A recapitulation of the 1984 Delhi carnage in which
about 4,000 Sikhs were massacred in three days in the wake of Indira Gandhis
October 31, 1984:
9.20 am: Indira Gandhi was shot by two of her
security guards at her residence No. 1, Safdarjung Road, and rushed to All
India Institute of Medical Sciences.
11 am: Announcement on All India Radio specifying
that the guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs. A big crowd was
collecting near AIIMS.
2 pm: Though
her death was yet to be confirmed officially, it became common knowledge
because of BBC bulletins and special afternoon editions of newspapers.
4 pm: Rajiv Gandhi returned from West Bengal and
reached AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks on Sikhs in and around that
5.30 pm: The cavalcade of President Zail Singh, who
returned from a foreign visit, was stoned as it approached AIIMS.
Late evening and night: Mobs fanned out in different
directions from AIIMS. The violence against Sikhs spread, starting in the
neighbouring constituency of Congress councillor Arjun Dass. The violence
included the burning of vehicles and other properties of Sikhs. That
happened even in VIP areas like the crossroads near Prithviraj Road where
cars and scooters belonging to Sikhs were burnt.
Shortly after Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime
Minister, senior advocate and Opposition leader Ram Jethmalani met home
minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and urged him to act fast and save Sikhs from
further attacks. Delhis lt governor P.G. Gavai and police commissioner
S.C. Tandon visited some of the violence-affected areas. Despite all these
developments, no measures were taken to control the violence or prevent
further attacks on Sikhs throughout the night between October 31 and
November 1, 1984:
Several Congress leaders held meetings on the night
of October 31 and morning of November 1, mobilising their followers to
attack Sikhs on a mass scale. The first killing of a Sikh reported from
east Delhi in the early hours of November 1. About 9 am, armed mobs took
over the streets of Delhi and launched a massacre. Everywhere the first
targets were Gurudwaras to prevent Sikhs from collecting there and
putting up a combined defence.
Mobs were armed with iron rods of a uniform size.
Activist editor Madhu Kishwar saw some of the rods being distributed among
the miscreants. Mobs also had an abundant supply of petrol and kerosene.
Victims traced the source of kerosene to dealers belonging to the Congress
party. For instance, a Congress worker called Brahmanand Gupta, a kerosene
dealer, figures prominently in affidavits filed from Sultanpuri.
Every police station had a strength of about 100 men
and 50-60 weapons. Yet, no action was taken against miscreants in most
places. The few places where the local police station took prompt measures
against mobs, hardly any killings took place there. Farsh Bazar and Karol
Bagh are two such examples. But in other localities, the priority of the
police, as it emerges from the statement of the then police commissioner S.C. Tandon
before the Nanavati Commission, was to take action against Sikhs who
dared to offer resistence. All the Sikhs who fired in self-defence were disarmed by the police and
even arrested on trumped up charges.
Mobs generally included teams attending to specific
tasks. When shops were to be looted, the first team that gets into action
would kill and remove all obstacles. The second team specialises in
breaking locks. The third team would engage in looting. And the fourth
team would set the place on fire.
Most of the mobs were led by Congress members,
including those from affluent families. For instance, a Youth Congress
leader called Satsangi led a mob in the posh Maharani Bagh. The worst
affected areas were however far flung, low income colonies like Trilokpuri,
Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony.
The Congress leaders identified by the victims as
organisers of the carnage include three MPs H.K.L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar
and Dharam Dass Shastri and 10 councillors Arjan Dass, Ashok Kumar, Deep
Chand, Sukhan Lal Sood, Ram Narayan Verma, D.R. Chhabbra, Bharat Singh,
Vasudev, Dharam Singh and Mela Ram.
Curfew was in force throughout Delhi but only on paper. The Army was also deployed throughout Delhi but nowhere was it effective because the police did not co-operate with the soldiers who were not empowered to open fire without the consent of senior police officers or executive magistrates. Meanwhile, mobs continued to rampage with the same ferocity.
It was only towards the evening of November 3 that
the police and the Army acted in unison and the violence subsided
immediately after that. Whatever violence took place the next two or three
days was on a much smaller scale and rather sporadic.
Aftermath of the carnage:
Most of the arrested miscreants were released at the
earliest. But the Sikhs arrested for firing in self-defence generally
remained in detention for some weeks. Worse, there was also a pattern
throughout Delhi of the police not registering proper cases on the
complaints of victims. Instead, the police registered vaguely worded
omnibus FIRs which did not deal with any specific incident or person. As
if the damage done by such FIRs was not bad enough, the police made little
effort to investigate the cases and trace the miscreants. The only
acknowledgement of any wrongdoing on their part was the appointment of a
committee headed by senior police officer Ved Marwah to probe the role of
Two remarkable initiatives that came on the same
month as the carnage, in a bid to make up for the failure of the
Government, were from human rights organisations and a leading Opposition
party. Peoples Union of Civil Liberties and Peoples Union for
Democratic Rights came out with a devastating expose in a booklet titled,
Who are the guilty? The Bharatiya Janata Party contradicted the
Governments claim then that only 600 people were killed in the Delhi
carnage. On the basis of a survey done by its cadres, the BJP came out
with a death toll of 2,700, which is remarkably close to the official
tally of 2,733 arrived at three years later.
