Rights activists say the lifetime prison sentence given to a top politician in India on 17 December for his involvement in the riots that led to the killing of thousands of Sikhs in 1984, gives hope to India’s Christian minority still waiting for justice, reports Matters India.
The High Court in Delhi of Congress overturned a previous acquittal by a lower court, saying Congress Party leader Sajjan Kumar, 73, clearly had played a role in “abetting and instigating” people to kill Sikhs after then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had been assassinated by Sikh guards on 31 October 1984.
For 34 years he was able to evade justice but on Monday justices S Muralidhar and Vinod Goel convicted Kumar, calling the killing of more than 2,700 Sikhs as a “carnage of unbelievable proportions”.
It is a big day in the history of minority rights struggle in India, Tehmina Arora, a member of the Christian Legal Association told Matters India.
The verdict “gives us hope that in near future the hate criminals of the 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid, 2002 Gujarat genocide, Kandhamal violence in 2008, and other pogroms and genocides will be punished,” she said.
The riots in the Kandhamal district of Odisha, eastern India, in August 2008 were the worst case of anti-Christian violence in India’s history.
Almost 100 Christians were killed in violence that erupted following claims Christians were behind the killing of a Hindu leader, Swami Laxmanananda Sarawati. Three hundred churches and 6,000 Christian homes were also attacked, leaving 56,000 people homeless.
Ten years later, seven innocent people are still in prison, convicted of a crime that was the result of a larger political conspiracy, according to Catholic journalist and activist Anto Akkara.
To see Sikhs getting justice after 34 years gives hope to all minority communities, Akkara told Mattters India.
Both Arora and Akkara were given “Champion of Human Rights” award from the Minority Commission of the Delhi government on the day of the verdict.
Meanwhile, India’s Christians, who form 2 percent of the population, saw their rights upheld in two court cases recently, reported religious freedom advocacy organisation ADF International in a press release.
In one case they secured police protection for Christians to celebrate Christmas.
In front of the High Court of Madras in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu, they successfully argued “that the Indian constitution guarantees the freedom to practice and propagate religion to every citizen [and that] the cancellation of Christmas events simply for fear of disturbances violates this basic right”, said Tehmina Arora, director of ADF India.
According to ADF, Christians in Tamil Nadu had been denied permission to hold carol events after they had requested police protection earlier this month. Last year, six carol singers in the central state of Madhya Pradesh were arrested after they were accused of trying to convert people to Christianity.
ADF is also challenging India’s anti-conversion laws and the High Court of Jharkhand has agreed to hear their case which, if successful, could set a precedent to review the laws in the other six states where they laws are currently in place.