Posted by : Shoumik Das Monday, February 3, 2014

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s admission in his recent interview to Times Now that “probably some Congressmen” were involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom, and his inability to explain why the “legal process” had been unable to deliver justice (some prominent accused are dead) when cases in the Gujarat riots of 2002 (almost two decades later) were proceeding at a much faster pace, has reopened a festering sore in the national psyche. There has been no closure in the anti-Sikh pogrom because of the sustained determination of the Congress leadership not to sacrifice leaders who were named by eyewitness and media reports of having instigated and led mobs against Sikh-dominated localities, Sikh homes in mixed colonies, Sikh taxi stands and shops and establishments in markets across the Capital.
As rival political parties demand a Special Investigation Team to revisit the 1984 atrocity, this is an appropriate time to look at one of the first compilations about the riots while they were still fresh in the memory of the victims. Titled, “Truth about Delhi Violence: Report to the Nation,” it was brought out in January 1985, soon after the Congress’s landslide victory in the Lok Sabha election, by Citizens for Democracy (CFD), a social activists group headed by Justice VM Tarkunde.
The CFD categorically asserted that November 1984 was not a communal riot; that the killings were a one-sided affair; and that the violence could not be attributed to emotions generated by Indira Gandhi’s assassination by two Sikh guards. Narrating witness accounts alleging that late on October 31, 1984, local Congress (I) leaders held meetings all over Delhi to make plans to kill Sikhs, the report points out that there was “not a single known incident of any Sikh having been killed or burnt” on October 31, though the Prime Minister’s passing away was known by about 10.30 am.
Disturbances that occurred on October 31 were “isolated, sporadic and emotional in nature”, but the violence that began on November 1 was “systematic, planned and organised in character, and based on cold political considerations.” The CFD concluded that the violence was organised by members of the Congress (I); its objective was to arouse passions within the majority community to consolidate Hindu votes in the election held on December 27, 1984. The report condemned the role of the police and administration in the riots; it avoided mentioning names of accused persons but said it would reveal names before a judicial enquiry.
The Delhi carnage continued unabated and unchecked up to November 3, 1984. The Tarkunde report charges the Congress-I of meticulously planning the riots, from collection of kerosene and incendiary material for dousing the men before they were burnt, to collection of killers from villages outside the areas of attack and from among amenable neighbours; from fixing the hour of attack to be launched simultaneously everywhere in Delhi between 9 and 11 am to organising the attack and deciding if it should be repetitive or two-pronged as in war, depending on the size of the mob; from identifying the jhuggis and houses of the Sikhs to fixing the sequence of the targets of attack, to floating rumours – everything was done with amazing precision.
Gurdwaras were first to be attacked in every area of Delhi according to the plans, because they were supposed to be the arsenals of Sikhs and the symbol of their collective faith and courage. Thereafter, Sikh houses were looted and set ablaze, the men were first humiliated by cutting off their hair and shaving off their beards before being delivered to the flames alive; later the women were molested, raped, and some killed also.
False rumours spread to ‘justify’ the carnage included: Sikhs were rejoicing at Indira Gandhi’s assassination; Sikhs had poisoned Delhi’s drinking water supply; and (to justify continued killings in the Resettlement Colonies) the Jhelum Express from Punjab was loaded with Hindu bodies. The CFD discerned “an impeccable pattern” in the violence, with the mob behaving “like disciplined soldiers”.
The report suggests that between Indira Gandhi’s assassination on the morning of October 31 and Rajiv Gandhi’s accession as new Prime Minister the same evening, three crucial decisions were taken by someone somewhere in a logical sequence, viz., that Rajiv Gandhi must succeed as the new Prime Minister; elections must be held forthwith to cash in on the ‘sympathy’ factor in favour of Congress-I; and Sikhs as a community must be taught a lesson demonstratively to consolidate Hindu public opinion that was swaying towards Indira Gandhi and her party after the Army action on the Golden Temple in June. The logic was that the assassination shook the Hindu community’s confidence in the ruling party’s ability to protect Hindus against the “militant” Sikhs, and that something had to be done to suggest immediate “retribution” and “badla” for her assassination. “So something appears to have been done” is the CFD conclusion.