On December 27, 1984, the Lok Sabha elections were
held and the Congress party had a landslide victory bagging over 400 seats
for the first and so far the only time in the Indian electoral history.
The election held under the shadow of Indira Gandhis assassination and
the subsequent massacre was marked by an anti-Sikh sentiment whipped up by
the Congress party campaign.
In the early months of 1985, two more NGO reports
followed: one by Citizens for Democracy headed by Justice V.M. Tarkunde
and another by a Citizens Commission headed by former chief justice of
India S.M. Sikri. Both indicted the Government and the ruling party and
called for a judicial inquiry.
A journalist, Rahul Kuldeep Bedi, filed a writ
petition in the Delhi high court seeking an inquiry into the role of the
police. PUDR filed a writ petition in the same court seeking a direction
to the Government to appoint a Commission of Inquiry. Both the petitions
On April 26, 1985, i.e. almost six months after the
carnage, the Rajiv Gandhi Government appointed the Ranganath Misra
Commission to inquire into the allegations in regard to the incidents
of organised violence in Delhi.
In June 1985, a group of eminent persons and
representative of human rights organisations came together under the
banner of the Citizens Justice Committee (CJC) to help the Misra
Commission unravel the truth.
The Misra Commission held all its proceedings in
camera and took the help of the CJC to get affidavits from victims.
On March 31, 1986, the CJC notified its withdrawal as
the Misra Commission kept it out of most of the inquiry holding in
camera proceedings within in camera.
In August 1986, the Misra Commission submitted its
report to the Government, which in turn tabled it in Parliament in
February 1987. The report vindicated the CJCs apprehension that the
Misra Commission would whitewash the role of the Government and the ruling
On February 23, 1987, the Government appointed three
committees on the recommendation of the Misra Commission. (1)
Jain-Banerjee committee to pursue cases that have either not been
registered or not properly investigated. (2) Kapur-Mittal committee to
identify delinquent police officials. (3) Ahooja committee to arrive at
the official death toll of the carnage.
In August 1987, the Ahooja committee determined that
the number of persons killed in Delhi in the 1984 carnage were 2,733.
In November 1987, the Delhi high court stayed the
functioning of the Jain-Banerjee committee because of its very first
recommendation, which was to register a murder case against former
Congress MP Sajjan Kumar. The petition was filed by one of the co-accused,
In October 1989, the Delhi high court quashed the
notification appointing the Jain-Banerjee committee. The court found that
the powers of monitoring of investigation and the institution of new case
conferred on the committee were illegal.
March 1, 1990: The two members of the Kapur-Mittal
committee gave separate reports. Justice Dalip Kapur gave no finding on
the ground that the committee had not been empowered to summon police
officials to hear their version. Kusum Lata Mittal identified 72 police
officials, including six IPS officers, recommending various penalties
March 27, 1990: The Delhi Administration prompted by
the newly elected V.P. Singh Government appointed the Poti-Rosha committee
without the legal defects pointed out by the high court in the case of the
August-September 1990: The Poti-Rosha committee sent
two batches of recommendations covering altogether 30 affidavits,
including the case against Sajjan Kumar. When a CBI team went to his house
to arrest him, Sajjan Kumar and his supporters locked up the officials and
detained them till his lawyer, R.K. Anand (now a Congress MP), obtained
anticipatory bail from the high court. Subsequently, the two
committee members, Subramaniam Poti and Padam Rosha, declined to carry on
in office when their first term expired on September 22.
October-November 1990: The Delhi Administration
constituted a fresh committee comprising J.D. Jain and D.K. Aggarwal, to
take over the work of the Poti-Rosha committee.
June 30, 1993: After making recommendations from time
to time from among the remaining 1,000-odd affidavits, including 21
affidavits against Congress leaders H.K.L Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar, the
Jain-Aggarwal committee submitted a detailed report giving a comprehensive
account of how the police scuttled carnage cases at the stages of
registration, investigation and prosecution. The Jain-Aggarwal committee
also recommendation action several police officials for their lapses.
1994: The Delhi Government under Madan Lal Khurana
appointed an Advisory Committee under the chairmanship of Justice R.S.
Naroola. The Advisory Committee reviewed the status of the recommendations
made the Poti-Rosha committee, Jain-Aggarwal committee and Kapur-Mittal
committee. The Advisory Committee also made a particular reference to the
failure of the police, which came under the Congress-ruled Central
government, to book the cases recommended against Congress leaders H.K.L.
Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar.
the basis of the Advisory Committees report, Delhi chief minister Madan
Lal Khurana repeatedly asked the Centre to let the police take action on
the 21 affidavits against Congress leaders H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar.
It was only when Khurana threatened to complain to the National Human
Rights Commission, the Centre sent those affidavits to the Delhi
2000: The Atal Behari Vajpayee Government appointed a
fresh judicial inquiry into the 1984 carnage under the chairmanship of
Justice G.T. Nanavati. The justification offered for it was the failure to
punish the guilty. Despite the lapse of over 15 years, the Nanavati
Commission received hundreds of fresh affidavits from victims as well as
victims, including prominent persons such as I.K. Gujral, Khushwant Singh,
Kuldip Nayar and Jagjit Singh Aurora.
2001-02: The Nanavati Commission records much
damaging evidence brought on record for the first time since 1984.
Arguments pending at the time of release of this CD.