1984 anti-Sikh riots
|1984 anti-Sikh riots|
A Sikh man being surrounded and beaten by a mob
|Date||31 October 1984 − 3 November 1984|
Government Estimate about 2800.Independent Estimate about 8000
The 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the 1984 Sikh Massacre or the 1984 genocide of Sikhs was a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, most notably by members of the Congress party, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Official Indian government reports admit to about 2800 deaths across India, including 2100 in Delhi. Other independent sources estimate the number of deaths to be around 8,000, including at least 3,000 in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigating agency, believes the acts of violence were organised with the support from the then Delhi police and some central government officials. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother's death and, when asked about the riots, said "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes".
The sporadic violence continued as a result of an armed Sikh separatist group which was designated as a terrorist entity by the Indian government. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents, as it had been occupied by Sikh separatists who were allegedly stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were initiated to clear the separatists from the countryside of Punjab state.
The violence in Delhi was triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India's prime minister, on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards in response to her actions authorising the military operation. The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos. In the aftermath of the riots, the Indian government reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the People's Union for Civil Liberties reported "at least" 1,000 displaced persons. The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi. Human rights organisations and newspapers across India believe the massacre was organised. The collusion of political officials in the massacres and the judiciary's failure to penalise the killers alienated normal Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement. The Akal Takht, the governing religious body of Sikhism, considers the killings to be a genocide.
In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported the Government of India had "yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings". The 2011 WikiLeaks cable leaks revealed that the United States was convinced about the complicity of the Indian government ruled by the Indian National Congress in the riots, and termed it as "opportunism" and "hatred" of the Congress government against Sikhs. The United States has refused to recognise the riots as genocide, but does acknowledge that "grave human rights violations" did take place. Also in 2011, a new set of mass graves was discovered in Haryana, and Human Rights Watch reported that "Widespread anti-Sikh attacks in Haryana were part of broader revenge attacks" in India.
In April 2015, the California State Assembly recognised that the Indian government was responsible for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and described the riots as 'genocide.'
- 1 Background
- 2 Characteristics of violence
- 3 Timeline of events
- 4 Aftermath
- 5 Investigations
- 5.1 Marwah Commission
- 5.2 Misra Commission
- 5.3 Kapur Mittal Committee
- 5.4 Jain Banerjee Committee
- 5.5 Potti Rosha Committee
- 5.6 Jain Aggarwal Committee
- 5.7 Ahuja Committee
- 5.8 Dhillon Committee
- 5.9 Narula Committee
- 5.10 The Nanavati Commission
- 5.11 Role of Jagdish Tytler
- 5.12 Civil case in New York
- 5.13 Recent investigations
- 5.14 California State Assembly Finds Government of India Responsible for Genocide of Sikhs
- 6 Impact and legacy
- 7 In popular culture
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
In 1973 Akali Dal and other Sikh groups introduced the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which demanded special status for Punjab and Sikhs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, security in Punjab started deteriorating due to State level and religious politics, leading to the sacking of the Punjab government in 1983.
A section of Sikhs led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale turned to militancy in Punjab; some Sikh militant groups aimed to create an independent state called Khalistan through acts of violence directed at members of the Indian government, army or forces. Others demanded an autonomous state within India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. A large number of Sikhs condemned the actions of the militants.
By 1983, the situation in Punjab had become highly volatile. In October 1983, some Sikh militants stopped a bus and shot six Hindu bus passengers. On the same day, another group of extremists killed two officials on a train.:174 The Congress(I)-led Central Government dismissed Punjab state government of their own party, and imposed the President's Rule in the state. During the five months preceding Operation Blue Star, from 1 January 1984 to 3 June 1984, 298 people had been killed in various violent incidents across Punjab. In five days preceding the Operation, 48 people had been killed in the violence.:175 With increasing calls for action by various groups, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered an operation by the Indian army to flush out militants from the temple complex in early June 1984. to establish control over the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar, Punjab and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the complex buildings. Bhindranwale had earlier taken residence in Harmandir Sahib and made it his headquarters in April 1980. Bhindranwale was accused of amassing weapons in the gurudwara to start a major armed uprising. After the operation, the Army placed total casualties at:
- Civilians: 492 dead
- Military: 136 killed and 220 wounded.
