Who is 1984 anti-Sikh riots convict Sajjan Kumar? A former MP, Congress leader best known for involvement in riots

Reversing the 2013 acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, the Delhi High Court convicted him to life imprisonment (10 years in jail) for conspiracy to commit murder in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. The high court said, "The mass killings of Sikhs between 1 and 4 November, 1984 in Delhi and the rest of the country, engineered by political actors with  the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of "crimes against humanity". The high court noted that Kumar enjoyed political patronage and escaped trial.

File image of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. AFP

File image of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. AFP

While many witnesses and survivors gave accounts of Congress leaders leading mobs targeting Sikhs, Sajjan is the first top leader of the party to be convicted. Ironically, the order comes on a day the Congress takes over three big states after its election victories last week. Among them is Kamal Nath, another Congress leader emroiled in the anti-Sikh riots.  Even though there is no FIR against Nath, advocates fighting the 1984 cases have said that the Congress leader led a mob at Gurdwara Rakab Ganj, opposite Parliament House.

The high court said, "The mass killings of Sikhs between 1 and 4 November, 1984 in Delhi and the rest of the country, engineered by political actors with  the assistance of the law enforcement agencies, answer the description of "crimes against humanity".

"Criminals have enjoyed political patronage," the high court noted and said that there was "abject police failure" as the police failed to act against the inability of the victims to file complaints. A former Congress councillor, Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and three others were held guilty in the Raj Nagar case but a trial court had acquitted Sajjan. Today's high court judgment was a reversal of the 2013 order acquitting Sajjan.

Who is Sajjan Kumar

Active in national politics since 1970s, Sajjan's first electoral victory was at a local municipal election in 1977. The Congress leader was elected as a councillor. He later became a MP on a Congress ticket in 2004 when the UPA came to power after routing the Atal Bihar Vajpayee-led NDA. He won from the outer Delhi parliamentary seat.

But Sajjan is best known for his involvement in the 1984 riots. He was charged with instigating his supporters after the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984. The CBI had accused him and four others — former Congress councillor Balwan Khokhar, retired naval officer Captain Bhagmal and two others who were found guilty by the high court — of killing six Sikh men during the riots. The CBI had also filed an appeal, alleging they were engaged in “a planned communal riot” and “religious cleansing”. The agency and the victims had also appealed against the acquittal of Kumar.

Calling the judgment a "vindication of justice" and terming Sajjan as face of 984 riots, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, "Sajjan Kumar was the symbol of 1984 riots. His conviction by the Delhi High Court is a delayed vindication of justice."

Speaking on the Congress's decision to name Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh's new chief minister, he said, "It is ironical that the high court verdict has come on a day when Congress (leader Kamal Nath), whom the Sikh community accuses of being involved in the 1984 riots, is taking oath as the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh."

Jaitley said the "cover-ups" of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots are now being unmasked. "Sajjan Kumar was a symbol of 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The legacy of 1984 anti-Sikh riots hangs around the neck of Congress and Gandhi family." The trial began after a government inquiry found "credible evidence" that some Congress party leaders incited crowds to attack Sikhs during the riots and that they were not spontaneous.

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Updated Date: Dec 17, 2018 13:16 PM

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