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Indian court reopens probe into Sikh riots


An Indian court on Wednesday ordered federal investigators to reopen a case against a ruling Congress party leader over deadly 1984 riots that killed at least 3,000 members of the Sikh community.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had earlier cleared Jagdish Tytler and closed the case but a local judge in New Delhi ruled that his alleged role in the November 1984 riots must be investigated again.

"The court today gave directions to the CBI to record the statements of the witnesses who had (allegedly) seen Tytler lead the mob," H.S. Phoolka, lawyer for one of the riot victims, told reporters outside the court.

The court also asked the CBI to investigate whether Tytler had incited a mob that killed three Sikh men at a shrine in Delhi during the riots, Phoolka added.

A CBI report filed in 2009 was challenged by Lakhwinder Kaur, whose husband was among those killed in the riots triggered by the October 1984 assassination of then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Kaur argued that the CBI had not recorded the testimony of two key witnesses who had moved to the United States following the riots.

The assassination was carried out in revenge for Gandhi's decision to send the army to flush Sikh separatists out of the Golden Temple -- Sikhism's holiest shrine located in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.

The government says nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the riots following her killing, while human rights activists say the figure was 4,000.

Activists accuse Congress of having turned a blind eye to the killing of Sikhs and say some of its leaders, including Tytler, may have helped incite mobs.

Tytler, a former minister, denies any wrongdoing.

Kaur on Wednesday said she was "relieved" by the ruling.

"Women lost their husbands and children were orphaned in the riots. We had started to lose hope (of any action)," she said.

A Congress spokeswoman said the party would wait for the court to come to its conclusions before taking any action.

"Once the court comes out with something conclusive, it will be examined," Renuka Chowdhury told a news conference in Delhi.

Sikhs make up around two percent of Hindu-majority India's population of 1.2 billion.