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Gateway to Sikhism


BOKARO & CHAS
CHAPTER - 12

INCIDENTS & CONSIDERATION OF AFFIDAVITS

There is no dispute about the number of deaths in Bokaro and Chas Tehsils. The actual riot at these places took place on November 1, 1984, after imposition of curfew in the morning. Total deaths are admitted to be of 69 Sikhs -- on account of police firing on riotous mobs three non-Sikhs also died. The situation in these two Tehsils was brought under effective control and normalised by the afternoon of November 1. A good number of people were killed in Dashmesh Nagar area where an unauthorised Gurudwara and a small colony of Sikhs were razed to the ground and everyone of that community found during the riot was done to death. The Commission visited this locality and recorded a memorandum of local inspection. A large part of Dashmesh Nagar is a totally underdeveloped area of the streel Township where there are a vast number of jhuggis and unauthorised constructions. There is no regular road link with that area from the city. Taking advantage of the secluded location, difficulties of communication and the distance from the police station the jhuggi dwellers succeeded in wiping out the Sikhs living in the area.

As noted elsewhere, the State of Bihar had initially given compensation of Rs.10,000 to the next of kin of each of the dead Sikhs. The Commission in course of hearing of the matter at Bokaro suggested that the compensation should be enhanced to Rs. 20,000 to be paid at par with similar compensation paid in other States. The State of Bihar agreed to enhance the compensation and as a fact compensation at the rate of Rs. 20,000 for each dead person has now been paid. The State Government at the instance of the Commission provided a good number of riot victim widows with employment.

It has already been noted that the inquiry into the incidents at Bokaro during October-November 1984 riots came as a result of the subsequent notification following the accord between the Prime Minister and Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. Initially, the inquiry had been confined to incidents in the Bokaro Steel City which is in Bokaro Tehsil but on a reference made by the Commission on the preliminary finding that many of the incidents took place outside the Bokaro Steel City jurisdiction, the notification was amended and Chase Tehsil was also included. Chas is a sub-division of Dhanbad District in the State of Bihar and contains the commercial part of the habitation. Many of the people working in Bokaro Steel City who do not have residential accommodation within the Steel City Complex live in Chas area.
Compared to non-Sikhs, the Sikh population in either of he Tehsil is small. The average Sikh in these two areas is a workman --- usually technician type. In the Steel Plant as also in the other industrial units in Bokaro there were a good number of Sikh workmen. These are the people who have suffered most during the riots.

News of the death of Smt. Gandhi reached Bokaro in the evening of 31st October. Bokaro Steel City has a Supdt. of Police independent of, and separate from, the District Supdt. of Police whose headquarter is at Dhanbad. The State Government had alerted the Steel City authorities as also local officers against any repercussions of the killing of Smt. Gandhi . As it appears, prohibitory orders had been promulgated from the afternoon of 31st October and in the morning of 1st November curfew was imposed. In spite of the imposition of curfew in the morning, several incidents have taken place. There is no dispute that 69 Sikhs were killed within a few hours and when the police opened fire to disperse riotous crowds three of the rioters died. Several houses were looted and burnt and a lot of persons were also assaulted and received injuries.

Bokaro Steel City is quiet spread out. The Sikh employees who have mostly been affected were living either in Steel Factory quarters or jhuggis away from the main locality of habitation. For instance, Dashmesh Nagar is an area which is yet to develop. In this area there used to be a kacha-pucca Gurudwara and several small kacha-pucca houses where some members of the Sikh community were living . A little away there are hundreds of jhuggis where other economically backward people like washermen and cowherds live. It is a fact that the entire locality where the Gurudwara and the houses of Sikhs were located was totally damaged and twelve persons were killed in this locality alone before any police assistance could reach. The Commission had made a local inspection of this area and found that the allegations in the affidavits relating to incidents of this area were true. Other areas where most of the serious incidents including killings took place are the Co-operative Colony, Lakhrakhana or Ritudin. In most of these places the rioters came from outside the localities where operations took place. It is not disputed that most of the rioters were known bad characters.

