GOVERNMENT ORGANISED CARNAGE [Sarkari Qatl-e-Aam]
THE ROLE OF THE ADMINISTRATION
The ruling party and the bureaucracy, taking orders from the former, both deliberately and wilfully neglected their duties right from October 31 to November 4, 1984. Many opposition leaders would vouch for the fact that their pleas to the administration to contain the situation in the post-assassination period went unheard. When opposition leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee (who is now the leader of the opposition in the people’s house) contacted Mr. Rao on October 31, the latter is reported to have assured him that the situation would be brought under control within a few hours. Never mind the fact that just when Mr. Rao was saying this to Mr. Vajpayee, the Additional Commissioner of Police, Gautam Kaul, was telling a crowd outside Ayurvggayan Institute that the police was in no position to control the situation. Surprisingly, Mr. Kaul was later promoted.
According to information provided by highly placed sources, a meeting at Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s residence (No 1, Safdarjang Road, which is now a national museum, his late mother’s residence) on October 31, a senior police officer made an emphatic suggestion that the army should be called to contain the situation but he was not heard. The meeting, presided over by the price minister, was also attended by the then Lt. Government of Delhi, P.G. Gavai and Congress leader M.L. Fotdedar ( a close associate of Mrs. Gandhi’s), among other top people of the administration. On November 1, when Delhi was literally on fire, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi phoned up his cabinet colleagues, Mr. Shiv Shankar and P.V.N. Rao, to find out what the ground situation was. The ministers assured the prime minister that the army was about to be deployed and that curfew would also be imposed. In the afternoon, the same day, a delegation of prominent citizens met the country’s president and wanted to know the government’s mind on calling the army. So, there were some feeble attempts to contain the situation but even they turned out to be not-starters.
What we saw and experienced, however, not only points to the sins of omission by the government but also those of commission. What else can explain the following facts? On November 1, throughout the day and night, Sikh shops were being burnt down right in the heart of the New Delhi, Connaught Place. Police and para-military were very much there on the scene but none of them lifted even a little finger to stop the crowd.
On November 2, the newspapers carried government announcements on their front pages about indefinite curfew and shoot at sight orders and these announcements were being made in the middle of the massacre (when armed mobs were combing the streets and residential complexes for Sikhs). In fact, on November 2, the mobs were much larger and more vicious in their killing acts.
In Lajpat Nagar, the police was sitting quiet as the mobs lay in wait for their prey right on the main roads. So brazen was the mob that when the army marched through Lajpat Nagar on that afternoon, not one of them even made the pretence of moving away. Very ceremoniously, they made way for the army to march through and then sat right back on the road.
Two opposition MPs. Made repeated requests to Mr. Rao and Mr. Shiv Shankar to provide security to Sikhs travelling in trains coming from Punjab and elsewhere but nothing was done. The result was the butchering of Sikhs travelling through or to Delhi. According to one newspaper report, four Sikhs were found dead at New Delhi railway station on November 2, and this number was just the tip of the iceberg. But so smug was the official machinery that Doordarshan denied the newspaper report as though mere denials would stop the anti-Sikh violence. A Statesman correspondent reported that at Tughlakabad station, he saw two charred bodies lying on the platform and, a few yards across, a group of the army. On November 3, the army was called but it either reached the scene of violence afterwards or hardly did anything to save the situation. It was only over the next week or so that the army played any effective role but by then the worst had already happened. According to our information, the Faridabad DC asked for army help on November 1, but received it only on November 3.
While analysing the role of the administration through those dark, death-filled days, we cannot just end the matter by laying the blame on the door of the administration. No official, without the explicit sanction of the higher-ups, can turn a blind eye to such mass-scale violence and, the higher-ups right upto the home minister and the prime minister were very much in the know of the happenings. I suspect that either Mr. Rao failed to give orders to the Lt.Government of Delhi or that the latter failed to carry out the orders to stem the tide of violence. In such a situation, should not both of them face the music for such criminal neglect of their duties? When questions like this cropped up, the Lt. Governor went onleave and a new one was posted in his place. The man who became the new Lt. Governor in place of Mr. Gavai is Mr.M.K. Wali. This appointment was even more ironical than the exit of Mr. Gavai.
Just before being posted as the new Lt. Governor, Mr. Wali was, hold your breath, Home Secretary. In other words, everything that happened from October 31 to November 3 was with his knowledge. How could a man who had proved himself as an utter failure while in-charge of internal security at the top most post, be expected to look after the city administration? Or was he expected to look after the civil administration of Delhi in the aftermath as well as he had looked after the law and order situation in his previous post? If that is the reason why he was made Lt. Governor by his political masters, he did not disappoints them because his attitude towards the families of the victims, huddled in relief camps was just as kind and considerate as it had been when their men were getting killed and their lives being systematically destroyed in every possible way.