Unofficial casualty figures were much higher. Some suggest that civilian casualties numbered 20,000. Mark Tully and Satish Jacob mention of use of tanks by the army at Sultanwind area against the civilian Sikhs marching towards Amritsar. The civilian casualties included Bhindranwale and his closest associate, the former Major General Shabeg Singh. The operation caused widespread damage to structures in the temple complex with total destruction of the Akal Takht temple. It also led to protests by Sikhs all over India and the world. The calls for revenge for the desecration eventually led to the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi by two of her own bodyguards on 31 October 1984 and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots.
Characteristics of violence
After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards, anti-Sikh riots erupted on 1 November 1984, and continued in some areas for days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and perhaps 8,000 or more in 40 cities throughout India. Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected. Mobs carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material, including kerosene and petrol. The mobs swarmed into Sikh neighbourhoods, arbitrarily killing any Sikh men or women they could find. Their shops and houses were ransacked and burned. In other incidents, armed mobs stopped buses and trains, in and around Delhi, pulling out Sikh passengers to be lynched or doused with kerosene and burnt alive. Others were dragged out from their homes and hacked to death with bladed weapons. Sikh women were reportedly gang-raped.
Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police help. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full help to rioters who were in fact working under able guidance of sycophant leaders like Jagdish Tytler and H K L Bhagat. It is a known fact that many jails, sub-jails and lock-ups were opened for three days and prisoners, for the most part hardened criminals, were provided fullest provisions, means and instruction to "teach the Sikhs a lesson". But it will be wrong to say that Delhi Police did nothing, for it took full and keen action against Sikhs who tried to defend themselves. The Sikhs who opened fire to save their lives and property had to spend months dragging heels in courts after-wards.
-Jagmohan Singh Khurmi, The Tribune
Meetings and distribution of weapons
On 31 October, the crowd around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, began shouting for vengeance with slogans such as "Blood for blood!" and turned into an unruly mob. At 17:20, President Zail Singh arrived at the hospital and the mob outside stoned his car. The mob began assaulting Sikhs by stopping cars and buses to pull Sikhs out of them and burn them. The violence on 31 October was restricted to the area around the AIIMS and did result in many Sikh deaths. People in other parts of Delhi reported their neighbourhoods were peaceful.
Throughout the night of 31 October and morning of 1 November, Congress leaders met with local supporters to distribute money and weapons. Congress party MP Sajjan Kumar and Trade Union leader Lalit Maken handed out 100 rupee notes and bottles of liquor to assailants. On the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar was seen holding rallies in, at least, the following Delhi neighbourhoods; in Palam Colony from 06:30 to 07:00, in Kiran Gardens from 08:00 to 08:30, and in Sultanpuri from around 08:30 to 09:00. In Kiran Gardens at 8:00 am, Sajjan Kumar was seen distributing iron rods from a parked truck to a group of 120 people and instructing them to "attack Sikhs, kill them, and loot and burn their properties". At an undefined time in the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar led a mob of people along the Palam Railway main road to the Mangolpuri neighbourhood where the crowd answered his calls with chants of "Kill the Sardars" and "Indira Gandhi is our mother and these people have killed her". In Sultanpuri, Moti Singh, a Sikh who had served in the Congress party for 20 years heard Sajjan Kumar give the following speech:
Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them. Whoever kills Roshan Singh and Bagh Singh will get 5,000 rupees each and 1,000 rupees each for killing any other Sikhs. You can collect these prizes on November 3 from my personal assistant Jai Chand Jamadar.[note 1]
The CBI recently told the court that during the riot Sajjan Kumar had said that "not a single Sikh should survive". It also said that Delhi police kept its "eyes closed" during the riot as it was pre-planned.
