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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom Phoolka: Evidence Against Nath Well Documented


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
by Avneet Kaur

Harvinder Singh Phoolka, a human rights lawyer working for justice for the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms, said he has evidence of Indian Minister of Urban Development Kamal Nath’s involvement in the massacre.

“Kamal Nath’s role is well documented, even in records,” Harvinder Singh said during an online seminar sponsored by the Sikh Research Institute in Texas. “He was present at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj when the attack was going on Nov. 1, 1984. On Nov. 2, 1984, the Indian Express (newspaper) reported that Kamal Nath was present and leading the mob.

“Despite witnesses, including Sanjay Suri, the then reporter of Indian Express, now based in England, unfortunately, no action has been taken against Kamal Nath.”

While Nath has not been charged in India in connection with the 1984 pogroms, an American human rights group, Sikhs for Justice, filed a case against him on April 6, 2010, under the Alien Tort Claims Act. The act allows U.S. courts to hear human rights cases brought by foreign citizens for violations committed abroad. The plaintiffs include seven pogrom survivors living in the United States and Canada.

In his June 20 affidavit to the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, Nath denied coordinating the mob.

“I attempted to bring the violence under control until additional police forces arrived,” he said.

Nath’s attorney declined SikhNN requests for comment.

“As far as this issue is concerned, the kind of effort that has been made in America to prosecute Kamal Nath, (a) similar kind of effort should be made in other countries to prosecute these people,” Harvinder Singh said during the seminar.

“All of you try your best in our own gurdwaras, organizations, that at least those leaders of our community, the Sikh leaders who support these killers, should not be permitted to come and speak at gurdwaras. Give a call to boycott all of them, whosoever they are,” he added.

On Oct. 29, Harvinder Singh led the online voice conference from New Delhi. According to the institute's news release, his goal was to tell his story of spearheading a long legal campaign to obtain justice for the victims of 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms, and of fighting political leaders "despite the government cover-ups."

He has spent 26 years litigating individual cases in which top politicians and government officials have allegedly been directly linked to the massacre.

Among other prominent political names are Jagdish Tytler, former Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs, and Sajjan Kumar, former representative of outer Delhi, both allegedly responsible for coordinating and inciting mobs to search and kill Sikhs.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation closed the case against Tytler in April 2009. Harvinder Singh filed another petition to direct further investigation and prosecute Tytler. The case is still pending.

Kumar was summoned on Feb. 1, 2010, to the High Court of Delhi under charges of rioting and causing the death of about a dozen Sikhs. His case is under trial.

The carnage that occurred between Oct. 31, 1984 and Nov. 3, 1984 in response to the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards left thousands of Sikhs brutally murdered, and hundreds severely injured.

“At the time, me and my wife were both evacuated by the (army) truck when our house was under attack,” Harvinder Singh remembered.

Widowed women and orphaned children were left without a stable source of income. And the perpetrators walked away with impunity, he said.

The People’s Union for Democratic Rights, a civil rights group in India, asked for the appointment of a commission to investigate the pogroms. When the chief justice ruled in favor of such a commission in July 1987, he was dropped from the case. A new chief justice dismissed the request, saying that no commission of inquiry could be appointed.

The government’s opposition to this writ spurred Harvinder Singh to form the Citizen’s Justice Committee, an umbrella organization for human rights groups and legal luminaries. It represents, pro bono, the victims of the 1984 pogroms.

“(A) big responsibility came over me and I had to give up my (law) practice because this was a huge task,” he said during the seminar. “I had been given clear instructions. I do not need thousands of the affidavits. Give me just 50 that have very clear and direct evidence, no opinions no here-say. I myself interviewed each and every victim.”

In November 1984, the government formed the Marwah Commission to investigate the pogroms, and handed the responsibility to the Mishra Commission in 1985. When Harvinder Singh and the Citizen’s Justice Committee presented 500 affidavits, the commission refused to identify the persons responsible. Another commission would have to be appointed.

The Nanavati Commission was the tenth commission, appointed in 2000. In 2004, it reported that some Congress Party leaders had incited or helped the mobs.



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