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SIKHS in India welcomed a milestone conviction today after former MP Sajjan Kumar was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a 1984 massacre when more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed.
Mr Kumar, a senior member of the Congress Party, now in opposition, was found guilty of inciting crowds to kill Sikhs following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
He had previously been acquitted of involvement in the massacre, but a Delhi court found that he had escaped accountability due to “political patronage” as a member of Ms Gandhi’s party.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the verdict, saying it had been a “very long and painful wait for innocent victims who were murdered by those in power.
“Nobody involved in any riot should be allowed to escape, no matter how powerful the individual may be.”
The 1984 riots were sparked after Ms Gandhi’s murder. Her guards had been angered by her decision to send troops into the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s most important religious shrine, to flush out Sikh militants.
In the ensuing backlash thousands of Sikhs were murdered by mobs across the country. The worst atrocities took place in Delhi, where more than 2,700 people are believed to have been killed.
The Congress Party politician is among many who had evaded justice and has continued to deny his role in the massacre. However, one witness told the court she had listened to Mr Kumar tell a crowd that Sikhs had killed “his mother,” referring to Ms Gandhi, encouraging them to seek revenge.
High Court judges S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel found Mr Kumar guilty of “criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acts against communal harmony.”
They branded the killings “crimes against humanity,” with the majority of the perpetrators of the “horrific mass crimes” having avoided coming to trial because of political patronage.
The killings would “continue to shock the collective conscience of society for a long time to come,” the judges said.
Mr Kumar has been ordered to surrender to the authorities by December 31 and not to leave the country. He has said he will appeal against the conviction.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi had not commented at the time the Star went to print.
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