How the Delhi Police Abetted the Pogrom Against Sikhs In 1984

02 November 2017
A mob beats a Sikh man. Over three days, 2,733 Sikhs were killed across Delhi in largely organised violence.
A mob beats a Sikh man. Over three days, 2,733 Sikhs were killed across Delhi in largely organised violence.

Thirty-three years ago today, Delhi was the site of one of the bloodiest and most brutal massacres since Partition—the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. The violence began after the death of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31 October that year. She was assassinated by two of her guards, both Sikh. Over the next three days, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in Delhi. Sikhs were also attacked in several other Indian cities, including Kanpur, Bokaro, Jabalpur and Rourkela. For the past three decades, many have repeatedly claimed that these killings were a consequence of the spontaneous outpouring of grief, and not an organised act of violence. This claim has been bolstered by the reports of the various commissions that were instituted through these years to investigate the tragedy, in particular, the Nanavati Commission and the Ranganath Misra Commission.

In “Sins of Commission,” the cover story of the October 2014 issue of The Caravan, Hartosh Singh Bal outlined how these commissions obscured the truth of the violence. Bal wrote that not only was there a “complete mismatch” between the testimonies recorded and the conclusions reached, the commissions’ observations contradicted their own findings. He added: “The records of these commissions clearly establish one thing … the condemnable but largely spontaneous violence of 31 October transformed into an orchestrated massacre that continued from the 1st to the 3rd of November.”

In the following extract from the story, Bal describes how, looking at some records submitted to the commissions, it becomes clear that the Delhi Police abetted the targeted massacre of Sikhs.

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 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, and is the author of Waters Close Over Us: A Journey Along the Narmada.

Keywords: 1984 Sikh pogrom communal violence Delhi Police Trilokpuri Ranganath Misra commission