Two men have been convicted for their role in killing two men and burning property in Mahipalpur in Delhi during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. On November 14, Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ), Ajay Pandey convicted Naresh Seharawat and Yashpal Singh for the murder of Hardev Singh and Avtar Singh. Yesterday on November 20, the ASJ pronounced his verdict in the Tihar Jail premises. On November 14, the duo had been assaulted in the Patiala House Court Complex by Akali Dal leader, Manjinder Singh Sirsa. Naresh Seharawat has been sentenced with life imprisonment and Yashpal Singh has been sentenced with capital punishment. Seharawat was awarded life imprisonment due to health reasons. However, Singh was awarded capital punishment for his lack of remorse. As per the law, the death sentence will have to be confirmed by the High Court.
Sequence of Events
The anti-Sikh riots that shook Delhi in 1984 were preceded by the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The guards were angered – as was most of the Sikh community – by the damage caused by the Army’s assault on the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In June 1984, Operation Bluestar was launched to ‘flush out’ armed Sikh separatists who had taken refuge in the temple premises.
According to Sangat Singh’s statement, he and his brothers, Hardev Singh and Kuldeep Singh were running shops in the same building in Mahipalpur. At around 9 AM on November 1, 1984, Surjeet Singh, their neighbour told them that Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had died and that the Sikh community was being targeted. Surjeet Singh also told them to take refuge in his rented apartment on the first floor of a nearby building. At this time, people began to gather in front of their shops. A bus stopped by the gathering and Jai Pal Singh got out of the bus along with others and told the gathering not to spare the Sikhs. Hearing this, the brothers downed their shops’ shutters. Jai Pal Singh told Naresh Seharawat to fetch kerosene from the bus. The three brothers and Surjeet Singh then fled towards Surjeet Singh’s apartment. They were also accompanied by Avtar Singh who was present as a customer.
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From the window of the apartment, they saw a mob of between 800 to 1,000 people approach their building. The mob began pelting stones following which Jai Pal Singh, along with Naresh Seharawat and Yashpal Singh broke the window and entered the apartment. Once inside, the five men were beaten and somebody snatched Hardev Singh’s kirpan, after which he was attacked with it. After the ordeal, the men were dragged out of the apartment and thrown off the building. The men lost consciousness after being thrown off the building.
Sangat Singh regained consciousness 4 days later at Safdarjung Hospital. Surjeet Singh and Kuldeep Singh had already regained consciousness. They informed him that their brother Santokh Singh had come the day before. Santokh Singh was working as a granthi at the Gurdwara in Sadar Bazar. He asked the three survivors to stay with him after their discharge.
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On November 6, the survivors along with Santokh Singh went to the police station at Nangal Dairy where they identified Hardev Singh from a photograph. While in the hospital they had already learnt of Avtar Singh’s death.
In 1984, an FIR was registered in connection with the crime. Thereafter, in December 1986, the ASJ before whom the matter was heard acquitted Jai Pal Singh along with several others. In 1993, a second FIR was registered on the basis of a handwritten affidavit dated September 9, 1985, on the recommendation of the Justice J D Jain and D K Aggarwal committee, before the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission.
On August 27, 2016, Sangat Singh saw a public notice in a local Punjabi newspaper that a Special Investigation Team (SIT) had been constituted to investigate the 1984 riots cases. It has taken 34 years for the ASJ to finally convict Naresh Seharawat and Yashpal Singh. The question now is whether Jai Pal Singh’s role will be reinvestigated.