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Misra Commission Report :Delhi Riots 1984


KANPUR CHAPTER - 9

There is a distinction in the reference to the Commission so far as the events of Delhi and events of Kanpur and Bokaro are concerned. In regard to Delhi the incidents are said to be “ organized violence” whereas in regard to Kanpur and Bokaro - Chas what happened during the riots has been described as“disturbances”. While all disturbances may not be riots, all riots would usually include disturbances. What happened during October / November 1984 at Kanpur and Bokaro-Chas is certainly riot. All incidents at Kanpur and Bokaro-Chas were confined to 31st October and 1st November. The allegation of organised violence as such is not there in regard to the incidents at Bokaro-Chas though so far as the incidents at Kanpur are concerned, such an allegation has been raised. The Commission is bound by the terms of reference. It would not be open to it to find out whether the disturbances riots at Kanpur and Bokaro-Chas were also organised. In terms of the reference the question whether the violence at Kanpur was organised, however, would not fall for examination.

On behalf of the State of Uttar Pardesh it has been contended that the terms of reference do not require the Commission to report about the lapse, if any, cxommitted by any particular officer though the extent of the damage may be a relevant aspect for consideration. The Commission is inclied to hold that it has jurisdiction to act under section 8B of the Commission of Inquiry Act even within the frame of the reference as it stands. However, whether such action should be taken is another matter when the Commission issued notification calling for affidavits from persons in the known of events relating to the October / November 1984 riots, it was open to officers in the Kanpur District Administration or even the U. P. State Administration to file affidavits disclosing the facts. No affidavits were, however, filed. In all 675 affidavits were received out of which four were rejected being out of time or being in regard to events outside the Kanpur city limits.

Several groups asked for leave of the Commission to be represented and as already mentioned in a different part of the Report, permission was accorded. The State Governmnet did not disclose any posititve stand and stated that the Government would only deny any allegations implicating the officers in any manner in the riots. It also stated that the State Administration would contend that all that was legitimately within its power and could be done had been done to contain the riots and bring about normalcy. That is why normal situation was restored within a brief period of 24 hours and by the evening of November, 1, 1984, nomally prevailed again in Kanpur.ts were examined by the Commission --mostly at the instance of the victims and a few at the instance of non-Sikhs groups.

There is no dispute that 127 Sikhs and 8 non-Sikhs died at Kanour during the riots. And all these deaths were between the night of 31st October and late at night of 1st November. Thoush there was an allegation of a killking on 2nd Nobvember, it has been verified and the incidnt appears to have taken place during the night of 1st November. The first incident as appears from the police log book is around 2.30 p.m. on 31st October. As in Delhi, the intitial occurences were of spontaneous type reaction of the people at large against Sikhs as a whole on the basis that two of their comunity had injured Smt. Gandhi by bullets. Information of the Prime Minister having been injured seems to have reached Kanpur and become fairly known by 11 in the morning. From the afternoon as a result of reaction to that situation incidents started taking place. It is a fact that by evening time the incidents had spread into different parts of the city and incoming reports thereof had become very frequent. From the evening of 31st October cases of arson became quite common. The attack as in Delhi was- rioting had started in the previous night, viz . , 31st October and there is no acceptable evidence to hold that meetings had also been held and call had been given before the evening of 31st October for taking revenge. Information of Smt. Gandhi’s passing away was first widly circulated at Kanpur through the news media of All India Radio by evning time. It is this news that brought about a transformation in the modality of the attacks. Unitl that time the nature of assault or action taken against the Sikhs wasn not a serious type but once the Prime Minister was announced to have succumbed to her injuries, the nature of attack both on property and person changed. Hunderds of vehicles were burnt, Sikh employees returning from Government offices or industrial units after duty shifts were assaulted and badly beaten up. During the night, apart from the Gurudwaras, private houses were also looted and burnt and physical assault of a grave type startd. It is a fact - and ample evidence was placed before the Commission that the composition of the mobs and the manner of attack and behaviour of the crowds were almost of the same type as in Delhi. Kanpur is a city with a population of about 30 lakhs. It is the biggest city of U.P. and is very much industrialised. A considerable part of its population is of the industrial labour class and there has been pressure on accomodation. A lot of jhuggis and jhopris hav come up where the people belonging to the economically backward class reside and these are spread over in many parts of the city.