In the neighbourhood of Shakarpur, Congress (I) leader Shyam Tyagi's home was used as a meeting place for an undefined number of people. H. K. L. Bhagat, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting distributed money to Boop Tyagi, Shyam Tyagi's brother, and ordered him to "Keep these two thousand rupees for liquor and do as I have told you.... You need not worry at all. I will look after everything."
During the night of 31 October, Balwan Khokhar, a local Congress (I) party leader who was later implicated in the ensuing massacre, held a meeting at the Ration Shop of Pandit Harkesh in the Palam Colony. At 08:30 on 1 November, Shankar Lal Sharma, an active Congress party supporter, held a meeting at his shop where he formed a mob and had the people swear to kill Sikhs.
The chief weapon used by the mobs, kerosene was supplied by a group of Congress Party leaders who owned filling stations. In Sultanpuri, Brahmanand Gupta, the president of the A-4 block Congress Party distributed oil while Congress Party MP Sajjan Kumar "instructed the crowd to kill Sikhs, and to loot and burn their properties" as he had in other meetings throughout New Delhi. In much the same way, meetings were held in places like Cooperative Colony in Bokaro where P.K. Tripathi, president of the local Congress Party and owner of a gas station in Nara More, provided kerosene to mobs. Aseem Shrivastava, a Masters student at the Delhi School of Economics described the organised nature of the mobs in an affidavit submitted to the Misra Commission:
The attack on Sikhs and their property in our locality appeared to be an extremely organized affair...There were also some young men on motorcycles, who were instructing the mobs and supplying them with kerosene oil from time to time. On more than a few occasions we saw auto-rickshaw arriving with several tins of kerosene oil and other inflammable material such as jute-sacks.
A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs informed journalist Ivan Fera, that an arson investigation of several businesses burned in the riots had uncovered an unnamed combustible chemical "whose provision required large-scale coordination". Eyewitness reports confirmed the use of a combustible chemical besides kerosene. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee later identified 70 affidavits which cited the use of a highly flammable chemical in its written arguments before the Misra Commission.
Use of voter lists by the Congress Party
On 31 October, Congress party officials provided assailants with voter lists, school registration forms, and ration lists. The lists were used to find the location of Sikh homes and business, an otherwise impossible task because they were located in unmarked and diverse neighbourhoods. On the night of 31 October, the night before the massacres began, assailants used the lists to mark the houses of Sikhs with letter "S". In addition, because most of the mobs were illiterate, Congress Party officials provided help in reading the lists and leading the mobs to Sikh homes and businesses in the other neighbourhoods. By using the lists the mobs were able to pinpoint the locations of Sikhs they otherwise would have missed.
Sikh men not in their homes were easily identified by their distinctive turban and beard while Sikh women were identified by their dress. In some cases, the mobs returned to locations where they knew Sikhs were hiding after consulting their lists. One man, Amar Singh, escaped the initial attack on his house by having a Hindu neighbour drag him into his neighbour's house and declare him dead. However, a group of 18 assailants later came looking for his body, and when his neighbour replied that others had already taken away the body an assailant showed him a list and replied, "Look, Amar Singh's name has not been struck off from the list so his dead body has not been taken away."
Timeline of events
First day (31 October)
- 09:20: Indira Gandhi is shot by two of her Sikh security guards at her residence, No. 1 Safdarjung Road, and rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
- 10:50: Indira Gandhi dies.
- 11:00: All India Radio listeners learn that the two security guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs.
- 16:00: Rajiv Gandhi returns from West Bengal and reaches AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks in and around that area.
- 17:30: The motorcade of President Zail Singh, who is returning from a foreign visit, is stoned as it approaches AIIMS.
- evening and night
- Organized and well equipped gangs of ruffians set out in different directions from AIIMS.
- The violence, including violence towards Sikhs and destruction of Sikh properties, spreads.
- Rajiv Gandhi is sworn in as the Prime Minister.
- Senior advocate and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani, meets Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and urges him to take immediate steps to protect Sikhs from further attacks.
- Delhi's Lt. Governor, P.G. Gavai and Police Commissioner, S.C. Tandon, visit some of the affected areas.