One striking feature in regard to Bokaro riots is that most of them consisted of small groups -- usually 40 to 50, though occasionally such mobs had gone up to 2000 or so. Some condolence meetings were held on the 31st evening and anti-Sikh slogan were raised and threats were held out. No serious incident took place till about 8 in the morning on November 1. Curfew is claimed to have been imposed in the morning of that day and it would not be unreasonable to hold that the occurrences took place almost as a challenge to the curfew.

There is evidence on record that a white ambassador car had moved about preceding and during the riots and the allegation is that certain material were being supplied from the car to facilitate the rioting. The Commission has noticed that this aspect is mentioned in a FIR from where a charge -sheet has been sent up and the case is pending trial. The Commission, therefore, does not intend to say anything which might prejudice a fair trial.

As in Delhi and Kanpur, so also at Bakaro some people with party affiliation (Congress-I) did participate in the riots. The Commission has scanned the material with care and is of the view that the reasons as also the conclusions reached in regard to Delhi incidents equally apply to Bakaro.

As noticed separately, unlike Delhi and Kanpur, in respect of most of the incidents at Bakaro criminal cases have been instituted and are pending. Since specific incidents are the subject-matter of each of those cases, at the trial when evidence is led , and the full story of each incident is detailed , persons connected with them are likely to be roped in . The Commission has noticed the anxiety of the victims that actual culprits be visited with proper punishment . Since criminal cases are pending and culprits when named (in case not named already) are likely to be brought before the Court , the Commission has not chosen to examine the evidence and reach a conclusion . The Commission can only name a person under s. 8B of the Act while the criminal court can adequately punish the culprit .

It is a fact that at Bakaro the Army had not been commissioned and the riots were contained by the evening of November 1, 1984, through the assistance of the Industrial Security Force locally available . There is allegation that DIG Srivastava when asked as to whether Army assistance was necessary , had replied in the negative on 2nd November 1986 . By then as a fact the riots had abated . Thus from DIG Srivastava 's statement that he did not require the Army any longer no adverse inference or bias can be drawn against him . Allegation of bias was raised against City magistrate Saran by Shri K. S. Bindra (no. 106). He alleged:

While the mob was indulging in their looting spree , ASI of Police, Chas, Shri Pal happened to pass that way. He was greatly disturbed to see the illegal acts of the mob. He came running and fired in the air to scare the mob away . He even used physical force to disperse the rioters .

At the same time , City Magistrate Saran came on the spot along with armed force. He obviously got infuriated to see Shri Pal driving the mob away . He ordered ASI Pal to go away from there as it was no part of his duty to quell the riot. Shri Pal on being thus rebuked went away and Shri Saran also left without making any order whatsoever to safeguard our persons or property that was in the process of being looted by the mob in the presence of the police.

The allegation against the Magistrate was indeed serious . He was certainly wrong in pulling up the police officer but the Commission did get this aspect closely investigated and the contents of the affidavit turned out to be an embellishment .

Reference may be made to some of the affidavits of the victims to indicate the pattern of incidents. Miss Jasbir Kaur (no. 147) whose father was employed as a Caretaker in the Bakaro Steel Plant, states :

On 1-11-84 at about 8 . 30 or 9 a. m. he (father) got ready to go to his office but as we had heard that the atmosphere in the entire city was surcharged with tension and anti-Sikh sentiment , we advised him not to go to the plant lest there may be any danger in the way . Thus , my father remained in the house .

That my brother Kamaljit Singh (aged 25 years) was undergoing TV Course at Calcutta and he had come to meet us on 30th Oct. , 1984. Thus, he was also at home.

That my mother Harjit Kaur (aged 43 years ) had some fracture in the ankle which was plastered up to down the knee and was therefore lying on a bed in the house.