There is material that initially hoodlums and small groups, each consisting of 40 to 50 people, started pressuring Sikh shop owners and office keepers to close down their establishements. Where they yielded there was not much of scope for touble. Where, however ,there was any resistance, physical force was appleid to enforce closure. Towards evening the ratio of hoodlums in the mobs dwindled and residents from jhuggis and jhopris joined. Smt. Gandhi’s death was not mourned on party basis . Every Indian, including most of the Sikhs, were genuinely sorry for what happened. Some people in the Congress Party at the lower level as in Delhi either genuinely felt more hurt and aggrieved than others or for reasons best knowm to them, wanted an exibition of that type of reaction.Such people did join the riotous mobs. There is allegation that at some places they even led them.Though the Commisson is not called upon to examine the question of organised violence, as already mentioned,there is an allegation on behalf of the victims in regard to it and the Commission would like to regard its findings on this score in regards to incidents at Delhi and hold that neither the party nor any perticular party man holding public office had organised or helped the rioters. It is, however, a fact as disclosed in evidence that several of the party men at the loose end had participated in the riots. For the reasons indicated while dealing with this aspect in regard to the Delhi riots the Commission is of the view that criminal overt acts or abetment commited by them would be available to be tried as criminal charges and since the Commission recommended and the State of U.P. has already set up a Committee for reviewing prosecutions, the Commission would not make any positive statement about those people who have participated in the riots.That would be a matter for the Court to determine and the Commission has no intention to prejudice the trial.

As already stated 127 Sikhs lost their lives during the riots. At one stage the victims claimed taht the number of persons who died was more and the Commission asked them to substantiate their claim but no evidence has come.During the oral submissions made on behalf of the Kanpru Riots Inquiry Co-ordination Committee the number disclosed by the State Government was not seriously disputed. From the disclosure made by the Railway Administration some deaths in trains were noticed. But as it appears, such deaths were not within the Kanpur city jurisdiction. The Commission has , therefore, no option but to procede on the footing that the total deaths of the Sikhs during the October/November 1984 riots at Kanpur were 127.

Kanpur city has 31 police stations and 94 police outposts. Orinarily, every police station has a Station Hopse Officer/Station Officer, 4-5 Sub-Inspectors, around 3 Head Constables and 20-25 Constables.Some police stations are treated as big ones where ordinarily 15-20 rifles or muskets are provided. Of thereon any given time 1/3 are on duty on the buses that during a day anyone is expected to work for 8 hours. It is the case of the State of U.P. that Smt. Gandhi was due to visit Allahabad on 2nd November, 1984, and for providing security during the Prime Ministers visit to Allahabad------------- officers with their men had been deputed there -------------------------------- from 29th October----------------------of a workman. A large police force including PAC contingents had been deployed to maintain law and orderin that area. Of the remaining police force only 1/3 was available to answer the call of duty. It is contended that ordinarily the regular police force was in position to contain any situation taht arose but a very unprecedented and difficult-to-comprehend situation developed at Kanpur and against the mobilsed force of the people, particularly the trouble makers, the small number of police-men did not appear to be adequate.

In Kanpur the following areas have Sikh concentration: Govindnagar, Kidwainagar, Gumti No.5,Ratanlal Nagar, Ranjit Nagar, Pandu Nagar, P-Road, Rajinder Nagar and Daboli. According to the District Administration, since these areas have Sikh concentration and riot in these areas involved great risk, police had instructed to keep an eye on these areas. In the absence of adequate police force it did not become possible to provide protection in small pocket. The District Administration contnded that in this background the riots were more frequent in small pockets,the incedents were many and these were mostly in these areas.Factually this position is not correct.Gumti No. 5 is one of the most affected areas. Similarly, there are some more areas out of the places named above where a lot of incidents took place.

