Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Gateway to Sikhism



Mr. Dev Dutt. Journalist : On October 31 to 4.30 p.m. three to four thousand people stood outside AIIMS. Slogans praising Mrs. Gandhi were being raised. Some people were also shouting revenge but there was no tension in the air. The crowd included many Sikhs. Even if some people knew that Mrs. Gandhi’s assassins were Sikhs, there were no signs of fear or panic among the Sikhs in the crowd. I talked to some of them to find out what they felt about the situation but they said they had no reason to suspect or fear Hindus. The Hindu crowd also seemed to have no ill-will towards the Sikhs. In other words it was a normal, mixed gathering.

People were waiting for Mrs. Gandhi’s corpse to be brought out of AIIMS and the flow of traffic around the area also seemed normal.

I was standing at the AIIMS square when I saw a group of 30 to 40 people running towards where I was standing. Then the group ran down the road to INA market. They burnt a scooter. This brought the traffic to a halt outside the INA petrol pump. The crowd then changed direction and moved towards Srojini Nagar. The mob started pulling Sikhs out of buses, misbehaving with them and forcibly removing their turbans. I saw five turbans burning in a row on Ring Road.

There was no police presence in the area, which gave the move full freedom to do what it liked. Twenty minutes later, some cops came and dispersed the mob.

It is difficult to understand why violence started suddenly on the evening of October 31, 1984. The reaction to the sudden killing of Mrs. Gandhi can be one of the reasons for the violence but the moot questions here are where did the rioters come from and, why were the there?

Mr. Deepankar Gupta. Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) : I was passing by a Gurudwara close to Priya Cinema has in Vasant Vihar at about 1 p.m. on November 1. I saw a group of about 60 toughies attacking the Gurudwara. There were four armed cops around but they did nothing and sauntered off towards the cinema hall. Earlier that day, at about 9.20 a.m. as I was standing at the JNU gate, I heard some young men spreading rumours that a group of Sikhs, armed with sten-guns, is attacking Hindus and a former student of the University Bharat Singh, even said that he had seen at least three dead bodies in the campus. At this, some students and teachers went to verity Bharat Singh’s report and asked him to lead them to the place where he had seen the corpses. That was the last anyone saw of Bharat Singh.

Later, sometime before 10.30 a.m., I saw a car belonging to the Haryana State Congress (I) Committee come into the campus. I cannot say whether there were only JNU students in the vehicle but the occupants talked to the students who were going around spreading rumours about Sikhs attacking Hindus. At 10.40 a.m. an Ambassador car with a West Bengal number plate came to the campus. The three men, in the age group of 40 to 50, who alighted from the car told the students and teachers, Sikhs are attacking Hindus with sten-guns, you all better run for your life.

Professor Ashwini Ray. Head of Department, Political Science, JNU : At about 10 a.m. on November 1, I saw a police vehicle with four cops in Bhogal. I came out of my house and saw smoke all around. I heard a big bang (of a tyre burst) first and then I saw the police van coming towards Bhogal. The vehicle moved towards a burning truck. The person who set fire to the truck was sitting at the wheel. Suddenly, he jumped out of the truck which crashed into a road railing about 15 meters from where the police vehicle was standing. The cops, however, seemed unperturbed by what was happening around them and I saw them sipping tea. Surprised, I went over to them and asked them why they were not doing anything to stop the violence. You mind your own business, they said. The smoke that filled the air was coming from about 80 trucks which had been set afire. After a while, I saw a Texla TV centre go up in flames. The cops were telling the mob to loot the place fast. Then, I saw an armed mob attacking a group of Sikhs. I tried to contact the police control room but could not. Half an hour later, I saw about 80 Sikhs -old men, women and children, on the second floor of a corner house trying to jump to safety because a row of houses close to theirs had been burnt. A mob, armed with sticks and rods, was waiting downstairs to get the Sikhs.

Mr. Swapan Lahiri, Engineer : On November 1, at 1.30 p.m. I was walking down Raisina Road when I saw a mob of about 50 to 60 people, armed with sticks and rods trying to enter Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s house but could not because of the police security. The mob let out a volley of abuses against Mr. Vajpayee and went towards the taxi stand next to the Press Club of India. The DLY cars standing there were set on fire. When a foreign TV crew tried to take pictures the mob stopped it. I followed the mob and saw it go to the Congress (I) office at Raisina Road, regroup and come out to go towards the Janpath square. The mob smashed the doors and windows of the Communist Party of India (CPI) office on the way. Then, I saw a taxi being stopped by the mob. The driver said he was a Hindu but the mob was not paying attention to him and smashed the vehicle. Just then another vehicle with the Congress (I) party flag stopped at the place and a man got out, gave some instructions to the mob and sped away. The mob then went into the opposite direction and I went my way. The cops I saw on the road just stood around and did nothing to stop the violent mob.

