Kusum Lata Mittal Report
C H A P T E R – 1 1
COMMISSIONER OF POLICE, DELHI
SHRI SUBHASH TANDON
11.1. The Commissioner of Police of the Union Territory of Delhi, exercises the powers and performs the duties of direction, regulation, co-ordination, control and discipline of the Delhi Police in accordance with the Delhi Police Act of 1978. The over-all powers of superintendence of Delhi Police are, however, vested in the Administrator who is the Lt. Governor.
11.2. Under the new Act of 1978, wide powers have been given to the Police Commissioner for maintenance of public order and security of the State. He also exercises special powers under the Code of Criminal Procedure. During the November 1984 riots, Shri Subhash Tandon, an IPS officer of the Rajasthan Cadre, was the Commissioner of Police who had been on this post for a year and half. Before, this, it is understood that he was with the CISF and earlier he served for about 17 years in the Intelligence Bureau. He relinquished charge of this post of Police Commissioner on 12.11.1984.
11.3. On 31st October, 1984 , Shri S.Tandon had gone to attend the CRP parade at Jharoda Kalan where he received a wireless message regarding the shooting at the Prime Minister’s House. He reached the AIIMS along with Addl. C.P.(CID) Shri R.K. Ohri at about 10.05 hrs. He then issued general instructions through the South District Control to all DCPs to look to the maintenance of law and order in their respective areas. He also received a message from GOC, Delhi Area who wanted to speak to him on the telephone. According to GOC, Delhi Area, Sri Tandon got in touch with him at 11.30 PM that day in spite of his (GOC’s) efforts throughout the day. Perhaps the Commissioner of Police did not consider it necessary to get in touch with GOC Delhi earlier. Sri Tandon’s inability to understand the need of co-ordination and planning is evident from this delay in responding to this army gesture.
11.4. The Police Commissioner called a meeting of all his senior officers at the Police Headquarters where Shri Gautam Kaul’s suggestion that the force should be deployed in accordance with the emergency plan was discussed. Addl. C.P. (AP&T) Shri Kulbir Singh, however, reported that he had very little force and some had been sent to PM’s House for traffic arrangements. The Police Commissioner then issued general instructions for patrolling and Police presence insensitive area and safeguarding of all vital installations. According to him, all available force of Delhi Police including Home Guards were mobilized for patrolling and posting at strategic places. He also requested the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide maximum police force from para-military forces. Apparently seeing the trouble at AIIMS, at 17.55 hrs he had also sent out messages to other States to prevent movement of crowds towards Delhi and instructed his own officers to check them at the borders.
11.5. However, while the Police Commissioner went through the motions expected of a head of a police organization, he perhaps could not assess the situation properly and therefore did not consider it necessary to call in the Army on 31st October, 1984. Since the CP was complaining of being under-staffed, the Lt.Governor suggested to him on 1.11.84 at 07.00 hrs in the morning at Prime Minister’s residence that he should call in the army. Even then the Commissioner of Police indicated that he would first like to take a round of the city, assess the situation and then indicate the course of action to the Lt.Governor. At about 10.00 AM, the Police Commissioner finally suggested to the Lt.Governor that the army should be called in.
11.6. It is clear from the examination of the events in various police districts that trouble had already started in the afternoon of 31st October, 1984 at the AIIMS. Thereafter trouble continued in various parts of the city throughout the evening and night of October 31st and morning of 1st November,1984. Information regarding riots was purring into the Controls of the District as well as the PCR continuously, yet, on the one hand, the Police Commissioner kept complaining that he did not have sufficient staff, on the other hand, he was hesitant or reluctant to call in the army. This resulted in a loss of 24 hours which could easily have been avoided and which proved to be critical in bringing about order subsequently.
11.7. In addition to the Delhi Police and the Delhi Armed Police, a number of Companies of Para-Military Forces had been air-lifted from other places by the Home Ministry bringing the total strength of Para Military forces to 61 Coy by the morning of 1st November, 1984. In the ordinary course, one would have expected that this force would have been sufficient. The situation, however, went from bad to worse and the Police Commissioner had no option but to call in the military mainly because his own force was not coming up to the mark nor behaving properly.
