1984 Anti-Sikh Riots: Wikis


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The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, also referred to as the Anti-Sikh pogroms[1][2][3] or massacres of 1984,[3] refers to a three-day[3] eruption of violence, rioting, and crime against Sikhs, triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards. The assassination itself was in retaliation for her order of Operation Bluestar, in which the Indian Army attacked Sikh militants hiding in the Harmandir Sahib, the holiest Sikh shrine. Approximately 3000 Sikhs were killed in retaliatory attacks.[3] The most affected regions were neighborhoods in Delhi.

Many ordinary Indians of different religious dispositions made significant efforts to hide and help Sikh families.[4] There are allegations that the massacre was organized.[5]


Anti-Sikh violence

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards, riots erupted on 1 November 1984, and continued in some areas for days, killing some 3000 Sikhs.[3] Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected. The mobs carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material, including kerosene. The mobs swarmed into Sikh neighborhoods, arbitrarily killing any Sikh men 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.

These "riots" are alternately referred to as pogroms[1][2][3][6] or massacres.[7][8]

Timeline of Events

31 October 1984
  • 9:20 AM: 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 AM: Indira Gandhi dies.[9][10]
  • 11:00 AM: All India Radio listeners learn that the two security guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs.
  • 4:00 PM: Rajiv Gandhi returns from West Bengal and reaches AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks in and around that area.
  • 5:30 PM: The motorcade of President Zail Singh, who is returning from a foreign visit, is stoned as it approaches AIIMS.
31 October 1984 - evening and night
  • Mobs fan 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 opposition 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, visits some of the affected areas.
1 November 1984 - early morning
  • The first killing of a Sikh occurs in east Delhi.
  • 9:00 AM: Armed mobs take over the streets of Delhi and launch a massacre.
Among the first targets are Gurdwaras, the holy temples of Sikhs, possibly to prevent Sikhs from collecting there and putting up a combined defense.

The worst affected areas are low income colonies like Trilokpuri, 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.

2 November 1984
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.

3 November 1984
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.

Rajiv Gandhi's remarks and later apology

Then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi, made a statement at Boat Club in New Delhi on 19 November 1984, on the birthday of Indira Gandhi, "Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little."[11][12][13] The remarks were deemed as insensitive by many. Rajiv Gandhi's widow, Sonia Gandhi and current President of the Congress Party, officially apologized in 1998 for the events of November 1984.

Allegations of conspiracy and cover-ups

There are allegations that the government destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. An Asian Age front page story called the government actions "the mother of all cover-ups."[14][15] There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathizers during the riots. The government, then led by the Congress, was widely criticized for doing very little at the time, possibly acting as a conspirator. The conspiracy theory is supported by the fact that voting lists were used to identify Sikh families.[5]


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 of 1984 Anti Sikh Riots. In a 31-page booklet titled Who Are The Guilty, People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) listed 227 people who led the mobs, Lalit Maken's name was third on the list.[16]

Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha also assassinated Congress (I) leader Arjan Dass because of his involvement in 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.[17]

The bombing of Air India Flight 182 travelling from Montreal to London on 23 June 1985 was also attributed, but not confirmed, to Sikh militants.

Commission(s) of Enquiry

Numerous commissions have been set up to investigate the riots. The most recent commission on the riots, 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 inquired 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.

Marwah Commission

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.[18] 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 of Enquiry

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.

There was only one term of reference to this commission, i.e. whether or not the violence was organised. The commission and its report has been heavily criticized as biased.

Kapur Mittal Committee

Kapur Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 on the recommendation of the Misra Commission to inquire 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 Mr Sajjan Kumar in August 1987, but no case was registered.

In November 1987 many press reports appeared for not registering cases in spite of 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

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.

Dhillon Committee

The Dhillon Committee, headed by Mr 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 under insurance, 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

Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana 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, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. Ultimately, despite the delay by the Central government, the CBI was able to file the charge sheet in December 1994.

The Nanavati Commission

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 claimed evidence against congressmen Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and H.K.L. Bhagat for instigating the mobs to violence. The Commission also held the then police commissioner S.C. Tandon directly responsible for the riots. There was widespread protest against the report as it did not mention clearly the role of Tytler and other Congressmen in the riots. It finally led to the resignation of Jagdish Tytler from the Union Cabinet. The Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (who is a Sikh himself) also apologised to the Sikhs for the riots, few days after the report was tabled in the Parliament.

Reopening of case against Jagdish Tytler

India's Central Bureau of Investigation 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. 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 Re-probe Tytler’s role: Court.[19] 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.[20]

However in December 2007, a certain witness, Jasbir 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.[21]

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.[22]

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 riots, but did not want to come to India as they feared for their security.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25]

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 riots case. 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 sensitive issue has once again poked its face and congress does not want this to become a anti-congress tide. This has forced the congress party to cut the Tytler and Sajjan Kumar Lok Sabha tickets.[26]

Cultural references

The Delhi riots were the core subject of films. Kaya Taran (Chrysalis) (2004), by Shashi Kumar, is based on the Malayalam short story "When Big Tree Falls" by N.S. Madhavan. Hawayein was directed by Ammtoje Mann. Amu (2005), by Shonali Bose, is based on her own novel of the same name.

Khushwant Singh's novel "Tragedy of Punjab: Operation Bluestar & After" focuses on the events surrounding the pogrom.

