1984: When the Delhi Police abetted an attack on another minority

01 March 2020
Delhi was the site of one of the bloodiest and most brutal massacres since Partition—the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. Then, too, the Delhi Police stood accused of aiding and abetting targeted violence against a minority community.
ASHOK VAHIE
Delhi was the site of one of the bloodiest and most brutal massacres since Partition—the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. Then, too, the Delhi Police stood accused of aiding and abetting targeted violence against a minority community.
ASHOK VAHIE

With Ved Prakash Surya, the deputy commissioner of police for northeast Delhi, standing beside him, the BJP leader Kapil Mishra delivered an incendiary speech at Maujpur Chowk, near Jaffrabad, on 23 February. Mishra warned that if the  sit-in protest against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act at the Jaffrabad metro station was not cleared within three days, the matter would be taken out of the Delhi Police’s hands. Surya’s quiet presence besides a defiant Mishra seemed to send a clear message—the threat had the support of the Delhi Police.

The Hindu mobs of northeast Delhi did not wait three days. From the very next day, news broke of wide-scale violence in northeast Delhi neighbourhoods.  As Surya’s passive demeanour had foretold, videos surfaced of the Delhi Police either quietly watching as Hindu mobs attacked Muslim neighbourhoods, or of personnel participating in the attacks. In one particularly chilling video, members of the Delhi Police can be seen forcing five individuals, visibly severely injured and lying on the ground, to sing the national anthem.  Police personnel could be heard abusing the five men, taunting them with the word “azadi,” and urging them to sing better. On 27 February, one of the men, identified in news reports as Faizan, a resident of Kardampuri, died from his injuries.

This is not the first time that the Delhi Police stands accused of aiding and abetting targeted violence against the minority residents of the national capital. Delhi was the site of one of the bloodiest and most brutal massacres since Partition—the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984.  In “Sins of Commission,” the cover story of the October 2014 issue of The Caravan, Hartosh Singh Bal examined testimonies submitted to various commissions investigating the pogrom, and demonstrated how the Delhi Police’s active involvement in the massacre was indisputable.

That the Delhi Police abetted the attacks is strongly supported by the record of the massacre in Trilokpuri, Delhi’s worst-affected neighbourhood. Here, over the course of three days, more than three hundred people were slaughtered in Block 32, an area roughly 250 by 250 metres. Scores of women were gang-raped, in incidents that remain the least reported part of the tragedy; none of the commissions recorded this aspect of the violence in any but the most cursory fashion.

Of the three hundred witness affidavits placed on record before the [Ranganath] Misra commission, over thirty were from Trilokpuri. The vast majority of these substantiate the assessment that the violence was largely systematic. The most comprehensive came from Tejinder Singh, a 37-year-old resident of Block 29 who was attacked during the massacre:

Hartosh Singh Bal is the political editor at The Caravan.

Keywords: Delhi Violence 1984 Sikh pogrom Delhi Police northeast Delhi communal violence
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