NEW YORK, NY (TIP): A US Federal court has issued summons against Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi for shielding party officials allegedly involved in inciting attacks on Sikhs in November 1984, in the aftermath of assassination of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi, the Sikhs For Justice attorney Gurpatwant S Pannun said here September 3. In a class action suit filed on Tuesday, September 3 before the district court of Eastern District of New York, the Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), a US-based human rights group, and other victims of the November 1984 anti-Sikh violence have sought compensatory and punitive damages against Gandhi.
Federal rules provide for 120 days to serve the summons and complaint on Gandhi who is reported to be currently visiting the US for medical check-up. The suit under Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) and Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA) accuses Gandhi of shielding and protecting Kamal Nath, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and other Congress party leaders from being prosecuted for their alleged role in the 1984 violence. The 27-page complaint against Gandhi alleges that between November 1 and 4, 1984 about 30,000 members of the Sikh community “were intentionally tortured, raped and murdered by groups that were incited, organized, controlled and armed” by the ruling Congress party of which Sonia Gandhi is the President. Asked for his comment on the summons against Sonia Gandhi, attorney Ravi Batra who is an attorney for AICC in SFJ case in Manhattan Federal Court said, “Anybody can sue anybody for anything if they pay the filing fee of the court.
It remains for the court, if there is personal and subject matter jurisdiction, to then evaluate if the claims are incredulous or not.” Reacting to the issuance of summons to the Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “Summons issued almost 30 years after the event when the Congress President is on a medical visit is, to put it mildly, astonishing. Undoubtedly, appropriate legal action will be taken.” In the past also the Sikhs for Justice got summons issued on similar grounds by US courts against Union Minister Kamal Nath and Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal. But nothing beyond that ever happened. Meanwhile, the community support for the Sikhs For Justice has been on the wane. The organization that started as a human rights group, with the declared objective of seeking justice for the 1984 riot affected Sikhs, along the way lost its moorings and bearings and got involved in to a political ideology long rejected by the Sikh masses.
The Akali leaders here and elsewhere in the world who contributed to the coffers of the Sikhs For Justice withdrew their support to SFJ when it got summons issued against Punjab Chief Minister Prakash Singh Badal. Similarly, many who supported SFJ for seeking justice for 1984 riot victims realized the organization had a different agenda and turned away from it. There have often been hints at the organization’s connections with powers that are on the look out to destabilize India. The credibility and the base of the Sikhs For Justice have, thus, been largely eroded. However, it manages to have sparks at times in the form of summons issued against a visiting Congress or Akali leader or organizing a protest. To be more precise on the organization, having failed to maintain momentum in the US, the organization has given attention now to Canada where it has found soul brothers who share its ideology. It may be recalled that hundreds of Sikhs were killed, their property destroyed, women raped and children rendered orphans in organized violence against Sikhs that began after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.