that any formal expression of sympathy for the victims of the 1984 carnage would insult the memory of Indira Gandhi. On behalf of human rights defenders in India, I deeply appreciate your gesture of remembering the 1984 carnage, which set a dangerous precedent as an avowedly secular political party reaped an electoral harvest for engineering sectarian violence. This resulted in similar impunity and electoral rewards to the communal parties that organised the killings of Muslims in Maharashtra in 1993 and Gujarat in 2002. You have set a moral example for India by commemorating the 25 years of the 1984 carnage. It is apt that you did so because even the Raj had set a higher standard of accountability when a British Army officer, Gen Dyer, had in 1919 ordered the massacre of a peaceful crowd in Jallianwala Bagh. The colonial rulers held a public inquiry in which Gen Dyer was grilled not only by British but also Indian members of the Hunter Committee. The House of Commons debated and endorsed the Hunter Committee's indictment of Gen Dyer, who was removed in disgrace from the Army. But independent India, as evident from the cover-up of the 1984 carnage, failed to measure up to the benchmarks set even by the colonial administration. Such is the magnitude of the impunity crisis facing the people of India. Thank you once again for giving me this opportunity to raise such concerns at this forum.