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India court charges ex-MP in connection with anti-Sikh riots

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[JURIST] An Indian court on Friday charged Sajjan Kumar [official profile], a former member of the Parliament of India in the ruling Congress Party [official websites], in connection with the 1984 anti-Sikh riots [TOI backgrounder]. Additional Sessions Judge Sunita Gupta of the Northeast District of Delhi [official website] charged [TOI report] Kumar and five others with conspiracy, murder, dacoity, and promoting enmity between communities under the Indian Penal Code [text]. The court found sufficient evidence to presume that a conspiracy and speeches made by Kumar incited the riots. The court is scheduled to begin hearing witnesses July 1. Kumar and his co-defendants pleaded not guilty, and, if convicted, they could face the death penalty.

The case was transferred [PTI report] from a special judge in the Central Bureau of Investigation [official website] to the Delhi court in April. The riots were precipitated by the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for Operation Blue Star [BBC backgrounders], a military campaign against Sikh militants. The riots spanned three days in October and November 1984, mostly affecting communities in Delhi, and leaving thousands of Sikhs dead.