200 Sikh Widows Demand Justice for Mob Slayings
Sep. 14, 1990
NEW DELHI, India (AP) _ About 200 widows of Sikhs slain by Hindu mobs six years ago wept, screamed and beat their chests outside the prime minister's home today, demanding the killers be arrested.
''We will not go until we get justice 3/8'' cried 50-year-old Gopi Kaur, who lost 12 male relatives - including her husband and brothers - in the violence.
Her outburst was supported by a religious battle cry shouted by the other women outside the residence of Prime Minister V.P. Singh. Most of them wore white, the color of mourning for Sikh and Hindu widows.
More than 2,000 Sikhs were killed in New Delhi alone in anti-Sikh rioting after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards Oct. 31, 1984. About 700 Sikhs were killed in similar riots across the nation.
Many Sikhs, as well as human rights groups, blamed the killings of Sikhs on members of Mrs. Gandhi's Congress Party assisted by hired toughs.
Only 11 of the 225 people charged with murder and looting have been convicted. Three special courts have been set up in New Delhi to deal with the cases, but their progress has bogged down in legal and bureaucratic wrangles.
Today's protest was sparked by the government's failure Tuesday to arrest a prominent local Congress Party leader, Sajjan Kumar. A police party that went to Kumar's house to make the arrest returned empty-handed after thousands of Kumar's supporters surrounded the house and threatened to lynch the officers.
The mob wrecked two cars of the police officials and blocked traffic for several hours. In the meantime, Kumar obtained a Delhi High Court order that would grant bail in event of his arrest in connection with a murder case.
''We ... are pained that Sajjan Kumar has escaped arrest by strong-arm tactics and through ... muscle-power by indulging in violence,'' the protest organizers, the All India Sikh Conference, said in a letter to the prime minister. A copy was given to reporters.
Sikhs and human rights activists have accused Kumar of personally leading death squads in the aftermath of Mrs. Gandhi's assassination.
The women accused Mrs. Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi, of stalling the prosecution during his term as prime minister between 1984 and 1989.
''But we derive confidence that in your regime, justice will not be denied any longer,'' the Sikhs said in their letter to Singh, who succeeded Gandhi in December 1989.
Many of the Sikh victims were hacked, tortured and burned to death with blazing car tires jammed over their shoulders.