On October 31, incidents of heckling or beating Sikhs occurred mainly in South Delhi and in the vicinity of the AIIMS. But next morning, all Delhi was engulfed. The most affected areas were Karol Bagh, Chandni Chowk, Paharganj, Janpath, Connaught Circus, Sadar Bazar and Gurudwara Rakab Ganj (Central Delhi); Gandhi Nagar, Shahdara, Trilokpuri, Kalyanpuri, Vinod Nagar, Pandav Nagar, Gamri, Bhajanpura and Nand Nagari (East Delhi): Mangolpuri, Sultanpuri, Moti Nagar, Naraina, Patel Nagar, Inderpuri, Punjabi Bagh, Paschim Vihar, Tilak Nagar, Hari Nagar and Janakpuri (West Delhi); Ashok Vihar, Jehangirpuri, Gulabi Bagh, Kashmere Gate, Kingsway Camp, and Azadpur vegetable mandi (North Delhi); and South Extension, Safdarjang Enclave, Kalkaji, Khan Market, Greater Kailash, Sarojini Nagar, Maharani Bagh, Defence Colony, Nizamuddin, Bhogal, Hari Nagar Ashram, NOIDA, Okhla Industrial Estate, Kotla Mubarakpur, Panchsheela Enclave, Gulmohar Park, Chittaranjan Park, Lajpat Nagar, and Vasant Vihar (South Delhi).
Hundreds of Gurdwaras were set on fire; even the historic Gurdwara Rakab Ganj near Central Secretariat and Sheesh Ganj at Chandni Chowk were attacked. Taxi stands, shops and cinema halls owned by Sikhs were reduced to ashes; even schools were not spared from arson and destruction, notably Guru Har Kishan Public School (4 branches), Mata Jai School, and Takshila Public School.
The violence in the Jehangirpuri Resettlement Colony (Blocks A, C, D, E, EE, G, I, J and K) began at 9.15 am and continued unchallenged till 6 pm till all Sikhs who could be found were killed; a certain Municipal Councillor was seen inciting the mob. Similar violence mentored by local Congress leaders were repeated at Mongolpuri Resettlement Colony; Budh Vihar; Sultanpuri Resettlement Colony; Kalyanpuri Resettlement Colony; Trilokpuri Resettlement Colony; Hari Nagar Ashram, New Delhi; Nizamuddin. The main message of the report is that there was apparently no instance of brutality in the city without the physical presence of Congress-I leaders.
In a damning indictment, Justice Tarkunde observes, “What stunned every thinking person in the Capital this November was not merely the spread and duration, the meticulous planning and organisation of the violence and the controlled and instigated assault on the Sikhs, but more, it was the very nature of the violence, its relentlessness, its unspeakable cruelty, the uninhibited sadism it displayed… The killers must have been especially selected for they meant to kill and came back again and again to verify if anyone was still alive.”
An unnamed senior police officer told the CFD that whenever instructions were sought for from above, there was silence. A lone police officer in Pandav Nagar, Vinod Sharma, earned the gratitude of the relatives of victims because he had behaved as a police officer is expected to – but was summarily removed. “The fact that 20 per cent of Delhi Police – who happened to be Sikh – were removed and locked up during the entire period of the violence, was a clear indication to the police of Delhi how to deal with the Sikhs,” the report noted.
The faulty deployment of forces had nothing to do with inadequate personnel available, but was a conscious decision of the authorities, as was the delay in imposing curfew and deploying the Army. On November 1, the localities where there was anarchy were left untended while “one Army brigade consisting of 8000 men and another 1000 personnel from the Navy and Air Force were to line the route of the funeral.” In contrast, a three-man police force arrived at Tirlokpuri around 6 pm on November 2, despite repeated information about the carnage to the authorities. All senior officials from the Commissioner of Police to the ACPs were concentrated at Teen Murti House.
The only ray of sunshine in this darkness, Justice Tarkunde noted, was that in colony after colony, Hindus formed protection squads against the marauders and protected the lives and properties of their Sikh neighbours.
This is a sordid chapter of shame in the nation’s history and it is time that the presiding Congress brings it to a close, with action against the shielded culprits who are still alive, and a fulsome apology from the family of the Prime Minister who felt the genocide was in the nature of what happens when a great tree falls...
Source : Niti Central

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