Second day (1 November)
- The first killing of a Sikh occurs in East Delhi.
- 09:00: Armed mobs take over the streets of Delhi and launch a massacre.
- Among the first targets were Gurdwaras, the holy temples of Sikhs
The worst affected areas are low income colonies like Trilokpuri, Shahdara, Geeta Colony, Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony. The few areas where the local police stations take prompt measures against mobs see hardly any killings or major violence. Farsh Bazar and Karol Bagh are two such examples.
Third day (2 November)
- Curfew is announced throughout Delhi, but is not enforced. The Army deployed throughout Delhi too but ineffective because the police did not co-operate with soldiers (who are not allowed to open fire without the consent of senior police officers and executive magistrates).
Mobs continue to rampage.
Fourth day (3 November)
- Violence continues. By late evening, the national Army and local police units work together to subdue the violence. After law enforcement intervention, violence is comparatively mild and sporadic. In Delhi, the dead bodies of the victims of riots were taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi and Civil Hospital Mortuary Tis hazari, Delhi.
The Delhi High Court, while pronouncing its verdict on a riots-related case in 2009, stated:
Though we boast of being the world's largest democracy and the Delhi being its national capital, the sheer mention of the incidents of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in general and the role played by Delhi Police and state machinery in particular makes our heads hang in shame in the eyes of the world polity.
There are allegations that the government destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. Asian Age, an Indian daily newspaper, ran a front-page story calling the government actions "the mother of all cover-ups."
From 31 October 1984 to 10 November 1984, human rights groups People's Union for Democratic Rights and the People's Union for Civil Liberties conducted an inquiry into the riots by interviewing victims, police officers, neighbours of the victims, army personnel and political leaders. In their joint report, entitled Who Are The Guilty?, they concluded:
The attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of "madness" and of popular "grief and anger" at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration.
Eyewitness accounts obtained by Time magazine state the Delhi Police looked on as "rioters murdered and raped, having gotten access to voter records that allowed them to mark Sikh homes with large Xs, and large mobs being bused in to large Sikh settlements". Time reported the riots only led to minor arrests and that no major politician or police officer had been convicted and quotes Ensaaf, a human rights organisation, as saying the government worked to destroy evidence of involvement by refusing to record First Information Reports.
Despite numerous credible eye-witness accounts that identified many of those involved in the violence, including police and politicians, in the months following the killings, the government sought no prosecutions or indictments of any persons, including officials, accused in any case of murder, rape or arson.
There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathizers during the riot. The government, then led by the Congress, was widely criticised for doing very little at the time, possibly acting as a conspirator. Voting lists were used to identify Sikh families.
A few days following the massacre, many surviving Sikh youth in Delhi had retaliated in either joining or creating Sikh militant groups. This led to series of more violence in the Punjab, where several assassinations of senior Congress party members took place. The Khalistan Commando Force and Khalistan Liberation Force took responsibility of the targeted hits in retaliation. An underground network had also been established between the victims of the genocide and Sikh extremists.
On 31 July 1985, Harjinder Singh Jinda, Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Ranjit Singh Gill of Khalistan Commando Force assassinated Lalit Maken (Member – Parliament of India and a leader of Congress (I)) to take revenge for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. In a 31-page booklet titled Who Are The Guilty, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) listed 227 people who led the mobs, Lalit Maken's name was third on the list.
Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha also assassinated Congress (I) leader Arjan Dass because of his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Arjan Dass's name appeared in various affidavits submitted by Sikh victims to the Nanavati Commission which was headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India.
In Delhi, 442 of the rioters were convicted by the courts. 49 of these were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and another three to imprisonment of more than 10 years. 6 Delhi Police officers were punished for lapses during the riots. In April 2013, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal of three convicts who had challenged the High Court's decision to award them life sentence.
In April 2013, the Karkardooma district court in Delhi convicted five people – Balwan Khokkar (former councillor), Mahender Yadav (former MLA), Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – for inciting a mob against the Sikhs in the Delhi Cantonment area. It acquitted the Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the same case, leading to protests.
