On judgment day, riot-hit families feel let down over Sajjan Kumar’s acquittal

A day that swung between feelings of hope and cynicism finally ended on a disappointing note for a large number of Sikh families which protested outside the Karkardooma Court Complex when Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, who they blamed for actively participating in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, was acquitted in a case and walked free.

Scores of protesters, many of them family members of victims of the riots, started gathering outside the court early in the day demanding strictest possible punishment for all accused. Even though the fate of six men was to be decided inside the court, it was Mr. Kumar who was mainly targeted by the protesters as they demanded capital punishment for him. In between they paused, sometimes for a breath and sometimes when they broke down.

In addition to Mr. Kumar, the protesters also shouted slogans against other leaders of the Congress party and the criminal justice system in the country, which they said was “biased against all minorities, particularly the Sikhs”.

Babu Singh Dukhiya, president of the National 1984 Victim Justice and Welfare Society, a forum which has been voicing its demand for justice for the riot victims, said: “I had complete faith in the Congress party before the riots but that was shaken when poor Sikhs were butchered by large groups of people instigated by people like Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler and if they are acquitted, it will be a blot on the democratic system.”

Anticipating a violent backlash from the protesting crowd in case of a judgement favouring Mr. Kumar, a large number of policemen were deployed outside the Karkardooma Courts. Besides the Delhi Police, a contingent of the Rapid Action Force was also present. All the policemen were in riot control gear and water canons were also stationed to prevent the situation from going out of hand. Manning the force were senior police officers who periodically reviewed the situation both inside and outside the court premises. To keep a check on suspicious activities inside the court premises, some policemen were also deployed in plainclothes.

Even before the news of the verdict was broken to those outside, some women argued with the policemen on security duty after they were not allowed to go inside and were told to produce documents proving that they had any business in the court.

Once it was learnt that Mr. Kumar had indeed been acquitted, those who had, by then, shown restraint tried to barge into the premises and jostled with the security men in the process. Amid efforts to pacify them, policemen struggled to keep the gate of the court bolted. However, some by climbing over the gate and others by managing to push open the gate entered the court but were overpowered and then taken out by the security staff which chased them inside the court. Thirty-four people protesting outside the court were briefly detained, but were released half-an-hour later.

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