That my younger brother Kuljit Singh ( aged 16 years ) was a student of Xth class studying on IX B High School .But as there were examination preparatory leave those days, therefore, he did not go to school and was also at home Sector IX, Qr. No. 1066 had come to our house to meet us and thus he was also at home.

That my brother in law (S.Avtar Singh aged 32 yrs.) who owns a Trekker and resides in Sector.

That on November 1, 1984, at about 10 a.m. or so, a mob comprising of more than two thousand persons came towards our house. They were having iron rods, lathis axes, spears, firearms, stones, etc. etc. with them. They were shouting anti-Sikh slogan like Maar do sale sardaron ko , loot lo etc. etc. Among the mob , the conspicuous whom I could identify at that time were Mr. Upender , Mr. Joginder and Mr. Ajit all residents of Sector IX. Forth was Mr. Vinay Kumar Sahu of Sector VIII and one Mr. Deepak . Later on I identified other accused in the Identification Parade .
That on seeing the threatening attitude of the mob and their menacing advance towards our house , we four sisters , namely , myself , Balwinder Kaur (27 years), Paramjit Kaur (21 years) Charanjit Kaur (19 years) and two daughters of Balwinder Kaur ( aged 2 years and 2 months respectively ) escaped from the back door to the house of our immediately neighbour residing in Qr.No. 2015. From the window of house no. 2015 we saw everything that happened in our house. My mother could not accompany us because she was bed-ridden.

That the aforesaid mob, on coming near our house, started attacking it with sabbals and stones. At that time I saw that some in the mob were having tins of kerosene oil or petrol. They broke the window pans of our house and some of them started throwing burning rags inside the house through our window. By this time the mob had surrounded our house from all sides. There were some clothes lying near our window which caught fire. My brothers and father and brother-in-law tried to extinguish the fire by pouring water over it. In the meantime, I heard the sound of somebody firing through a fire arm. I could not know whether it did hit anybody or not. Some miscreant in the mob started hitting the door of our house with iron rods and sabbals. At that time I heard somebody saying that the water connection should be cut off. Somebody stopped the water supply because after that I saw fire and smoke in the house. Probably the inmates of the house aforesaid did not find water to extinguish the fire.

That thereafter the miscreants broke open the door of the house and started dragging out my mother, younger brother, father,elder brother and brother-in-law above mentioned.

That all the victims were dragged to the open compound outside the room. I saw that two persons had my younger brother, Kuljit Singh caught firmly and they were asking other miscreants to bring the spear to kill him. My brother-in-law is a clean shaven Sikh. Kuljit Singh cried for help to his mother but the mother wept bitterly and so much choked that she merely looked at her son helplessly. I heard his cry for a few minutes and the miscreants started beating the boy mercilessly before his parents and brother and brother-in-law. All of a sudden the miscreants pounced upon all the five persons i.e., my mother,father, elder brother, younger brother and brother-in-law and started beating them with all parts of weapons on which they could lay their hands upon. All the five victims aforesaid fell dead.

After committing the gruesome murder the miscreants started looting the house. .

Details from this affidavit have been extracted to indicate that the nature of the violence was almost similar to incidents elsewhere. While in Kanpur and Delhi ladies were ordinarily exempted from attack, there have been incidents at Bokaro of the female folk being also the target of killing.

