New York: A group of about 100 Sikhs protested the presence of Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Kamal Nath, who they alleged had instigated a mob in the November 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
The group under the banner of Sikhs For Justice, a US-based community advocacy group, held a "Justice Rally" Thursday outside McGraw-Hill's headquarters in Manhattan where Nath was addressing the Global Construction Summit.
"We want to put him behind bars. Anyone guilty should be behind bars," said Avtar Singh Pannu of Queens, the group's coordinator.
Sikhs For Justice legal adviser Gurpatwant S. Pannun said Kamal Nath "a violator of human rights who led the mobs that torched Gurudwara Rakab Ganj Sahib and in which many Sikhs were burnt alive," shouldn't be in the US.
A government commission set up to investigate the riots sparked by the assassination of then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by his Sikh bodyguards has in its 2005 report said there was no evidence to suggest that Nath had instigated a mob to violence.
Protesters at the rally held up signs reading "Stand for Justice" and "Demanding Justice" and black inner tubes symbolising the tires that were burned during the riots.
"We want to create awareness within ourselves and the international community and embarrass Kamal Nath and the people who invited him here," said Ranjit Singh, former president of Sikh Youth of America.
Sikhs for Justice filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court this week against Nath on behalf of the deceased and injured riot victims and their families. Jasbir Singh, 44, and Mohinder Singh, 27, of Hayward, California, also are plaintiffs.
Jasbir Singh, a truck driver, said he witnessed 26 of his family members burned alive and saw others cut to pieces on the streets in Delhi. He said killers would kill anyone with a beard and a turban.
"Three days, day and night, killings, houses burned, people burned," said Jasbir Singh who came to the US in 2002. "Twenty-five years, I waited for justice."
Mohinder Singh, also a truck driver, was two years old at the time of the riots. He said he lost his father, two uncles and his grandfather's brother. He said he was told the mobs killed his father in front of his mother and hacked his relatives to pieces. "He's guilty. The Indian government hasn't given us any justice," Mohinder Singh said.
Kamal Nath told reporters he was "surprised, shocked and appalled because I have never been charged" noting, "I've come to the United States god knows how many times. ... It's never been an issue. This is the first time."
Yadwinder Singh, president American Gurudwara Prabandhik Committee (AGPC) said the group had never protested a visit before because they wanted to exhaust all possible remedies in India. He said Nath should not be invited to speak in a country that stands for human rights.