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1984 Pogroms Case Still Pending in US Court

By Anju Kaur, SikhNN staff writer, Washington Bureau
Posted: Thursday, May 30, 2013 | 10:13 pm

About 150 Sikhs protested yesterday outside a federal courthouse in Manhattan where a case was being heard against the Indian National Congress party for its role in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms.

Photo Source: Sikhs for Justice

Sikhs for Justice has until September to show that its human rights violation complaint against the Indian National Congress party, for its role in the 1984 pogroms, can be tried in a US federal court.

According to court documents, the New York-based human rights advocacy group is representing six victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogroms who are now living in the US. The pending lawsuit accuses the Congress party of “genocide, torture, summary execution and extrajudicial killings as well as aiding and abetting the commission, and conspiracy to commit those violations.”

The case was filed in April 2010 in US federal court under the Alien Torts Statute, which allows foreign citizens to bring cases of human rights violations committed outside the US, and under the Torture Victim Protection Act, which allows for civil lawsuits to be filed in the US against foreign officials who commit torture or extrajudicial killing.

“Due to continuous practice of impunity by the successive Indian governments towards the perpetrators of November 1984 Sikh genocide, the victims are forced to approach the US court in pursuit of justice,” said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, legal advisor for the advocacy group, in today’s news release.

But in yesterday’s pre-trial hearing at the United States District Court in Manhattan, Judge Robert W. Sweet said the advocacy group had to also comply with legal precedence set in a 2012 US Supreme Court case in which the Royal Dutch Petroleum Company was tried in the US for committing atrocities against a group of Nigerians.

In the pogroms case, Sikhs for Justice will have to prove that the Congress party is conducting business in the US, Gurpatwant Singh said. “The INC has been hosting Congress party leaders here in the US” for many years through its affiliate, the Indian National Overseas Congress, he told SikhNN.

The Washington chapter’s Facebook page says the “INOC is a part of Indian National Congress.”

In retaliation for the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on Oct. 31, 1984, Congress party leaders organized mobs to kill Sikh men, women and children.

From that day until Nov. 3, 1984, mobs armed with weapons and address lists of Sikh homes and businesses massacred tens of thousands of Sikhs, raped women and burned gurdwaras. Hundreds of thousands of survivors were displaced from their homes.

The complaint alleges that, in November 1984, the Congress party had “virtually complete control over governance of the country, and as the ruling political party was able to pursue a policy of genocide against the Sikhs under color of state law and with the apparent or actual authority of the government of India.”

As the case was being heard inside the courthouse, about 150 Sikhs gathered outside to protest the nearly 29 years of injustice and impunity.

One of the complainants, Mohinder Singh, who was at the protest, said he lost his father and two uncles during pogroms. The irony is that the Indian legal system is requiring victims to find their own witnesses and identify the accused, he said.

“If victims are to find witnesses against Congress leaders involved in genocide of Sikhs, then what have the Indian investigating agencies been doing for the last thirty years?” he told the BBC.

“The government has shrugged its responsibility,” Gurpatwant Singh told SikhNN.

The Congress party’s role in organizing genocidal attacks against a religious minority and subsequently covering it up by calling it “anti-Sikh riots” will be exposed by this lawsuit before the international community, he said in the news release.

According to the news release, the organizations that attended the protest include the Sikh Youth of America; the Shiromani Akali Dal, in Amritsar; the All India Sikh Students Federation, the American Sikh Organization, Baba Banda Singh Bahadhur Sikh Society; Dal Khalsa; the Panthic Sikh Society; and the American Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.

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