The Delhi High Court granted an interim order for a retrial in 2017 after criticizing the 1986 acquittals of 10 persons in instances related to anti-Sikh riots. However, victims have not yet received any consolation.
When Nirpreet Kaur was just 16 years old, she saw an unspeakable act of brutality: a frenzied crowd burned her father Nirmal Singh on fire and set her family’s and their neighbors’ houses on fire in the Raj Nagar neighborhood of Delhi Cantonment.
Nirpreet Kaur will always remember what happened on that day, November 1, 1984, as well as the other crimes committed during the anti-Sikh riots. The illusive search for justice, not only for her but also for other victims, some of whom have perished waiting, haunts her even more now, 39 years later.
Approximately 2,700 people are believed to have died in Delhi’s 1984 riots, which broke out in the wake of the murder of then-prime minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards. Many of the survivors were also sentenced to an eternity of waiting for the prosecution of every accusation.
Only 25 cases out of the original 587 FIRs filed in connection with the riots led to a conviction, as ThePrint previously reported. Only a dozen of these involved murder. There have been 440 convictions overall, with some defendants being found guilty of up to seven crimes.
The most recent conviction occurred in December 2018, when the Delhi High Court overturned a trial court’s decision to exonerate former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar and gave him a life term for the murders of five Raj Nagar family members.
Even though this case wasn’t specifically about Nirmal Singh’s murder, his daughter Nirpreet was an important witness. She and two other eyewitnesses received appreciation from the court for their “courage and perseverance” and for being “firm to their truth” in its decision.
Since then, Kumar has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court, where the case is still ongoing.
Despite early hopes of a breakthrough six years ago, the brutal murder of Nirmal Singh and other cases are still pending.
In 2017, a Delhi High Court panel demanded the Delhi government to explain why a fresh trial for 10 persons who were exonerated in connection with several murder cases in Raj Nagar on November 1–2, 1984, including the assassination of Nirmal Singh, should not be conducted.
The HC noted that even the eyewitnesses were not properly issued summonses, the investigation lacked rigor, and the 1986 acquittals indicated a “very perfunctory and hasty disposal of cases.”
Nirpreet Kaur agreed, telling ThePrint that summonses to appear in court had been issued to the location where her house had been burned down, and she had never received them.
Balwan Singh Khokhar, a former councilor for the Congress party, ex-MLA Mahender Singh Yadav (who passed away in 2020), Dhanraj, Mahender Singh, Dhanpal, Ved Prakash, Shiv Charan, Ramji Lal Sharma, Vidyanand, and Mahender Singh Manan were among the defendants.
The Delhi Police combined all five cases into one chargesheet despite the fact that these 10 guys were mentioned in separate complaints by five Sikh widows about murder and rioting that occurred in Raj Nagar on November 1-2, 1984.
One of the five widows was Sampuran Kaur, Nirmal Singh’s wife and mother of Nirpreet Kaur.
However, Nirpreet Kaur told ThePrint that despite the HC’s strong indictment of the investigation and prosecution, very little has occurred since the court’s show-cause notice.
Since May 2017, when Mahender Singh Yadav, one of the defendants, contested the Delhi High Court’s interim ruling, the case has been pending before the Supreme Court.
Kaur has applied to the highest court to be an intervening party since she is a witness in one case, but she claims she hasn’t heard anything yet.
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