11.8. According to Gen. Vaidya, he had already ordered the movement of a Brigade from Meerut to Delhi at about 10.30 AM on 31.10.84 and this Brigade had reached Delhi on 31st October by mid-night. This plus the available strength at Delhi which consisted of a full Brigade Regiments Centre and Engineering Regiment and 2 Regiments of Artillery consisting of about 6,000 men, (apart from the Brigade which had moved in from Meerut) were readily available for assisting the civil administration if Shri Tandon and the Lt. Governor had decided to call in the army on 31.10.84 itself. Delay in decision-making on the part of these two functionaries was detrimental and resulted in the situation taking an ugly turn.
11.9. We do not have the Log Book of the Commissioner of Police, in spite of repeated requests, but Shri Tandon had moved round the city himself, as per his own admission, and had seen the trouble brewing at many places. His Police Control Room was receiving messages from all over the city and according to his own admission he was reviewing the situation from time to time. It is, therefore surprising that he has stated before the Misra Commission that :
“ until 12.15 PM on 1.11.84 there was no report at Police Headquarters that the situation had gone out of control.”
This under-statement, to say the least, cannot be accepted. Either his senior officers manning the Control Room were not giving him correct information or else his personal assessment of the situation was completely faulty.
11.10. While the Police Commissioner had issued necessary orders, he did not ensure or check up whether these were being complied with or implemented by his subordinates. As has been discussed in earlier Chapters, neither the orders under section 144 Cr. P.C. nor the orders regarding curfew were implemented. Even when he issued ‘Shoot-at-sight ‘ orders to prevent arson, loot and killings, barring a few officers , others did not seem to have taken these orders seriously and most of the firing was done in the ‘air’. His orders of sealing the borders also were not taken seriously by most of the subordinate staff and miscreants entered Delhi both by trains and buses and joined hands with the local mobs in their nefarious activities. The Prime Minister also expressed his displeasure about the handling of the situation to Shri Gavai, Lt.Governor , as per his own admission.
11.11 According to Shri Gavai, he was summoned by the Prime Minister at about 5.30 PM on 2.11.1984. The Prime Minister expressed his unhappiness over what was happening and ‘wanted the situation to be brought under effective control within 15 minutes failing which severe action was threatened.’
11.12 Later, in an unscheduled two-minute broadcast to nation Mr. Gandhi said communal madness would destroy the country and everything it stood for. He assured the people that the government will safeguard the life and property of every citizen, irrespective of his case, creed and religion.
Following is the text of Mr. Gandhi’s broadcast:-
“ Fellow citizen: it is with a heavy heart that I speak to you this evening.
‘While hundreds of millions of Indians are mourning the tragic loss of their beloved leader, some people are casting a slur on her memory by indulging in acts of hatred and violence. Disgraceful incidents of arson, loot and murder have taken place. This must stop forthwith. The Government will ensure the safety of life and property of every citizen irrespective of his caste, creed or religion.
‘ Indira Gandhi gave her life so that a united India should live and prosper. Anything that create a division between brother and brother comes in the way of national unity. This violence is only helping the subversive forces to achieve their ends. Communal madness will destroy us. It will destroy everything India stands for. As a Prime Minister of India, I cannot and will not allow this.
‘ Tomorrow , the mortal remains of Indira Gandhi will be consigned to sacred flames. She had said: “ Do not shed blood: Shed hatred.” Let this guide us.’ (Times of India dt/- 2.11.84)
11.13. Again at about 10.00 PM on 2.11.84, Lt. Governor was called to the Prime Minister’s House along with the Commissioner of Police. A meeting of Members of Parliament was going on and there was general complaint that telephone No. 100 was not working or there was no response over it. General Manager of the Telephones had also been called and was present at the meeting. The Prime Minister wanted a stock-taking of the situation. Prime minister also gave a personal interview to Shri Gavai where he told him: “Gavai Ji I feel that you should have acted more swiftly in calling in the Army”. This shows the real concern of the Prime Minister for what was happening. Unfortunately, the Delhi Police Administration completely failed and brought disgrace to the nation.
