Who are the guilty?

Excerpts from the report of a joint inquiry into the causes and impact of the 1984 riots in Delhi conducted by the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and People’s Union for Democratic Rights. The report was brought out within weeks of the carnage and nearly a month before parliamentary elections were held in December that year.

Role of Congress(I)

Escapees from the [Gandhi Nagar] area, whom we met at the Shakarpur relief camp on November 6, blamed the Congress(I) MP from the area, Mr HKL Bhagat, for having masterminded the riots. On November 1, Satbir Singh (Jat) a Youth Congress(I) leader brought buses filled with people from Ber Sarai to the Sri Guru Harkrishan Public School at Munirka and burnt the school building and buses and continued looting and assaults on Sikhs the whole night. Another group of miscreants led by Jagdish Tokas, a Congress(I) corporator, joined the above group in looting and assaults. In the Safdarjung-Kidwai Nagar area of South Delhi, eyewitness accounts by those who stood in front of the All India Medical Institute [All India Institute of Medical Sciences] from where Mrs Gandhi’s body was taken out in procession on the evening of October 31, confirmed the presence of the Congress(I) councillor of the area, Arjan Dass, at the time when attacks on Sikh pedestrians, bus-drivers and conductors began.

The allegations against these individuals, repeatedly voiced by the residents of the respective localities which we visited, cannot be dismissed as politically motivated propaganda since many among the Sikhs who accused them of complicity in the riots had traditionally been Congress(I) voters. Sufferers from Trilokpuri and Mangolpuri resettlement colonies whom we met looked dazed and uncomprehending when they said to us: “We were allotted these houses here by Indiraji. We have always voted for her party. Why were we attacked?”


Eyewitness accounts

Sudip Mazumdar, Journalist

The police commissioner, SC Tandon, was briefing the press (about 10 Indian reporters and five foreign journalists) in his office on November 6, at 5 p.m. A reporter asked him to comment on the large number of complaints about local Congress MPs and lightweights trying to pressure the police to get their men released. The police commissioner totally denied the allegation and when questioned further, he categorically stated that he had never received any calls or visits by any Congress or for that matter any political leader trying to influence him or his force. Just as he finished uttering these words, Jagdish Tytler, Congress MP from Sadar constituency, barged into the police commissioner’s office along with three other followers and at the top of his voice demanded of the police commissioner: “What is this Mr Tandon? You still have not done what I asked you to do?”

The reporters were amused, the police commissioner embarrassed. Tytler kept on shouting and a reporter asked the police commissioner to ask that ‘shouting man’ to wait outside since a press conference was on. Tytler shouted at the reporter: “This is more important!” However, the reporter told the police commissioner that if Tytler wanted to sit in the office, he would be welcome but a lot of questions regarding his involvement would also be asked and he was welcome to hear them. Tytler was fuming. Perhaps realising the faux pas, he sat down and said, “By holding my men you are hampering relief work.” Then he boasted to some foreign reporters that “There is not a single refugee in any camp in my constituency. I have made sure that they are given protection and sent back home.” However, the incident left the police commissioner speechless and the reporters convinced about the Congress(I)’s interference in police work.


Written complaint by journalist Rahul Bedi of The Indian Express against three senior Delhi police officers, dated November 5, 1984 and addressed to the police commissioner of Delhi (with a copy also being sent to the lieutenant governor)

Following our meeting in your room at the police headquarters on Sunday, November 4, I wish to register a complaint of criminal negligence against Mr HC Jatav, IPS, additional commissioner of police, Delhi, Mr Nikhil Kumar, IPS, additional commissioner of police, Delhi, and Mr Seva Das, IPS, deputy commissioner of police (DCP), East District, for being responsible through their apathy and severe dereliction of duty for the massacre in Trilokpuri where over 350 persons were slaughtered in a carnage lasting over 30 hours, ending on the evening of November 2. You agreed to look into the matter.

The official figure of the number of dead is 95 in Trilokpuri. The following are the details of the negligence:

1. On learning of the massacre on [the morning of] November 2, I along with Mr Joseph Maliakan, reporters, Indian Express newspaper, rushed to Trilokpuri at 2 p.m. Around 500 metres away from Block 32 we met a police rider and a constable coming from the block where the killings were still taking place.

Stopping the rider and asking him what was going on inside the block, he told us that the situation was quiet. Only two people had been killed, he said.

2. On going further, our car was blocked by an angry mob which stoned us and told us to leave or face the consequences. Block 32, they said, was out of bounds.

3. We went to the local Kalyanpuri police station, looking after Trilokpuri, and asked the subinspector on duty for help in getting into the beleaguered block around 3.30 p.m. The police officer said that all was quiet in Trilokpuri as his rider had reported the same to him. Besides, he said, he was short of men.

4. After seeking army patrols in vain, we arrived at the police headquarters at 5 p.m. Mr Nikhil Kumar, manning the telephones in your room, was told of the situation. He called the central control room, two floors above. Mr Nikhil Kumar did nothing to ensure that a force had been sent other than make the telephone call to the control room. He asked the control room to inform the captain on duty inside the control room.

5. On reaching Trilokpuri at 6.05 p.m., we found the Kalyanpuri station house officer (SHO), Mr SV Singh, accompanied by two constables, arriving in a Matador van. Mr SV Singh said that he had radioed his senior officers, specially his DCP, Seva Das. The DCP was nowhere in sight till after 7 p.m.

6. On returning to the police headquarters, we were told by Mr Nikhil Kumar that he had done his job by informing the control room.

Meanwhile, Mr Jatav, returning from a tour of the Trans-Jamuna areas, including Kalyanpuri police station area (which includes Trilokpuri), arrived in your room and declared that ‘calm’ prevailed in his area. His DCP, Seva Das, he said, confirmed this.

7. When we stressed the urgency of the situation, Mr Jatav inquired of Mr Nikhil Kumar as to why he had not been told of the emergency, as he was in his office, a floor above, at 5 p.m. when the latter had merely called the control room. Mr Nikhil Kumar had no answer other than parroting the fact that he had called the control room.

8. Mr Jatav arrived at the spot around 7.45 p.m., over 30 hours after the killing began on November 1, around 10 a.m.

I hope suitable action is taken against these police officers who through dereliction of duty became accessories to the butchering.

(Excerpted from ‘Who are the Guilty?’, Report of a joint inquiry into the causes and impact of the riots in Delhi from 31 October to 10 November 1984, PUCL-PUDR, Delhi, November 1984.)

Archived from Communalism Combat, November 2009 Year 16    No.145, Cover Story 6



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