The victims have accepted the position that the riotous situation continued for about 36 hours at Kanpur , being from the evening of 31st october till the morning of 2nd November. The incidents as claimed by the victims during these 36 hours are not at all disputed by the State Government of the Kapur District Administration, except in regard to allegations of rape and certain other minor aspects. According the counsel for the riot victims, on account of appropriate and timely preventive steps having been taken , no widespread disturbances took places in cities like Allahabad, Agra, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Meerut and Bareilly located in the state of Utar Pardesh. Counsel for the State has disputed this posiition as also the comparative basis. It was contended before the Commission that the cities referred to above were of about 1/5 size of Kanpur. The Sikh population living in these cities was small, while at Kanpur their number was aboout 1.5 lakhs, in each of these cities it did not exceed 15,000 to 20,000 at the most. None of these cities is as industrialised as Kanpur. Nor are these cities as sprad out as Kanpur. Kanpur City is a full district and Kanpur Dehat is another independent district consisting of the rural areas but its administrative headquarters is still located within the city of Kanpur. It is a fact that not much of riotous situation developed within the Dehat District. It is also a fact that in all these citites as also in Kanpur Dehat area there has been some sort of trouble during the period though the disturbances were not as widespread as at Kanpur. The Commission is of the view that the stand taken by the Government of Uttar Pardesh is correct and merely on a comparative basis of the situation arising in these towns and Kanpur a conclusion would not follow that the riotous situation at Kanpur was on account of negligence and incompetence as also deliberate anti-Sikh stance of the district administration of Kanpur.

According to the Government records made available in the answer to the interrogateries, it appears that the Home Secretary of the State Government altered the dictrict administration in the morning os 31st October against possibility of untoward situations developing on account of Smt. Gandhi having been injured by security gaurd’s bullets. Around 11a.m. on 31st October the Distrist Magistrate , the Senior Supdt. Of Police, Supdt. Of Police, City, and the Addl. District Magistrate met to chalk out steps to be taken to meet the situation that might arise. They decided to impose prohibitory orders under S. 144, Cr. P.C. immediately but in their opinion reference to Smt. Gandhi’s condition as a ground for imposition of prohibitory orders did not look appropriate. Therefore, the prohibitory order was grounded upon the labour trouble which was already existing for the last two days in the industrial area of the city. These officers along with the police officers and some other Government officers again met at 2 p.m. at Kotwali to review the situation. It was decided to alert the police again and the police were asked to keen a close eye on the situation and have intensive patrolling. Acording to the District Administration, the District Magistrate kept on moving from place to place throughout the night of 31st October in order to ensure that the situation got and remained contained. They held a meeting again at 4 a.m. and an assesment of the situation was made which indicated that the situation had improved. While the holding of the meetings has not been denied on behalf of the victims it has been contended that the situation had not improved at all during the night of 31st October. Between midnight and morning there were 24 cases of arson and between 6 and 10:30 in the morning of 1st November there were as many as 164 cases of arson. These figures have been taken from the records of the Fire Brigade establishment of the State Government and are not in dispute. The Commission accepts the stand of the victims that there were no abatement of the riotous activity during the night of 31st October. It is also quite possible, and the Commission is prepared to accept,that apart from the 188 incidents of arson till 10:30 a.m. of 1st November, there could have been several other small incidents where the Fire Brigare authorities might not have been contacted. A tense situation had developed; security both of person and property had come to be in a state of jeopardy and contacting the Fire Brigade and waiting for its response may not have been possible in every case.

The genuinenessf the entries in the Log Book which has been produced from the police control room was challnged on behalf of the victims. The Commission had to refer to several entries in the Log Book. There is an official presumtion of correctness attached to such entries. The manner in which entries have been made in the Log Book and the contents thereof when cross-checked with refence to entries in other documents, lend support to the genuineness of the entries in the Log Book. There is no clear material on the basis of which the Commission can dislodge the presumption of correctness and hold that spurious entries have been made in the Log Book.

Curfew had not been imposed in the city till the morning of 1st November. Notwithstanding the imposition of prohibitory orders under S. 144,Cr. P. C., the riotous mobs freely moved during the afternoon, evening as also night of 31st October. The imposition of curfew in the morning brought not much of impact on the situation. Prohibitory orders under S. 144, Cr. P.C. Or curfew cam be effective only when enforced. The Commission is satisfied on the basis of the evidence that neither the prohibitory orders under S. 144, Cr. P. C., nor curfew was strictly enforced and, therefore, neither of these worked as an impediment against the riots. The Commission has noticed the fact that some prosecutions are pending involving charge under S. 188, I.P.C. for violating the prohibitory orders. They are a few and are perhaps related to certain areas where the police did attemt to enforce these orders.

