On the recent violence in Delhi which continued unabated and unchecked for four long fearful days (October 31 to November 3, 1984), after the dastardly assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, good reports and articles have already come out and are coming out. But many more investigative and analytical reports required to obtain a fuller and more complete understanding of the enormity of the tragedy.
Some of the reasons, which prompted the writing of this report were the stories – which were being circulated as facts and generally accepted as true. These said, to pick out a few: (i) the violence was purely communal – a Hindu versus Sikh affair, (ii) it was a spontaneous outburst of people’s anger to teach the Sikhs a lesson, and (iii) the killing of the Sikhs had begun on the 31st October itself, accompanied by all kinds of rumors, from celebration by Sikhs to poisoning of Delhi’s drinking water, and arrival of Jhelum Express filled with Hindu corpses.
These were not at all true, but we realised that unless these were refuted with irrefutable evidence, the real truth that it was neither communal nor a spontaneous outburst of unbridled rage of the people but organised with the blessings of the party in power, will be lost. After interviewing hundreds of victims talking to several people who had gone through perhaps the worst communal violence in history during the partition of India and some police officials, even connivers with the killers, we have come to the conclusion that the violence was not communal in character. One and all have given us to understand that it was sponsored by the Congress-I members and there was nothing communal about it. We have also gathered conclusive evidence of that involvement.
As regards the spontaneity of the orgy, some people appeared to be angry and they did burn down. a couple of Gurudwaras, damaged the property of the Sikhs and manhandled them but did not kill a single Sikh on 31st October. It is important to remember that in Delhi all this exhibition of people’s anger was on the 31st October and in a restricted area round about the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where Mrs. Gandhi’s body had been kept. In the States also there was similar evidence of spontaneous outburst of emotion again on the 31st October but there was no killing of any Sikh on that day neither in the Congress-ruled States nor in the non-Congress States. Clearly people’s anger had not reached such intensity as to burn a man alive and to gloat over his anguished cries or his burning flesh. It is amazing that the people’s anger instead of going down, should have become intensified because everything began to happen from the morning of the next day, November l.
We have shown in this report that several meetings were held all over Delhi – Central, Outer and Trans- Yamuna area – in the late hours of the 3lst October to give final touches, as it were, to the plan already prepared with meticulous care, with an eye to every minute detail that nothing was left out to successfully exterminate the Sikhs. It was as if that brigades were going to attack an enemy territory. From collection of kerosene and incendiary material for dousing the men before they were burnt, to collection of killers both from villages outside the areas of attack as well as from among the more amenable neighbours; from fixing the hour of attack to be launched simultaneously everywhere in Delhi in the forenoon between 9 and 11 A.M. to organising the attack and deciding if it should be repetitive or two-pronged as in a war depending on the size of the mob; from identifying the jhuggis and houses of the Sikhs from amongst the forest of jhuggis and houses occupied by thousands of non-Sikhs to disarming the Sikhs and dissuading them from taking out their Prabhat Pheri; from fixing the sequence of the targets of attack to floating the rumours – everything was done with amazing precision. Gurudwaras 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 also the symbol of their collective faith and courage, so they had to be destroyed first. Once these places of worship were in ashes the Sikh houses were looted and set ablaze, then the men were first humiliated by cutting off their hair and shaving off their beard and finally they were delivered to the flames alive; later their women were molested and raped and some were killed also. The rumours were floated in three distinct phases. On October 31, it was to excite and provoke the anger of the people against the Sikhs that the rumour was floated that they were rejoicing. Secondly, on November 1, after Gurudwaras were burnt down and killing of the Sikhs had taken place, for preventing any sympathy, the second rumour was spread that the Sikhs had poisoned Delhi’s drinking water supply. In the third phase, on November 2, since killings had to go on in the Resettlement Colonies, the rumour that the Jhelum Express had come from Punjab loaded. with Hindu bodies was floated.
That there was an impeccable pattern according to which the violence erupted and that the mob like disciplined soldiers kept to that model and implicitly obeyed the direction of their masters, the Congress-I functionaries – we feel certain; and all the evidence collected from various persons, voluntary agencies reports and interviews also point to the same conclusion.
We have also collected some valuable FIRs relating to the violence which were lodged by the police themselves at various Police Stations without mentioning the names of the culprits. These FIRs are self-explanatory about the conduct of the police.
