New Delhi: The anti-Sikh massacre of 1984 refers to a series of organised pogroms against members of the Sikh community across India by anti-Sikh mobs in response to the assassination of then prime minister (PM) Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards at her residence.
After the assassination of Indira on October 31, 1984, anti-Sikh riots erupted in some areas for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and an estimated 8,000 across India.
The perpetrators carried iron rods, knives, clubs and combustible material such as petrol and diesel. They entered Sikh neighbourhoods and killed Sikhs indiscriminately.
The violence continued in Punjab in the 1980s due to the armed separatist Khalistan movement, which sought independence from India.
In July, 1983, Sikh political party Akali Dal’s then president Harchand Singh Longowal had invited militant religious leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale to take up residence inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar to evade arrest.
Later, Bhindranwale made the sacred complex an armoury and headquarters of Khalistani militants.
In the violent events leading up to ‘Operation Blue Star’ ordered by Indira, the militants supported by Bhindranwale had killed 165 Hindus in India.
Operation Blue Star was a military operation carried out between June 1 and 8, 1984, to flush out Bhindranwale and other armed militants from the Golden Temple complex.
In the operation, Bhindranwale died and the militants were removed from Golden Temple.
The military action was criticised by Sikhs worldwide who had interpreted it as an assault on the Sikh religion.
Four months after the operation, Indira was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards — Satwant Singh and Beant Singh.
Many Congress leaders were believed to be behind the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.
Several cases were registered against Congress leaders HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri, Lalit Maken, Babu Ram Sharma and Jagdish Tytler for alleged criminal conspiracy to engineer riots.
However, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) closed all cases against Tytler and other leaders in November 2007 for lack of evidence. Bhagat died due to long illness in 2005.
On April 10, 2013, a Delhi court ordered CBI to reopen the case against Tytler.
In January, 2018, the Supreme Court formed a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) of its own to probe 186 cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that were not further investigated by the SIT formed by the government.
On August 12, 2005, the then PM, Manmohan Singh, had apologised in parliament for the riots.
Bharatiya Janata Party and its ally Shiromani Akali Dal have time and again attacked Congress leaders for their role in the massacre.
They allege that Congress’ entire apparatus was involved in the 1984 genocide against Sikhs in the national capital.