Numerous commissions have been set up to investigate the riots. The most recent commission on the pogroms, headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, submitted its 185-page report to the Home Minister, Shivraj Patil on 9 February 2005 and the report was tabled in Parliament on 8 August 2005.
Ten commissions and committees have so far enquired into the riots. The commissions below are listed in the order they were formed. Many of the primary accused were acquitted or never charge-sheeted.
This commission was appointed in November 1984. Ved Marwah, Additional Commissioner of Police, was assigned the job of enquiring into the role of the police during the carnage of November 1984. Many of the accused officers of Delhi Police went to Delhi High Court. As Ved Marwah completed his inquiry towards the middle of 1985, he was abruptly directed by the Home Ministry not to proceed further. Complete records of the Marwah Commission were taken over by the government and were later transferred to the Misra Commission. However, the most important part of the record, namely the handwritten notes of Mr Marwah, which contained important information, were not transferred to the Misra Commission.
Misra commission was appointed in May 1985. Justice Rangnath Misra, was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. Justice Misra submitted his report in August 1986 and the report was made public six months thereafter in February 1987. In his report, Justice Misra stated that it was not part of his terms of reference to identify any person and recommended the formation of three committees.
The commission and its report was criticised by People's Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights Watch as biased. A Human Rights Watch report recording the Misra Commission noted:
It recommended no criminal prosecution of any individual, and it cleared all high-level officials of directing the pogroms. In its findings, the commission did acknowledge that many of the victims testifying before it had received threats from local police. While the commission noted that there had been "widespread lapses" on the part of the police, it concluded that "the allegations before the commission about the conduct of the police are more of indifference and negligence during the riots than of any wrongful overt act."
People's Union for Civil Liberties criticised the Misra commission for keeping information on the accused secret while revealing the names and addresses of victims of violence.
Kapur Mittal Committee
Kapur Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 on the recommendation of the Misra Commission to enquire into the role of the police, which the Marwah Commission had almost completed in 1985 itself, when the government asked that committee to wind up and not proceed further.
After almost two years, this committee was appointed for the same purpose. This committee consisted of Justice Dalip Kapur and Mrs Kusum Mittal, retired Secretary of Uttar Pradesh. It submitted its report in 1990. Seventy-two police officers were identified for their connivance or gross negligence. The committee recommended forthwith dismissal of 30 police officers out of 72. However, till date, not a single police officer has been awarded any kind of punishment.
Jain Banerjee Committee
This committee was recommended by the Misra Commission for recommending registration of cases. It consisted of Justice M.L. Jain, former Judge of the Delhi High Court and Mr A.K. Banerjee, retired Inspector General of Police.
The Misra Commission held in its report that a large number of cases had not been registered and wherever the victims named political leaders or police officers, cases were not registered against them. This committee recommended registration of cases against Sajjan Kumar in August 1987, but no case was registered.
In November 1987, press reports criticised the government for not registering cases despite the recommendation of the committee. In December 1987, one of the co-accused along with Sajjan Kumar, namely Mr Brahmanand Gupta filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court and obtained a stay against this committee. The government did not oppose the stay. The Citizen's Justice Committee filed an application for vacating the stay. Ultimately, the writ petition was decided in August 1989 and the high court quashed the appointment of this committee. An appeal was filed by the Citizens Justice Committee in the Supreme Court of India.
Potti Rosha Committee
Potti Rosha Committee was appointed in March 1990, by the V.P. Singh government, as a successor to the Jain Banerjee Committee. In August 1990, Potti-Rosha issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits victims of the violence had submitted. There was one against Sajjan Kumar. A CBI team went to Kumar's home to file the charges. His supporters locked them up and threatened them harm if they persisted in their designs on their leader. As a result of this intimidation, when Potti-Rosha's term expired in September 1990, Potti and Rosha decided to disband their inquiry.