Affidavit of S. Narinder Singh (no. 109) of Gammon Colony narrates events relating to inhuman killing. He states :

On November 1, 1984, after we had our morning tea, I heard lot of noise and commotion towards Joshi Colony which is at a distance of 400 yards from our residence. After sometime I saw smoke coming out from that side and somebody told me that a mob had started indulging in looting the houses of Sikhs and that the trucks and house of one Sardar Kehar Singh had been looted and set ablaze by the mob. After sometime I heard people shouting anti-Sikh slogans like Sikhon ko loot lo -- Sikhon ko mar do. Sardaro ko Punjab bhej do, etc. All of us got scared and got ourselves secured inside our house. Though we heard a lot of noise and saw people running about carrying goods with them yet we were too frightened to come out of the houseI know all the aforesaid persons (six of them named) very well because they are my neighbours and frequently meet us. They told us that there was a lot of danger to Sikhs outside. Larders are being killed and the houses looted and plundered and set on fire and that we should not come out. We requested them that we may be escorted to the nearest police station so that our lives are not endangered. These persons assured us that they will take care of our house and lives and that nobody dare look at us in their presence. They repeatedly swore that they would lay down their lives to save us. They further told us that we should not go with the police even became the police is also against the Sikhs and we shall not be safe if we go with the police. My mother Amrit Kaur (aged 45) prepared tea for the aforesaid persons and my younger sister Jagjit Kaur (aged about 17 years) who was a student of Chas Kanya High School, Chas, studying in class X served them tea and snacks. These persons left after about half an hour and while going again repeated their assurance to protect us at every cost. They said that we must have faith in them than the police because they had been our immediate neighbours for the last more than 13 years.

That after being assured by the aforesaid persons, we remained inside our house. Though I came to know that the Sikh families were being rescued and taken to the Relief Camps, yet as the fate would have it, we decided to remain in the house. At that time we were the following persons in the room :

* My mother Amarjit Kaur
* My sister Jagjit Kaur
* Rupa Singh, our neighbour, a clean-shaven Sikh
* Pyara Kaur w/o Rupa Singh
* Trilok Singh,our neighbour, a clean-shaven Sikh
* Balbir Singh, our neighbour
* Joginder Singh, our neighbour

Rupa Singh, his wife, Balbir Singh, Trilok Singh and Joginder Singh had come to our house to seek refuge and through they thought of going to relief camp alongwith police, yet on the assumption that the neighbours mentioned above would be true to their words and save us, they decided to stay with us.

At about 6 p.m. on 1-1-84, we heard our door being banged by some persons. On peeping through our window I found that all the six persons above mentioned were at the door. They were armed with revolvers, iron rods, lathis, spears and other sharp-edged weapons like knives and choppers. I could not understand their motive because they had earlier posed themselves as our saviors. The above mentioned six persons were accompanied by other 10 to 15 persons whom I do not know by name but can recognise if produced before me. All of them started hammering our door and started abusing the Sikh community in filthy language. I asked them as to what was the matter. They shouted that we should open the door, otherwise they would break open the door. However, the above named six accused persons said that they only wanted to loot our house and if we open the door and all the inmates come out, no harm would be done to our person. As the force on my door was mounting and it was a matter of time when the door would break, we were left with no option but to open the door, escape and let the aforesaid accused have their way.

We opened the door and came out in the compound . Immediately when we came out the mob comprising of the aforesaid persons pounced upon us like blood-thirsty animals. The first blow was dealt by Chandan Singh aforesaid who hit my mother with a chopper on the shoulder. She was so dazed by this sudden and unprovoked attack that she did not ever scream and fell down on the ground. The chopper caused a deep cut on her shoulder and she bled profusely. The attackers aforesaid did not stop after she had fallen but all of them gave her blows with their weapons causing grievous injuries and thus killed her.

The next to be attacked was my younger sister Jagjit Kaur (about 17 years old ) A long knife was thrust into her neck which caused a deep cut and a stream of blood flowed from it . she instantaneously fell down but the aforesaid criminals continued to hit her till they were sure that my helpless sister was dead.

The wife of Rupa Singh was hit by a bullet in the temple. When she fell down, the aforesaid persons gave her further blows till she died then and there.

Balbir Singh and Joginder Singh aforesaid were surrounded from all sides and beaten mercilessly with lathis and iron rods. They dropped down dead. The aforesaid persons beat me also. . . when the dead bodies of my mother, sister wife of Rupa Singh,Balbir Singh and Joginder Singh were still lying down badly injured , I saw that the aforesaid persons started looting our house. They looted everything in the house.