See also


  1. ^ a b State pogroms glossed over. The Times of India. 31 December 2005.
  2. ^ a b "Anti-Sikh riots a pogrom: Khushwant". Rediff.com. http://www.rediff.com/news/2001/may/09sikh.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Bedi, Rahul (1 November 2009). "Indira Gandhi's death remembered". BBC. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/8306420.stm. Retrieved 2009-11-02. "The 25th anniversary of Indira Gandhi's assassination revives stark memories of some 3,000 Sikhs killed brutally in the orderly pogrom that followed her killing" 
  4. ^ K. Singh: "Congress (I) is the Most Communal Party", Publik Asia, 16 November 1989.
  5. ^ a b Swadesh Bahadur Singh (editor of the Sher-i-Panjâb weekly): "Cabinet berth for a Sikh", Indian Express, 31 May 1996.
  6. ^ Grewal, Jyoti. Betrayed by the State: The Anti-Sikh Pogrom of 1984. Penguin Books. ISBN 978-0143063032. 
  7. ^ McLeod, W. H. Historical Dictionary of Sikhism. 2005, page xiv
  8. ^ Yoo, David. New Spiritual Homes: Religion and Asian Americans. 1999, page 129
  9. ^ "Indian prime minister shot dead". BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/october/31/newsid_2464000/2464423.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  10. ^ "Assassination and revenge". BBC News. 1984-10-31. http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/witness/october/31/newsid_3961000/3961851.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  11. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Nation". Tribuneindia.com. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20071031/nation.htm#8. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  12. ^ "When the big tree fell". Hindu.com. 2004-08-23. http://www.hindu.com/mp/2004/08/23/stories/2004082302930400.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  13. ^ "Remembering 1984". Tribuneindia.com. 2003-11-02. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2003/20031102/spectrum/main1.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  14. ^ Mustafa, Seema (2005-08-09). "1984 Sikhs Massacres: Mother of All Cover-ups". Front page story (The Asian Age): p. 1. 
  15. ^ Agal, Renu (2005-08-11). "Justice delayed, justice denied". BBC News. 
  16. ^ "A life sentence". Hinduonnet.com. http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/fline/fl2007/stories/20030411002004500.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  17. ^ [1]
  18. ^ "Police didn’t help victims". Tribuneindia.com. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20071103/delhi.htm#1. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  19. ^ "Fresh probe into India politician". BBC News. 2007-12-18. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7149322.stm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  20. ^ "The Tribune, Chandigarh, India - Main News". Tribuneindia.com. http://www.tribuneindia.com/2007/20071219/main1.htm. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  21. ^ PTI 30 November 2007, 04:43pm IST (2007-11-30). "BJP to govt: Clear stand on anti-Sikh riots' witness". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/2585268.cms. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  22. ^ "1984 riots: CBI to re-investigate Tytler's role". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. 2007-12-18. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/1984_riots_CBI_to_re-investigate_Tytlers_role/articleshow/2630736.cms. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  23. ^ "Anti Sikh riots witness to give statement to CBI in US". Ibnlive.in.com. http://ibnlive.in.com/news/anti-sikh-riots-witness-to-give-statement-to-cbi-in-us/81216-3.html. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  24. ^ "CBI gives Tytler clean chit in 1984 riots case". Indianexpress.com. 2009-04-03. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/cbi-gives-tytler-clean-chit-in-1984-riots-case/442552/. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  25. ^ faces shoe missile from scribe
  26. ^ Smriti Singh, TNN 9 April 2009, 01:50pm IST (2009-04-09). "Sikhs protest outside court hearing Tytler case - India - NEWS - The Times of India". Timesofindia.indiatimes.com. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Sikhs-protest-outside-court-hearing-Tytler-case/articleshow/4379032.cms. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 

Further reading

  • Parvinder Singh. 1984 Sikhs' Kristallnacht. 28-page report, 2009."1984 Sikhs Kristallnacht" (PDF). http://www.ensaaf.org/pdf/reports/kristallnacht.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  • Jaskaran Kaur, Barbara Crossette. Twenty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 riots of Sikhs in India. London: Nectar, 2004."Ensaaf › Publications › Reports › Twenty Years of Impunity". Ensaaf.org. 2004-06-29. http://www.ensaaf.org/complete-1984report-v2.pdf. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  • Cynthia Keppley Mahmood. Fighting for Faith and Nation: Dialogues With Sikh Militants. University of Pennsylvania Press, ISBN 0-8122-1592-3.
  • Cynthia Keppley Mahmood. A Sea Of Orange: Writings on the Sikhs and India. Xlibris Corporation, ISBN 1-4010-2857-8
  • Ram Narayan Kumar et al. Reduced to Ashes: The Insurgency and Human Rights in Punjab. South Asia Forum for Human Rights, 2003.[2]
  • Joyce Pettigrew. The Sikhs of the Punjab: Unheard Voices of State and Guerrilla Violence. Zed Books Ltd., 1995.
  • Anurag Singh. Giani Kirpal Singh’s Eye-Witness Account of Operation Bluestar. 1999.
  • Patwant Singh. The Sikhs. New York: Knopf, 2000.
  • Harnik Deol. Religion and Nationalism in India: The Case of the Punjab. London: Routledge, 2000
  • Mark Tully. Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi's Last Battle. ISBN 0-224-02328-4.
  • Ranbir Singh Sandhu. Struggle for Justice: Speeches and Conversations of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Ohio: SERF, 1999.
  • Iqbal Singh. Punjab Under Siege: A Critical Analysis. New York: Allen, McMillan and Enderson, 1986.
  • Paul Brass. Language, Religion and Politics in North India. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974.
  • PUCL report "Who Are The Guilty. Link to report.
  • Manoj Mitta & H.S. Phoolka. When a Tree Shook Delhi (Roli Books, 2007), ISBN 9788174365989.

External links

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