A good deal of material has appeared in the Press on the large-scale rioting which took place in Delhi after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi. A very good report has also been published under the joint auspices of the People’s Union For Democratic Rights and People’s Union For Civil Liberties. The present report is the result of an extensive investigation carried out by a different set of social activists investigation carried out by a different set of social activists. It has the advantage of having been prepared when passions have cooled down and when the events could be considered in retrospect.
Two lessons can be drawn from the experience of the Delhi riots. One is about the extent of criminalisation of our politics and the other about the utter unreliability of our police force in a critical situation.
Although there was a communal element in the violence which erupted in Delhi after the tragic death of Mrs. Indira Gandhi, it could hardly be described as a communal riot. It was, in the first place, an entirely one-sided affair. The Sikhs did not play any aggressive role in the Delhi riots. They were always at the receiving end. They tried in a few cases to defend themselves, but the defence was wholly ineffective. On the other hand, there were a large number of Hindus in every locality who tried to save their Sikh neighbours at considerable risk to themselves. The rioting cannot also be attributed, except marginally, to the feelings generated by the dastardly murder of a popular leader. As this report emphasises, no Sikh was killed in Delhi on October 31, 1984, although the passing away of Mrs. Gandhi became known by about 10.30 A.M. on that day. It was on 1st November and the two succeeding days that a massacre of hundreds of Sikhs and the burning and looting of their shops and houses took place. The rioting was organised by a number of unscrupulous politicians politicians who are habitually associated with anti-social elements and down-right criminals. That is the reason why looting was so extensive and why the killing of Sikhs was attended with unparalleled brutally. Scores of Sikhs in Delhi were literally burnt alive. It is for the top leaders of the ruling party to consider the ways and means by which the process of criminalization of politics within its ranks can be reversed.
Complaints of police partiality were voiced after all the communal riots which took place in recent years. In the case of Delhi riots, however, the extent of police partiality exceeded all limits. Instead of trying to protect innocent victims, the police, except in a solitary instance, were either utterly indifferent or positively hostile to the Sikhs. The experience of the Delhi riots justifies the view that the law enforcement agency in the country has itself become, to a considerable extent, a lawless force. It is essential that the Government’ should devise and carry cut a long-range plan to convert the police force into a law-abiding and law-enforcing agency.
The heinous offences which took place during the Delhi riots, including looting, arson and murder, were all perpetrated in broad daylight. Particulars of some of the offenders are well-known, and the names of many others can be found if a proper investigation is carried out. There is, however, a noticeable apathy in doing this work. Although over two and a half months have elapsed after the riot, not a single case against any offender appears to have been filed before any Delhi Magistrate. The Delhi Administration will be justly blamed if these heinous offences go unpunished.
New Delhi 19-1-1985