11.14. From the statements of Shri P.G. Gavai, the then Lt.,Governor and Shri Tandon it is clear that even when the military was called in on 1.11.84 there was quite a lot of confusion about co-ordination with the Army. The Army is used to dealing with magistrates and not directly with the police. At the insistence of the GOC, a meeting had, therefore, to be called by the LG himself. This further delayed matters. Thereafter the operational modalities had to be worked out. The army when it did move in, wanted to know where the magistrates were as they were not inclined to take orders from the police. Overnight a number of magistrates had to be appointed to co-ordinate with the Army. The Army Officers had also to be told that the police under the police Commissioner system had magisterial powers. All this added to the confusion of co-ordination , and resulted in avoidable delay at a time when every minute counted.
11.15. At the field level, the subordinate staff at many places did not give proper guidance to the army contingents who were in some places moving about like a lost force. This was particularly true of the East District. I n the South District, we have instances where they were being misguided as per statement of major Sandhu, dated 23.4.1986 before the Misra Commission. A lot of precious time was thus lost and this has poignantly brought to the fore-front the dire need of streamlining the procedure so that there can be proper co-ordination between the army and the civil administration in times of emergency.
11.16. It might be useful to learn a lesson from what happened during November, 1984 riots and ‘mock’ exercise should be jointly held at regular intervals in future so that the various wings of civil administration and the army can function in unison without any loss of time in times of need. This is very necessary, as Delhi being the Capital of the country, cannot afford to be in a state of unpreperdness for any eventuality.
11.17. Shri Tandon has blamed officers at the level of SHOs for delinquency. According to him, some who were at fault were SHO Sultanpuri, SHO Delhi Cantt. SHO Srinivaspuri, SHO Krishan Nagar and Sub Inspector Lakshmi Kant of New Friends Colony Police Post. What Shri Tandon failed to realize was that delinquency was not only at the level of SHOs but even at senior levels. Shri Jatav, Addl. C.P. was, for instance, holding the view till the evening of 1st November, 1984 that the situation was not going out of control. He was probably feeding such information to Shri Tandon who was unable to see through or make his own assessment regarding this underplaying of events.
11.18. Rumours regarding the drinking water being poisoned and train-loads of dead bodies of Hindus coming from Punjab by train were spreading like wild fire in the city. Instead of preventing the rumour from spreading and taking adequate measures to publicize their incorrectness through the Government media, the exact opposite was happening. The first rumor about the water being poisoned seems to have started from PCR. Deponents from various parts of Delhi indicate that the police vans were broadcasting the news (Poonam Muttereja-2510; Jaya Jaitley-2702; Aseem Srivastava-2676; Lalita Ram Das-2698; Jaya Srivastava-2705; and N.D.Pancholi-2662). At 21.08 hrs on 1.11.84, we find a message from 1-40 PCR to 1-68 PCR Van in North District. The message reads as follows :-
‘ The water tank in Jubilee Hall Hostel of Delhi University has been poisoned by students.’ Thereafter there are messages in the PCR at 21.30, 22.37, 22.47, 22.48, 22.50 hrs and these messages continued for quite some time until mid-night. In some localities the rumor was so wide-spread that at mid-night an enquiry was made from PM’s House whether anyone had died by drinking poisoned water. This message is found in the PCR ‘A’ Net at 00.05 hrs on 2.11.84. It is only thereafter that the Municipal Corporation of Delhi Commissioner announced that this rumor was false and that anybody spreading such rumors would be arrested. Since the rumor had itself presumably started from the PCR, no arrests were made in this connection. Regarding train load of dead bodies from Punjab, police officers were themselves heard making such statements according to a number of deponents . The psychological repercussions of such rumors can well be imagined.