Jain Aggarwal Committee
The committee was appointed in December 1990 as a successor to the Potti Rosha Committee. It consisted of Justice J.D. Jain, retired Judge of the Delhi High Court and Mr D.K. Aggarwal, retired DGP of Uttar Pradesh. This committee recommended registration of cases against H.K.L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri and Jagdish Tytler.
The Committee also suggested setting up of two – three Special Investigating Teams in the Delhi Police under a Deputy Commissioner of Police and the overall supervision by the Additional Commissioner of Police, In-charge – CID and also to review the work-load of the three Special Courts set up to deal with October – November 1984 riots cases exclusively so that these cases could be taken up on day-to-day basis.
The question of appointment of Special Prosecutors to deal with October – November 1984 riots cases exclusively was also discussed. This committee was wound up in August 1993. However, the cases recommended by this committee were not even registered by the police.
Ahuja Committee was the third committee recommended by the Misra Commission to ascertain the total number of killings in Delhi. This committee submitted its report in August 1987 and gave a figure of 2,733 as the number of Sikhs killed in Delhi alone.
The Dhillon Committee, headed by Gurdial Singh Dhillon was appointed in 1985 to recommend measures for the rehabilitation of the victims. This committee submitted its report by the end of 1985. One of its major recommendations was that the business establishments, which had insurance cover, but whose insurance claims were not settled by insurance companies on the technical ground that riot was not covered, should be paid compensation under the directions of the government.
This committee recommended that since all insurance companies were nationalised, they be directed to pay the claims. However, the government did not accept this recommendation and as a result insurance claims were rejected by all insurance companies throughout the country.
Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana led BJP government in Delhi. One of the recommendations of the Narula Committee was to convince the Central Government to grant sanction in this matter.
Mr. Khurana took up the matter with the Central Government and in the middle of 1994, the Central Government decided that the matter did not fall within its purview and sent the case to the Lt. Governor of Delhi. It took two years for the Narasimha Rao Government to decide that it did not fall within Centre's purview.
Narasimha Rao Government further delayed the case. This committee submitted its report in January 1994 and recommended the registration of cases against H.K.L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. Ultimately, despite the delay by the Central government, the CBI was able to file the charge sheet in December 1994.
The Nanavati Commission was established in 2000 after some dissatisfaction was expressed with previous reports. The Nanavati Commission was appointed by a unanimous resolution passed in the Rajya Sabha. This commission was headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The commission submitted its report in February 2004. The commission reported that recorded accounts from victims and witnesses "indicate that local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs". Its report also found evidence against Jagdish Tytler "to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs". It also recommended that Sajjan Kumar's involvement in the rioting required a closer look. The commission's report also cleared Rajiv Gandhi and other high ranking Congress (I) party members of any involvement in organising riots against Sikhs. It did find, however, that the Delhi Police fired about 392 rounds of bullets, arrested approximately 372 persons, and "remained passive and did not provide protection to the people" throughout the rioting.
Role of Jagdish Tytler
India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) closed all cases against Jagdish Tytler in November 2007 for his alleged criminal conspiracy to engineer riots against Sikhs in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination on 31 October 1984. The CBI submitted a report to the Delhi court which stated that no evidence or witness was found to corroborate the allegations against Tytler of leading murderous mobs during 1984. It was also alleged in the court that then member of Indian Parliament Jagdish Tytler was complaining to his supporters about relatively "small" number of Sikhs killed in his parliamentary constituency Delhi Sadar, which in his opinion had undermined his position in the ruling Indian National Congress party of India.
However, in December 2007, a certain witness, Dushyant Singh, who is living in California, appeared on several private television news channels in India, and stated he was never contacted by Central Bureau of Investigation. India's main opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an explanation from the minister in-charge of CBI in Indian Parliament. However, Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachouri, who is in-charge of department of CBI, and was present in the parliament session, refused to make a statement.
On 18 December 2007, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi court, Sanjeev Jain, who had earlier dismissed the case after CBI submitted a misleading report in his court, ordered India's Central Bureau of Investigation to reopen cases relating to 1984 anti-Sikh riots against Jagdish Tytler.
