1984 Kanpur Riots: SIT Yet to Record Statement of Witnesses

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Reports of disappearance of files related to the anti-Sikh riots cases have proved disappointing for the families of Kanpur riot victims. — File photo

KANPUR (IANS) — The Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed in February 2019 to reinvestigate the anti-Sikh riots cases that took place in Kanpur in 1984 after the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi, has not yet recorded the statement of a single witness.

A delegation of All-India Riot Victims Relief Committee (AIRVRC), including its two Supreme Court lawyers Gurbaksh Singh Dev and Prasoon Kumar, on Thursday confronted SIT (retired additional director prosecution) member Yogeshwar Krishna Srivastava, who denied the charge.

“We are unable to locate most of the FIRs or the judicial orders or the papers related to the 1984 cases,” he stated.

Reports of disappearance of files related to the anti-Sikh riots cases have proved disappointing for the families of Kanpur riot victims, many of whom have relocated to other places in India and aboard.

“They still are living in the hope of getting justice after 35 years,” said AIRVRC President Kuldeep Singh Bhogal.

The half-hearted manner in which the SIT is functioning can be gauged from the fact that 63-year old Avtar Singh, son of Vishakha Singh, was a part of the AIRVRC delegation.

He had lost seven members of his immediate family including his parents, four brothers and a sister in the 1984 riots. Surprisingly, the SIT was neither aware of his case, nor had a copy of his FIR.

When the delegation asked the SIT to make a symbolic beginning by recording the statement of Avtaar Singh in their presence, the SIT member asked the lawyers to get Singh to submit an affidavit. It was left to Avtaar Singh to provide the SIT a copy of his own 35-year-old FIR.

Later speaking to reporters, Bhogal said they were very disappointed at the manner in which the SIT work was progressing.

“Rather than waiting to find the FIRs and other documents, the SIT should have started recording statements of key witnesses like Avtaar Singh. We have seen in Delhi that one thing leads to another,” he said.

He has also urged Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to provide security to the witnesses, a demand that has not been met.

Next week, the AIRVRC plans to file a petition before the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the working of the Kanpur SIT listing the many points on which it has failed.

Kanpur faced maximum violence after Delhi during the 1984 riots. The Justice Ranganath Misra Commission appointed by then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi recorded 127 deaths in the city. Not a single person has been punished so far.

On AIRVRC’s petition in August 2017, the Supreme Court issued a notice to the Uttar Pradesh government directing it to set up an SIT to probe the cases. After much dilly-dallying, the SIT was constituted in February 2019, but it started working only after the May 2019 elections.

The four-member SIT is headed by retired UP DGP Atul. The other members are retired district judge Subhash Chandra Agarwal and retired additional director (prosecution) Yogeshwar Krishna Srivastava. SP Balendu Bhushan Singh is its member-secretary.

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