We feared that with the passing of time and the dispersal of refugees and other unforeseen events crowded in, many valuable facts will be irrecoverably lost and the desire to probe deep into the cause, the nature and the extent of the violence, so that one could reach at least the fringe of the truth became compelling and so this report had to be completed. In fact the investigation had already started from the very first day of the violence and through various reports of eye witnesses, answers to questionnaires by victims as well as neighbours in 19 areas, several new facts came to light.
With all this wealth of materia1, we have come to certain broad conclusions: –
1. The violence was not spontaneous but organised by members of Congress-I.
2. It was not a communal riot although it has endangered communal amity as its aftermath.
3. It was primarily meant to arouse passions of the majority community – Hindu chauvinism – in order to consolidate Hindu votes in the coming election.
4. It was the old colonial divide and rule policy setting one religion against another. The State had forgotten its role of the protector. Instead, it became the collaborator to violence against a minority.
As we said earlier, there is scope or rather need for many more reports to come out. The number of the dead for instance is yet to be ascertained. Even in the Vietnam war, the number of the dead is known but in this 4-day war sponsored by the Government’s own party and against one selected section of the country’s minorities, none knows for certain how many Sikhs have lost their lives. Those who were dragged out of trains and killed are still not counted as dead by their relatives: they are sti1l waiting for them to come back, hoping and waiting and hoping against all hopes some are on the verge of collapse. Bhagat Singh, for instance, is still searching frantically for his son whom he had sent back from Hardwar to Delhi on November1. And Bhagat Singh could not be the only one.
Women recognised as recently widowed are 1300 in number; most of them young, the majority illiterate. Once dependent on their husbands, absorbed in their homes and families, who had never gone out to work are today alone facing a merciless world; with kids to look after, no husband to fall back upon, no home to go back to, no Gurudwara or Granthi to turn to for solace and those agonising cries of a burning man piercing her heart – she is like a lost soul; some have lost their minds, many are ill after rape. Can a paltry sum of a few thousands sanctioned as compensation (that too has not reached many) compensate the loss of a human being. Then there are the kids – 4000 orphans as said by Lt. Gen. J.S. Aurora, many of whom have seen their fathers they adored, dragged out and burnt alive, their mothers they rushed to in trouble, beaten up and raped. These kids with frightened and bewildered eyes, will they ever come out of their trauma and be normal happy jolly children again? This is only one aspect of human life the violence has thrown up – broken homes, shattered children and old desolate parents. Someone someday will write upon.
Another aspect, no less alarming, is the mass exodus of the Sikhs from Delhi – the number could be anywhere round 50,000. Some have left for
Rajasthan, some for Punjab, some are migrating abroad creating a vacuum here and imbalancing the economy in Delhi; the charpoy stringers of
Kalyanpuri, carpenters and house painters of Sultanpuri, the electricians and mechanics – those wizards with rundown cars, scooters and household gadgets are already in short supply. The daily advertisements suggest that even some of the well-to-do Sikhs are exchanging their Delhi property for property in Punjab. These are just a few aspects picked up at random which no doubt will be studied by sociologists and economists one day.
There is a feeling of insecurity haunting those who are still here, for the criminals whom many had identified and had mentioned their names in various complaints made to various authorities and police, are still roaming around freely and holding out threats.
Can the Delhi violence be looked upon in isolation? Or is it a part of a deteriorating system? The secular foundation of the nation has seldom been under greater stress. Under the facade of secularism and democracy the conditions prevailing here are not very different from those in a Fascist State. The Black Laws and repressive measures are striking at the very roots of basic freedoms and fundamental rights. Secret torture of under-trials inside jails, the tremendous increase in the power of the police, the growing exploitation of the poor, the nexus between the politician, his musclemen and the bureaucrats, are all portents of a Fascist State.
The violence, the terror, the brutal killings have been let loose on the Sikhs. Only yesterday, it was the Sikhs who were the victims, tomorrow it could be you or me. The warning had been given a long time back by a great lover of human rights, Martin Neimoller:
"In Germany, the Nazis came first for the Communists and I did not speak up, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews and I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for trade unionists and I did not speak up, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics. I was a Protestant and so I did not speak up. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak for anyone".
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine