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Sikh group seeks Barack Obama’s support for justice for 1984 riots

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Washington: An umbrella Sikh group and a couple of human right bodies have written a letter to US President Barack Obama seeking his support for justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in India that claimed 3,000 lives.

“We are writing to urge the Obama administration to call on India’s new government to bring justice to the victims of the 1984 massacres by prosecuting those responsible,” the Sikh Coalition, Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch wrote in the letter sent on Monday.

“Although various government commissions found that some police and Congress Party officials instigated or were complicit in attacks, the primary architects of this violence have escaped justice,” they wrote.

“Given the important role that India is poised to play, and is increasingly seeking, in setting international policy-potentially as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council- we urge you to address impunity for the 1984 premeditated violence in your engagement with India.”

Only 30 people have been convicted for these crimes, with police and prosecution authorities failing to bring government and party officials allegedly involved to justice, the three groups said.

The groups alleged that the entire Sikh community was targeted in retribution for the October 31, 1984 assassination of then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards.

Although India’s former prime minister, Manmohan Singh – himself a Sikh – tendered an apology for the 1984 massacres, he refused to accept state responsibility or make a commitment to justice, they claimed.

“India’s failure to deliver justice for these events reflects an abdication of moral responsibility on the part of successive governments from different parties, and undercuts India’s claims that it respects human rights and the rule of law,” the groups wrote.

The groups urged the Obama administration to make human rights a priority in US engagement with India “and to call upon the government to deliver justice to those who lost their lives, their dignity, or their loved ones during the November 1984 anti-Sikh massacres.”

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