In December 2008, a two-member CBI team was sent to New York to record the statements of two eyewitnesses, Jasbir Singh and Surinder Singh. The two witnesses have stated that they saw Jagdish Tytler lead a mob during the riot, but did not want to come to India as they feared for their security. They also blamed the CBI for not conducting a fair trial and accused it of protecting Tytler.
However, in March 2009, CBI gave a clean chit to Tytler, amidst protests from Sikhs and the opposition parties.
On 7 April 2009, a Sikh reporter with Dainik Jagran, Jarnail Singh hurled his shoe at home minister P Chidambaram in protest against the clean chit given to Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. He was however let off as the home minister did not want the police to pursue the case, in lieu of the upcoming Lok Sabha (general) elections.
On 9 April 2009, over 500 protesters from various Sikh organisations from all over the country gathered outside the court which was scheduled to hear CBI's plea of closing the case against Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riotscase. Later in the day, Tytler announced his decision to pull out of the Lok Sabha elections, saying he does not want to cause embarrassment to his party. This has forced the Congress party to cut the Tytler and Sajjan Kumar Lok Sabha tickets. On 10 April 2013, Delhi court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to reopen the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case against Congress leader Jagdish Tytler.Court ordered CBI to further probe killing of 3 persons in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case in which Jagdish Tytler was given clean chit.
Civil case in New York
On 14 March 2011, an American-based NGO, Sikhs for Justice, filed a civil suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York accusing the Indian government of complicity in the riots. The court issued a summons to the Indian Congress Party and Kamal Nath. The court complaint was dismissed in March 2012 by Judge Robert Sweet of the US District Court Southern District of New York, against Nath, who stated that the court lacked jurisdiction in the case. The 22-page order granted Nath's motion to dismiss the claim, and the judge also noted that 'Sikhs for Justice' failed to "serve the summons and its complaints to Nath in an appropriate and desired manner." On 3 September 2013 a Federal Court in New York issued summons to Sonia Gandhi for her alleged role in protecting the culprits of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. On 11 July 2014, US court dismissed the lawsuit against Sonia Gandhi.
In April 2014, a sting operation conducted by Cobrapost claimed that the government didn't allow Delhi Police to act in 1984 riots. It further claimed that messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters. Even fire brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson were reported.
California State Assembly Finds Government of India Responsible for Genocide of Sikhs
On 16 April 2015, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 34 (ACR 34) was passed by the California State Assembly. Co-authored by Sacramento-area assemblymembers Jim Cooper, Kevin McCarty, Jim Gallagher and Ken Cooley, the resolution states "government and law enforcement officials organized, participated in, and failed to intervene to prevent the killings." Further, remarks on the floor of the assembly declared that the atrocities were a "genocide" since it "resulted in the intentional destruction of many Sikh families, communities, homes, and businesses."
Video of the California State Assembly session approving the resolution Representing the official position of the citizens of California, the resolution remembers the victims of the genocide and those that fought against it, “Many Sikh lives were saved from the massacre by compassionate Indians of all religious backgrounds who put their own lives at risk by providing shelter to their Sikh friends and neighbors.” The Assembly welcomed Sikhs from across Northern California, including representation from Sikh Temples in Stockton, Yuba City, Roseville, Sacramento, Fremont and many others.
Assemblymember Jim Cooper declared, "Although we cannot change the horror of the events of 1984, as an assemblymember representing families of genocide victims, I felt it was important that we tell the truth about those events and honor the thousands of victims. Sikhs around the world should know that, here in California, we will always stand against intolerance and will not forget the tragedy of 1984."
American Sikh Political Action Committee (PAC) wrote and sponsored the resolution as a means to memorialise the atrocities committed by the Indian government and to honour the victims. The PAC has been increasingly active in California politics through fundraising, education and legislative campaigns. "This resolution is the first time that any nation or government has officially declared that the government of India was responsible for the slaughter of its own Sikh citizens across the country in November 1984," explained Amar Shergill, attorney and American Sikh PAC board member. "Indian officials and police officers led the way in the rape, torture and murder of thousands of Sikhs just a few miles from the prime minister's residence. Even today, Christians, Muslims, Dalits and Sikhs are at risk. The time has come for the Indian government to admit its culpability and make a commitment to protect all of India's minority communities."