Sudip Muzumdar. Journalist : November 5, 1984, 5 p.m. The police commissioner, Mr. S C Tondon was talking to a group of journalists about the situation in the city. In response to a question from a reporter that Congress (I) MPs and other senior party leaders were trying to pressurise the police to release the gangsters arrested in connection with the anti-Sikh violence, Mr. Tondon firmly denied the allegation. Prodded to give a clear answer, Mr. Tondon stated that no member of the Congress or any other party was putting pressure on the police. He had barely finished saying this when Jagdish Tytler, Congress MP from Delhi’s Sadar seat, walked into the room alongwith three other people. Tondon saab, kya ho raha hai, aap nee mera kaam abhi tak nahin kiya (Mr. Tondon, that are you upto, why have you not done that I asked you to?)

The Commissioner was embarrassed. The journalists started laughing.
Mr. Tytler went on shouting at Mr. Tondon at which a reporter asked him to tell Mr. Tytler not to disturb the press conference. Mr. Tytler snapped at him, this is more important. Then the reporter invited Mr. Tytler to attend the press conference and face some questions regarding his involvement in the in the carnage. Mr. Tytler went red in the face but sat there all the same. you are obstructing the relief work (for the survivors) by keeping my men in custody, Mr. Tytler the Commissioner. This incident silenced the Commissioner effectively against any further questions about the Congress party’s involvement in the violence.

Rahul Kuldip Bedi, Reporter, Indian Express

Following is a letter of complaint Mr. Bedi sent to the Lt. Governor of Delhi and the Police Chief, Delhi on November 5, 1984.

Dear Sir,

I am sending a complaint against three top officials of Delhi Police who, because of their criminal dereliction of duty, became instruments of a grotesque and unprecedented massacre in the history of free India.

Dear Sir,

This is with reference to the meeting I had with you in the police Headquarters on November 4. Here is a formal complaint against the following Police officers: S C Jatav, IPS, Additional Police Commissioner Nikhil Kumar and Seva Das, Deputy Police Commissioner. They should be booked for criminal negligence and grave dereliction of duty, because of which 350 people were killed in 30 hours in Trilokpuri. The massacre continued till the evening of November 2. You have already assured an investigation into the matter.

On November 2, at 2.00 p.m. I Set out for Trilokpuri alongwith my colleague at the Indian Express, Mr. Joseph Malliakan, after hearing about mass violence in the area. About 500 meters ahead of Block 32 of Trilokpuri, we met with a police officer and constable on a motorbike. They too were heading towards Block 32.

We stopped them and asked them as to what was happening in Block 32. They said, the situation was under control and that only two people had been killed.

2. An angry crowd stopped our vehicle (a car) as we moved close to the Block. The crowd stoned our car, told us that nobody would be allowed to go to Block 32 and that if we dared to do so, we would have to face the consequences.

3. We went to Kalyanpuri police station (under which falls Trilokpuri). It was at 3.30 p.m. when we reached there and told a sub-inspector on duty to help us reach Block 32. He quoted the patrol cops as reporting the situation under control. Besides, the station could not spare cops to accompany us, we were told.

4. Then we went to the police headquarters at 5 p.m. We informed Mr. Nikhil Kumar, who was on the phone at his office. He talked to the central control room two floors above his office. Other than this, Mr. Nikhil Kumar gave no assurance about sending the police to the area. He asked the control room to inform the man on duty in the area.

5. We reached Trilokpuri at 6.05 p.m. where we saw SHO Shoorvir Singh alongwith two constables in a matador. The SHO said that he had apprised his senior, especially, DCP Seva Das, over the wireless about the situation. But the DCP failed to turn up on the scene even until 7 p.m.

6. We came back to the police headquarters and were told by Mr. Nikhil Kumar that he had done his duty by informing the central control room and that his job was over with that. Meanwhile, Mr. Jatav, who had been on patrol duty in the area under Kalyanpuri police station (including Trilokpuri), came back to his office and said there was peace in the area. He said that his DCP Seva Das had also told him the same thing.

When we insisted that the situation required immediate steps to control it, Mr. Jatav asked Mr. Nikhil Kumar to explain why he had not informed him about the gravity of the situation while talking to the control room. Mr. Nikhil Kumar had no answer and his refrain was that he had informed the control room.

Mr. Jatav visited the scene of violence 30 hours after we informed the police, precisely, at 7.45 p.m. on November 2. The massacre stated at 10 a.m. on November 1.

We hope that you would take appropriate action against these police officers because they are a party to the crimes that led to the bloody killings.

(Mr. Subhas Tondon received this complaint on November 5, 1984.)

Mr. Kamini Jaiswal. Advocate, Supreme court of India : On November 2, we met Mr. Padam Sharma (who introduced himself as the chief of Delhi State Congress Committee) at the Pandav Nagar Gurudwara. He tried to send us back on the plea that there was no trouble around there and that the situation was under control. But, we have already been to the Gurudwara the previous day and wanted to meet the people hiding in the Gurudwara. So, we insisted on going there. Inside, we met many people whose families were trapped in Dakshin Nagar across the road. They were pleading with us to reach help to their relatives. We promised to rescue them but the same people who had brought us to the Gurudwara got agitated and stoned our car. The mob also wielded iron sticks at us.

The mob said that we were disturbing the place by trying to guard the Gurudwara and that our interference would not be tolerated. It was Mr. Padam Sharma who led this mob. Later, somebody told us that Mr. Sharma did not like other people treading on his territory.

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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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