April 04, 2020
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Who are the guilty?


One single name which cropped up wherever we went interviewing the residents of Mangolpuri was that of Sajjan Kumar, the Congress(I) MP of the area.



The centre of the holocaust was the jhuggi and jhopri colony (JJ Colony) at Mangolpuri in West Delhi where a large number of Sikhs are concentrated in certain blocks.

The disturbances started on November 1 evening after a police van had come to the G Block and announced that water had been poisoned. The other two rumours - that Sikhs were celebrating Mrs. Gandhi's death by distributing sweets and that Hindu corpses had arrived in trains from Punjab - were also soon making the rounds.

Apprehending trouble, several Sikhs from different blocks approached the police for help. One woman survivor whom we met later at the Shakurpur relief camp on November 5 told us that when she want to the police station for protection, the police said "We cannot do anything- you are now on your own". Later, during the riots, the miscreants were seen using diesel from police vans to set fire to the houses of the Sikhs. One group of survivors from Block X told us that the police took them out from their houses on the plea of rescuing them and then turned them over to the mob waiting outside.

According to information gathered from the survivors, the assailants were from the nearby Jat villages and were accompanied by local Schedule Caste people- the same composition of the mob which we found in Trilokpuri. Hovering around the arsonists were local Congress (I) leaders and followers in jeeps and other vehicles. The survivors identified Mala Ram, a local Congress (I) leader, who came with about 300 people and personally supervised the arson, looting and murders. Ishwar Singh, Salim Querishi and Shaukeen (Congress (I) workers belonging to the Waqf Club). Rajinder Singh all well known Congress (I) activists were found going around instructing the mob, providing kerosene and providing out Sikh homes.

One single name which cropped up wherever we went interviewing the residents of Mangolpuri was that of Sajjan Kumar, the Congress (I) MP of the area. Almost in one voice, they alleged that Sajjan Kumar had masterminded the violence. Some people accused him of having paid Rs. 100 and a bottle of liquor to each person taking part in the may-hem. The extent of hatred towards him among the Sikh survivors of Mangolpuri was evident when Sajjan Kumar visited the Mangolpuri police station on November 4 where the survivors were waiting to be transported to a refugee camp. Members of our team were witness to a scene where the Sikhs abused him openly and held him responsible for the carnage. The Congress (I) MP tried to pacify them by pleading his innocence. "Why should my party kill you who are Congress (I) supporters?" he said, and laid the blame on the Lt. Governor who had been replaced the previous day by a new successor. A little later when the team visited the Punjabi Bagh camp where some among the Mangolpuri refugees had arrived, the team was told that the hungry refugees had refused to touch the foodstuff brought earlier by sajjan Kumar.

The violence indulged in by the mob was marked by the most brutal atrocities. Women survivors told us how their children were ripped apart, their husbands and sons made to cut off their hair, beaten up with iron rods and then burnt alive. Almost all the Sikh houses in the 26 blocks of Mangolpuri were attacked and destroyed and the main targets of murderous assault were the young male members of the households. Official attempts to underestimate the extent of killings by giving out the Delhi State Committee of the CPI (M) which from a house-to-house survey in a few blocks alone found at least 51 killed.

When we visited Mangolpuri on November 5 we were shown spots were the bodies were burnt and we were taken to a 'nallah' between Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri where we were told several hundred bodies were dumped.

It was only on the evening of November 3 that the army arrived at Mangolpuri. Narrating the event, one Sikh whom we met at the Shakurpur relief camp where he was staying with other refugees, told us that they were taken out by the mob, made to stand in a park and when they were about to be set on fire, the troops arrived and saved them.

Before the arrival of troops, the few sources of protection available to the sufferers of Mongolpuri were the Hindu and Muslim neighbours who at tremendous risk to their lives gave shelter to the Sikhs. They hid them in their homes and shops and resisted attempts by the mob to trace them out. A Muslim young man in Nangloi told us how his family saved a number of Sikh men, women and children and secretly transported them to the relief. The experience of a Hindu, C. Lal of Mangolpuri is revealing. He passed through the days of the 1947 partition, when he crossed over from Sialkot to India. He relived the same days during the first week of November when his brother's shop was looted and burnt, because he gave shelter to several Sikh families and formed a peace committee in his locality to protect the Sikhs.

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