11.19. The level of confusion which prevailed during the riots is also evident from the fact that the number of casualties and those injured in police action vary according to different reports. Shri H.C.Jatav, Addl. C.P.(Delhi Range) in his d.o. letter No. 2797/P.Sec.® Delhi dated11th/13th November, 1984 addressed to the Commissioner of Police, a copy of which he also sent to the Misra Commission , has claimed that in his Range alone 17 persons were killed and 20 injured. The break-up given by him is : North District –12 killed; Central District- 2 Killed and 6 injured, East District – 3 Killed and 14 injured. Shri J.P.Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police (HQ-II) in his d.o. letter no. 5682/X-I dated 4.3.1986 addressed to the Secretary of the Misra Commission , on the other hand, has enclosed a list containing particulars of 7 killed and 4 injured as a result of police firing in the whole of Delhi during the November, 1984 riots. A scrutiny of these figures indicates that only 5 persons killed figure in FIR No. 998 dated 1.11.84 relating to PS Kotwali; FIR 797 dated 1.11.84 relating to PS Karol Bagh; FIR 320 dated 3.11.84 relating to PS Pahar Ganj. Of these, 2 were killed in a joint operation by the Army and the police in PS Pahar Ganj; 2 were killed when the police was ‘firing in the air’ in PS Karol Bagh and PS Gandhi Nagar; and one was killed in Chandni Chowk when Shri M.Periera, Addl. DCP had resorted to firing. Other deaths do not figure in the FIRs as a result of police firing. Thus these figures also, supplied by DCP (HQ-II) are not quite correct. The third set of figures are those which are found in the statement of Shri J.S.Jamwal, GOC Delhi Area before the Misra Commission. According to him, in army action 8 persons were killed and 16 injured in the whole of Delhi. The only common incident where there is joint action relates to PS Pahar Ganj where 2 persons died (FIR 1349). It is indeed surprising that even up to March, 1986, the Delhi Police was not in possession of the correct set of figures of people killed or injured during the riots on account of police/Army firing. It is also surprising that people are said to have been killed when the police resorted to firing ‘in the air’ as indicated above. How people can die if firing is done ‘in the air’ surpasses comprehension .
11.20. Shri M.M.K. Wali who was the then Home Secretary, Union of India and later who took over from Shrei Gavai as Lt.Governor , Delhi on 4th November, 1984 has made a very pertinent remark in his statement before the Misra Commission on 8th April, 1986. He says that “ the non-transferability of the Police Force from Delhi is a draw-back. There is no sense of professional pride in the Delhi Police and badly needs to be built up. The civilian Police Force may not ordinarily require much of arms training but the basic training is necessary which is wanting. Motivation is also absent. The net result of these draw –backs has been that the Police Force did not have the adequate capacity to rise to the occasion.” From this statement the pathetic state of the Police set-up in Delhi becomes quite evident.
11.21. From the fore-going discussion it has become amply clear that the Head of Police Administration in Delhi should be a person who has a balanced personality and does not have any hang-ups of Army Vs. Police or IPS Vs. IAS., a person who can co-ordinate all the agencies with maturity and balance of mind which were unfortunately not found in Shri Tandon who was the incumbent of the post of the Commissioner of Police during November, 1984 riots.
11.22. On an overall assessment, it would not be incorrect to say that though Shri Tandon may have been a well-intentioned Officer, he miserably failed to cope with the crisis situation with which he was faced and, coordinate the different agencies to the best of advantage. He was also unable to anticipate, properly plan, coordinate and provide effective leadership even to the Police Force under his charge. One of the basic reasons for this could have been that the subordinate staff at various levels does not look up to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi as their administrative leader in the real sense of the term but have links with local centers of power which they develop over a period of time as most of them are not transferable outside Delhi. Some suggestions regarding this aspect of Police Administrations are being given separately under the head ‘General Conclusions.’