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Delhi riots duo walks free

New Delhi, Aug. 8: The Nanavati Commission has done what it could ' found “credible evidence” against Jagdish Tytler and suggested reopening of cases against Sajjan Kumar, both Congress leaders. And a Congress-led government has done what it could ' let them walk free.

Yet, there are witnesses who testified before the commission about the burning of Sikhs by mobs led by Tytler and Sajjan Kumar after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984.

After 21 years and nine inquiries, there’s not much to show by way of justice for the deaths of 4,000 people ' 2,733 by government estimate ' in the riots in the nation’s capital, except the conviction of 13 people, none holding positions of responsibility.

“There was a colossal failure of maintenance of law and order' the course of events does disclose that the attitude of the police force was callous,” the Nanavati report said.

Still, not a single high-ranking police official, not to speak of ministers in charge of internal security ' P.V. Narasimha Rao was then home minister ' has received punishment.

The exercise shows up an attitude of the authorities that speaks for itself. The Nanavati report, along with the government’s action taken report, was tabled in Parliament a day before the deadline to present it expired.

Justice G.T. Nanavati wrote in the report: “The commission considers it safe to record a finding that there is credible evidence against' Jagdish Tytler to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs.”

K.P. Singh, special secretary (Union territories) in the home ministry, told reporters that the government could not proceed on the premise of “mere probability”.

On Sajjan Kumar, the commission recommended that the seven cases where no chargesheets were filed and which were disposed of as “untraced” should be reopened.

The government rejected the recommendation.

Turning to the administration, the commission indicted the then Lt Governor of Delhi, P.G. Gavai, and police commissioner S.C. Tandon.

In the action report, the government said Gavai was immediately replaced by M.M.K. Wali and Tandon had since retired and there were “legal difficulties” in acting against superannuated officials.

The two people at the top on whom rested the biggest responsibility of protecting lives and who instead presided over the deaths of 2,733 people stand absolved.

Nanavati was appointed by the BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee after it found the report prepared by the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission to be a “whitewash”.

The same justice Nanavati is also probing the Godhra train burning and the riots that followed. Eighteen years later, the massacre in Gujarat bore a striking a resemblance to the killings in Delhi.

There, too, Narendra Modi’s administration stands accused of watching over the killings of 2,000 people, according to unofficial figures. The official estimate is over 1,000.

In 18 years, nothing had changed, except the circumstances of the riots. Three years have passed since the Gujarat riots and another 17 could well elapse before an inquiry report makes its way to Parliament. By then, police commissioners could retire.

“Credible evidence” might be found against politicians and the government could express inability to act on “mere probability”.

Congress spokesman Anand Sharma latched on to the commission’s observation that the party itself was not guilty.

Defensive as it is over the Gujarat riots, the BJP allowed the Akali Dal to lead the attack against the government, only taking potshots at “Sardar” Manmohan Singh and asking him to resign.

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