The deponent appeared before the Commission and offered himself for cross-examination but that was declined. Thus, whatever he stated in the affidavit must be taken to be a true account of the incident. When the young man appeared before the Commission he could not control his feelings and tears rolled down his eyes.

Human conduct could not be more depraved than what the narration pictures.

Reference may now be made to the affidavit of Smt. Joginder Kaur (no.150) of sector 8-B in the Bokaro Steel City. She, inter alia narrates :

The mob shouted at Ajit Singh to open the door. They smashed the window panes and threw burning rags inside the house of Ajit Singh. Somebody threw a crude bomb inside his house which hurt the maid servant of Sardar Ajit Singh. When the mob could not open the door, the ring leaders among the mob swore by holy Gita and Janeyu that they only want to loot the house and if the inmates come out they will not be harmed.

Paramjit Kaur wife of Ajit Singh acting on these assurances opened the door of her houses. The boy, Lakhbir Singh was standing near Paramjit Kaur. The mob immediately pounced upon the boy and dragged him on the main street. They started beating the boy mercilessly with lathis, iron rods and sabbals (crowbars). Most of the blows were given on the head of the boy.The boy had died instantaneously because of severe blows.

The earlier affidavit of Narinder Singh was an instance of treachery and the present one is indicative of the extent to which the scripture could be called in aid by scoundrels.

Affidavit of S.Pritpal Singh (no. 92) residing in Chas area narrates event of looting. He and his brother were jointly carrying on business in motor-spares. He states:

That on November 1, 1984, groups of people started looting the shops belonging to Sikhs after breaking open the locks of the shops. They also set fire to some of the shops. This looting spree started at about 8 or 9 a.m. and remained in full swing up to about 1 p.m. When the mob was indulging in looting and burning the shops, police parties could clearly be seen moving around but they did not take any action either to disperse the mob or stop the miscreants from looting etc.

That the looting of the shops/houses started again at about 4 p.m. I could see the activities of the mob from the window of my house. At about 5 p.m., the mob set ablaze M/s. Bindra Tyres after looting it. The mob shouted that now it is Gulmarg Motor Company which has remained to be finished off. We got scared and telephoned Gurudwara Chas to rescue us. In the meantime the mob tried to set our shop on fire but as we were the tenants and the landlord was a Bihari he intervened that if the shop is burnt his property will get damaged.

That ultimately a police jeep which was sent by the Gurudwara people (Davinder Singh Bindra accompanied the police party) rescued us at about 7 p.m. and we came to Chas Gurudwara.

Affidavit of S. Avtar Singh (no. 36) narrates a case of arson and looting. Avtar Singh was a residence of Bokaro Steel City area while S. Narender Singh (no. 32) who also narrates an event of arson and looting belonged to Chas area.

The police at Bokaro were not as ineffective as at Kanpur or Delhi. Many of the affidavits indicate that the police came and helped. The Administration actually sought the help of Central Industrial Security Force which was put into use and the situation in Bokaro was contained within 7-8 hours. The Commission takes notice of the fact that most of the incidents are subject-matter of FIRs which more or less have complete particulars. In almost every case an investigation has followed and a large number of cases have ended up in charge-sheet. As noted in another part of the Report, some of these cases are already under trial. Break up of the affidavits regarding incidents of Bokaro and Chas during the riots is available in Vol. II, Appendix 13 at pages 57-59. Particulars of the FIRs and the result thereof as also details of the cases are separately shown in Vol. II, Appendix 14 at pages 60-65.

A few events were investigated by the Investigating Agency of the Commission and its conclusions are in Vol. II, Appendix 15 at pages 66-68.

A map of Bokaro and Chas Tehsils with noting of incidents is in Vol. II, Appendix 16 at page 69.

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