Assemblymember Kristin Olsen supported the resolution, stating "I decry the violence of 1984 that occurred against the Sikh community, remember those that lost their lives and honor the survivors." Assemblymember James Gallagher addressed the Assembly, "We remember and recognize the pogrom which claimed the lives of thousands of Sikhs in 1984. The best way to combat evil is to confront it and shine a light upon it. We do this by speaking truth; the light of truth extinguishes the darkness." Assemblymember McCarty stated, "During my time as a city councilmember and assemblymember, it has been my honor to represent and work with many of the hardworking Sikhs of Northern California. We must remember the victims and their families of the anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984. This resolution sends a clear message that Californians appreciate the contributions of the Sikh community and understand its difficult history. I am proud to stand with my Sikh brothers and sisters in support of this resolution."
Impact and legacy
On 12 August 2005, Manmohan Singh apologised in the Lok Sabha for 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The attack on the Sikh community in India is remembered annually in the United Kingdom with a remembrance march through London bringing together thousands of Sikhs from all over the UK. The Sikh riots are cited as a reason to support creation of a Sikh homeland in India, often called Khalistan.
Many ordinary Indians of different religious dispositions made significant efforts to hide and help Sikh families during the rioting. Recently on 15 July 2010 the Sikh high clergy (Jathedar) declared the events following the death of Indira Gandhi to be a Sikh "genocide" replacing the widely used term "anti-Sikh riots" used by the Indian government, media and other writers. The decision came soon after a similar motion was raised in the Canadian Parliament by a Sikh MP.
Several political parties and elected governments have announced compensations to the families of riot victims but these have not translated into actually releasing compensations for all the victim families.
In popular culture
The Delhi riots have been the core subject of several films and novels.
- 2005 English film Amu, by Shonali Bose and starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Brinda Karat, is based on Shonali Bose's own novel of the same name. The film portrays the story of a girl, orphaned during the riots, reconciling with her adoption years later. The film which won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English was censored in India and was released on DVD without the cuts.
- 2004 Hindi film Kaya Taran (Chrysalis), directed by Shashi Kumar and starring Seema Biswas, is based on the Malayalam short story "When Big Tree Falls" by N.S. Madhavan. The film revolves around a Sikh woman and her young son who have taken shelter in a nunnery in Meerut during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
- 2003 Bollywood film Hawayein, a team project of Babbu Maan and Ammtoje Mann, is based on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the subsequent victimisation of the people in Punjab in the years that followed.
- Mamoni Raisom Goswami's Assamese novel Tej Aru Dhulire Dhusarita Prishtha (Pages Stained with Blood) is a haunting tale which focuses on the bloody anti-Sikh riots in Delhi after the assassination of Mrs.Indira Gandhi
- Khushwant Singh and Kuldip Nayar's book Tragedy of Punjab: Operation Bluestar & After focuses on the events surrounding the riots.
- Jarnail Singh's non-fiction book I Accuse describes various incidents that took place during the riots.
- Chapter 2 of Mohit Sharma's graphic novel 84 Tears is a poetic account of a Sikh girl before committing suicide whose family is killed by anti-Sikh mob.
- Uma Chakravarthi and Nandita Hakser, The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation contains interviews with the victims of November 1984 riots in Delhi.
- In the novel about Khan Noonien Singh, The Eugenics Wars: The Rise and Fall of Khan Noonien Singh, a Sikh character from the Star Trek series and films, there is a reference to the anti-Sikh pogroms.
- H.S Phoolka, along with human rights activist and journalist Manoj Mitta, has written the first account of the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre in the form of a book titled When a Tree Shook Delhi.
- 2014 Punjabi movie Punjab 1984, starring Diljit Dosanjh, is based on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, the 1984 Sikh genocide and the subsequent victimisation of the people in Punjab in the years that followed.
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