In the wake of the fiendish violence unleashed on a particular community following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, a number of prominent citizens of Delhi issued the following statement on 16 November 1984.
"While Delhi was numbed by shock and sorrow, a wild frenzy of terror, murder, loot and arson seized large sections of the city. Its prime target was a minority community, but all peaceful citizens felt threatened and the entire city was gripped by fear while murderous mobs rampaged unhindered through the streets. In large parts of the country the violence spread in varying degrees of intensity, shaking faith in our secularism not only on the part of the afflicted community, but also of other minorities and of the general public.
"The mosaic of India’s varied peoples and cultures is the very foundation of its strength, but if the bond of mutual tolerance and respect is fractured by an orgy of violence against any community, the unity and integrity of the entire structure is gravely imperilled. Such is the situation which faces our country today.
"In the capital city of Delhi the administration appeared to have been totally paralysed for three critical days while hordes of hooligans bent on loot, rapine, murder and arson held free sway. Allegatons are widely prevalent that some riotous mobs were instigated, organised and often provided with transport.
"In view of the gravity and urgency of the situation which, unless promptly and effectively corrected, could cause grievous damage to the very fabric of India’s unity, we, the undersigned, make an earnest appeal to Government immediately to take the following ameliorative steps:
To set up forthwith a Tribunal of three non-political, non-official personalities, known and respected for their objectivity, impartiality and integrity, with full powers to enquire into the events of 31 October – 4 November. These would include the power to summon witnesses and evidence, official and non-official, and to take all necessary action to establish the facts and to report within six weeks of its constitution. It should particularly enquire into the widely circulating allegations that the riotous gangs were deliberately incited and led, and, if so, to identify the culpable persons. It should also enquire into the action that may have been taken by the State administration to deal with the situation.
To take vigorous steps for the apprehension of the rioters and their ring leaders and for the recovery and restoration of the looted property.
Special courts should be set up for the speedy disposal of cases, with full powers to award deterrent sentences to the guilty, without fear or favour.
Immediate steps should be taken to award full compensation to all who have lost their means of livelihood to enable them to resume their normal occupations. Those whose dwellings have been destroyed or damaged or property looted and not recovered, should be fully compensated to enable them to reconstruct their lives.
Those in relief camps should not be compelled to return to their homes till they feel fully secure.
"The prompt adoption of these measures would, in our opinion, go some way towards providing a healing touch and which would help to restore the shaken confidence of the stricken community and of all peaceful citizens and be a deterrent to malefactors and criminals in future.
"In view of the gravity and urgency of the situation and in order to restore confidence among the people and to preserve national unity and integrity, on the insistent demand of large groups of public spirited citizens, a Citizens’ Commission has been set up consisting of five eminent persons, with a view to strengthening the hands of the Government in promoting the paramount objective of achieving the national good."
The signatories to the statement included:
AIR CHIEF MARSHAL ARJAN SINGH (Retired)
Smt. Tara Ali Baig – Social Worker
SHRI DHARMA VIRA – Former Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Cabinet Secretary and Governor
KUMARI C.B. MUTHAMMA – Former Ambassador
SHRI BHAGWAN SAHAY – Former Governor
SHRI H.D. SHOURIE – Director, Common Cause
SHRI L.P. SINGH – Former Home Secretary and Governor
SHRI SOLI J. SORABJEE – Senior Advocate, Supreme Court
BRIG. SUKHJIT SINGH (Retired)
SHRI T. SWAMINATHAN – Former Cabinet Secretary and Chief Election Commissioner
The Citizens’ Commission comprises the following:
JUSTICE S.M. SIKRI Former Chief Justice of India
SHRI BADR-UD-DIN TYABJI Former Commonwealth Secretary and Vice-Chancellor, Aligarh Muslim University
SHRI RAJESHWAR DAYAL Former Foreign Secretary, Visiting Fellow, Oxford University
SHRI GOVIND NARAIN Former Governor of Karnataka and Home and Defence Secretary
SHRI T.C.A. SRINIVASVARADAN Former Home Secretary
The Commission commenced its work on Monday, 26 November 1984.
At the outset, the Commission issued a statement (which was sent to the Hindustan Times, Indian Express, the Times of India, the Statesman, PTI and UNI) and which was published in several newspapers, inviting affected persons, representatives of social organisations and agencies engaged in the relief and rehabilitation of victims of the tragic events or any eye-witnesses, to meet with the Commission.
The Commission functioned from the Vishwa Yuvak Kendra, Circular Road, New Delhi.
During the course of its enquiry, the Commission:
Visited various relief camps and gurdwaras housing the afflicted;
Visited several localities, particularly the worst affected during the violence;
Examined numerous victims and eye-witnesses (their names are not being published to obviate the risk of victimisation, reprisal or renewed harassment by lawless elements who are still at large);
Received and carefully considered a large number of affidavits and written statements submitted by the sufferers;
Discussed the happenings and the aftermath with representatives of several organisations engaged in relief and rehabilitation work and with important journalists who had reported on the situation; and
Studied the reports of these incidents and developments as they appeared during those days in the main newspapers of the capital.