The plea of inadequacy of the strength of the police advanced by the State during the inquiry and particularly while cross-examining the deponents on the side of the victims perhaps is not wholly wrong. It is a fact that quite a sizable part of the police force had gone to Allahabad and till almost noon time of 31st October some local police as also the PAC contingents were keeping guard in the Factory Area. It is the case of the District Admnistration taht when it was alerted by the State Home Seceratary in the morning of 31st October, they brought about a settlement of the labour dispute, withdrew the police and the PAC contingent from the factory area for deployment within the city to meet the apprehended situation. Conceding that the police force available in the city area was inadequate and the requisition for additional force had not been asnwered until late at night on 31st October, attempt should have been made for calling the Army on the 31st itself and there was no neccesity to wait till 9 a.m. of 1st November. The Commission has examined Brig. R. K. Kohli who was Station Commander at Kanpur at the relevnt time.He has stated taht on 31st October the availability of officers and men at Kanpur was: 65 officers, 159 JCOs ans 2366 other ranks. He recieved the written request from the Distt. Magistrate at 9:35 a. m on 1st November 1984 and the Army moved into the city by 11 a. m. In fact, the very first column had moved within 10 minutes of the request and in the course of every half an hour one after the other new columns moved in. By afternoon of 1st November, 7 columns were in the city. By evening another column was sent. If without waiting till the morning of 1st November the assistance of Army had been asked for during the previous day at least for patrolling in the city, that would have been a great deterrent against the build-up of th riots. As Brig. Kohli has said, the Army initially undertook flag march and patrolling duty but as they were not used to every part of the city and required magistrates to issue appropriate requisitions, in the absence of either proper guidance or magistrates, their functionaing was impeded. The Commission, therefore, is of the opinion that in case the Army had been called on 31st October, the situation would not have deteriorated and possibly the incidents that took place in the night of 31st October or on 1st November would not have happened. The District Magistrate made a wrong assessment of the situation by feeling satisfied that with the incidents taking place in the afternoon, evening and night of 31st October, the situation had eased and nothing more untoward would happen. Obviously the factual position was either ignored or not taken into accouont. There was no abatement of the riots. It may be that after the midnight the incidents had become less in number but that could not be a feature to lead to an assessment of that type. Non -enforcement of the prohibitory orders under S. 144, Cr. P. C., delay imposition of curfwe and non-enforcement of curfew when imposed and the delay in calling in the Army to stand by the civil administration facilitated the riotous mobs to buid-up, operate and bring about the calamity of that proprtion in the city. It may be noted that at several places, such as Calcutta for instance, the Army had been called in on the 31st October itself.

The stand of the Uttar Pradesh Government that more of incidents of grave type took place after the Army had been called in is not fully correct. As the statement of Brig. Kohli shows, the Army took position in different areas by 1 p.m. of 1st November and till 11:15 p.m. that night the Army did not have occasion to face crowd engaged in arson, looting or killing to require resort to firing. It is only then that two rounds were fired wtihin Kakadeo Police Station as a result of which two rioters died. This firing had followed a magisterial order to disperse the rioters mob.

It is in evidence that the police did not render appropriate assistance when the riotous mobs attacked the houses, commercial premesis and Gurudwaras, looted them and committed arson. There is also allegation that the police officers remained as bystanders when these offences were being committed. In some of the affidavits it was alleged that even police participated in the riots by supporting openly the mobs. These allegations were invetigated through the Commission’s Investigating Agency and it had been found that whiel there is no material to form the basis of a finding that the police had actually participated in the riots, police indifference and becoming onlookers when incidents took place have been found. The Commission had scrutinised the material on which the Investigating Agency has recorded such conclusions and is of the view that the conclusions are proper. Such conclusion of the Investigating Agency is also supported by the affidavits on record as also the evidence of deponents examined by the Commission. On the basis of such material the Commission records a finding that the police did not act upto expectation and did not behave as a disciplined force. It is possible that like every other Indian the policemen were also stunned when they got the information of Smt. Gandi’s injuries by gunshot in the hands of securitymen and her succumbing to these injuries but the discipline of a proffessional force should have got them out of the stuuning effect when the call of duty came and they should have behaved as policemen meant to protect the lives and properties of the citizens. At that point they could not become passive and silent spectators

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