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30 Years after the massacre of thousands of Sikhs, six people will face justice…maybe

Sikh and tired of being Sikh and tired

By all accounts, the United States should like India. It’s a democracy after all. A big one. It’s also in that strange, far-away land known as Asia, which features countries that we have somewhat testy relationships with (China and Russia). It’s right next to Pakistan. Everything seems to be perfect. But then we are reminded of something that makes the relationship a bit more complicated.

India’s Central Bureau of Investigation began its final arguments on March 31 against prominent Congress Party leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikhs riot case. 1984, gosh, that was a long time ago. Back then, Indira Gandhi (who is in no way related to Mahatma Gandhi, something that should be immediately obvious once you begin to look at her career) had just declared Emergency in India. This meant that she could do whatever she damn well-pleased, which, unsurprisingly, meant locking up anybody that happened to upset her or made fun of her Bride-of-Frankenstein-hair.

Bride of Frankenstein pulls it off a bit better.

At this point, Sikhs had had a long career of getting shafted by India, and understandably wanted to do something to change this, namely, be granted an autonomous state. Gandhi disagreed, and locked up several thousand Sikhs. This created bad feelings, a violent separatist group formed, garrisoned itself in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, and Gandhi decided to send in troops and opened fire on the holiest site in the Sikh religion, the Golden Temple.

Now, one would assume that if you’ve gone out of your way to piss off a group of people, members of that same group would not make up a significant portion of your personal bodyguards. This, however, ignores the long-standing image of Sikhs as one of the “martial races”, and thus ideally suited to things like being bodyguards. Anyway, you can see where this is going. Her Sikh bodyguards kill here, shooting her 31 times because fuck her and you’re going to be executed after you do this anyway, so might as well make it count.

This next part is predictable, especially in a country like India that has a history of large-scale, violent communal riots. All across Northern India, groups of Indians (led by members of the ruling Congress Party, including some freed prisoners given weapons and instructions to “teach Sikhs a lesson”) went through their neighborhoods murdering Sikhs. Now, you’re probably wondering where the police are amidst all this strife and turmoil and murder of innocent civilians. Well, to be fair, they were present and they did arrest some people and put a stop to a few actions. By this, of course, I mean they arrested anybody caught helping the Sikhs and Sikhs who attempted to defend themselves. There is one account of two men pouring kerosene over a Sikh man and then asking a nearby policeman for a match, which, being such a nice guy, he provided.

And so here we are today, in 2012, and Sajjan Kumar, who is still a leading member of the Congress Party, and five other people stand accused of inciting a mob to tear through a section of Delhi and kill Sikhs.

In the interim, no members of the Indian government or the police force have faced trial. Sajjan Kumar is the first. The Central Bureau of Investigation began presenting their final arguments Saturday. They accuse Kumar and others of acting in a “pre-planned manner” and deliberately ignoring what was happening.

But justice never comes so easily, especially not in India, where corruption is rampant and the routine appeals to fundamentalist religious groups are the stuff out of a Rick Santorum masturbation session. Before getting this far, the Delhi High Court had asked the trial court to quickly get rid of the case. The Additional Sessions Judge has asked for ‘direct evidence’ implicating the accused, in the form of media reports. Except it’s unlikely that there are such media reports, since throughout Indira Gandhi’s time in office, censorship of the press was common. Besides, there have already been eyewitness accounts given implicating Kumar. Apparently, that’s not direct enough for the Delhi High Court. Arguments continue this week.

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