"Teach The Sikhs A Lesson"
THE MOTIVE BEHIND THE KILLINGS : "TEACH THE SIKHS A LESSON"
Mrs. Gandhi had been assassinated. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi, had not yet become prime minister. He had just alighted from an aircraft which brought him from Calcutta to Delhi. At the airport a group of party loyalists was waiting to condole him. Rajiv Gandhi’s first words to them were: " Go and grieve in your home town instead of hanging around in Delhi".
As prime minister, among the first few lines he spoke at a public rally about the events after the assassination of his mother, was that infamous quote which pierced the heart of every right-thinking and sensitive citizen in the country. "when a great tree falls the earth shakes." For this one remark alone he should have been tried in a court of law, to say the least. The statement was like a fresh assault on the community. It inflicted new wounds which will, perhaps, never heal.
In a press conference, Rajiv Gandhi excelled himself, when he said, the "Sikhs would be the worst losers in an inquiry into the massacre".
These are pointers enough to the fact that Mr. Gandhi was the master-mind behind the anti-Sikh conspiracy. But he was not alone. He had his henchmen, including, H K L Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler, Bhajan Lal (the chief minister of Haryana) and Arun Nehru. It was under Bhajan Lal’s supervision that men and weapons were transported from the villages to the city and from the state to Delhi for the anti-Sikh violence.
Look at what the organisers of this massacre did to Sikhs in the police force of Delhi. Sikhs were disarmed and asked to hide like rats either in their homes or their offices while the rest of the police force was asked to "take control of the situation." No force should be used, however, they were told.
Of course, like professional criminals, the organisers gave no orders in writing. For ones, the entire state machinery worked on spoken orders and directions. What a superb display of efficiency in a country whose red tape is a national bane!
After they had their fill, the ruling party vultures went around boasting about how they had countered the threat to national unity. "But for the Congress, the events in the aftermath of Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination would have broken the country," croaked many of them.
Many Hindus were harmed, physically and materially, because they had dared to be human and had helped the Sikhs in that tragic hour. Many Sikhs owe their lives to the courage and humanity shown by their Hindu friends and neighbours. I Kalyanpuri, many Sikh families were saved by their Hindu friends and neighbours. In Khichripur, people from the neighbourhood of Sikh houses succeeded in chasing away the mob. Many children of Sikhs were given shelter by their Hindu neighbours. The stories of their courage and humanity all merit special attention. Even in Trilokpuri, the worst-affected by the violence, 70 percent of those rescued when the army came to their help, had been hiding in the houses of their Hindu friends and neighbours. This information came from a Sikh army officer. Not to forget what the Delhi University and JNU teachers did to counter the anti-Sikh violence. They formed all-night vigil squads from among the neighbourhood to keep away the violent mobs in their area.
A total of one lakh (hundred thousand) Sikhs had to take shelter in 30 relief camps in the post violence period and thousands are still waiting to be rehabilitated, fourteen years and five governments later.
Five thousand Sikhs perished in the violence although the official figures do not admit to more than 2733 killings. That is because the government does not recognise the missing Sikhs as dead. Notice the attention to detail! This was the kind of attention given to plotting and executing crimes as well.
THE MASSACRE WAS ORGANISED
"Thanks to Hollywood movies, I have no fear of guns." This remark, made by a Hollywod actor has an undercurrent of irony which marks our systematic desensitisation to violence. But ask any Sikh survivor of the bloody massacre, he or she, given a choice, would have settled for "mercy-killing" by bullets and bombs. Not only because they are modern weapons but also because of the quick death they bring and because they are not "scary".
When modern weapons are freely available in the arms bazaar, when killing just takes a push button, is it not strange that Sikhs should have been killed with all kinds of improvised weapons? Executed through sophisticated weapons, the killings would have been less taxing for the killers too. So, why were they not given these weapons by those who plotted the violence? Why were the killers armed with kerosene, petrol, match boxes, deadly chemicals, iron rods, sticks and other petty weapons? Not just in Delhi. In Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana. Why did the carnage start all at once in places divided by thousands of miles? Why did the police in every state affected by violence, take a uniform stand? Why were the police control rooms in all the cities either abandoned or not functional? Considering the gravity of the situation, even without the anti-Sikh violence, there should have been police reinforcements in every place.
There is only one answer to all these questions. The gory violence was organised and organised in a way that would make it difficult to trace the killers. A stick, an iron rod, kerosene and petrol-these are things of petty use and anybody can have them and, if somebody decides to use them for killing, there is no way to prove the crime. And, not for a moment should we believe that the blood-thirsty mobs, who devoured thousands of Sikhs, had the intelligence not to choose weapons which could make them accountable for the crimes. This, like the improvised weapons provided by the state-controlled ration shops, was the gift of those who organised the massacre.
Look at the role played by the state-controlled (and the most powerful) electronic media. Throughout the days of violence, its focus was either on the mourners in and around Teen murti house or on the funeral arrangements. Even in that, it repeatedly showed footage of blood-thirsty mobs shouting, "khoon ka badla khoon (seek blood for blood). " Other parts of the Indian media had already done their job by harping on the religious identity of the assassins. The killer mobs, who were other wise illiterate, however, had no difficulty in putting two and two together in this case and quickly picked up the signal about whose "khoon" was needed to avenge the killing of Mrs. Gandhi. This is another very strong pointer to the belief that the massacre was organised by the powers that be.
There are many more indicators but among the most glaring is the fact that Sikhs in the security forces were systematically disarmed soon after the assassination.
The conspiracy theory gets its biggest boost from the fact that the assassins, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, who surrendered their weapons almost immediately after shooting Mrs. Gandhi, were taken to a room and shot at by the ITBP commandos in the prime minister’s security. Who gave them the orders to shoot at point blank range the disarmed assassins (who, by no accounts, were resisting arrest). Who is it who wanted evidence behind the assassination plot wiped out immediately and desperately? Could it be the same people who plotted the subsequent violence?
Look at the evidence after the violence stopped. The same people who had organised, plotted and executed the violence now switched floors to the peace camp. Many processions paying lip service to the cause of Hindu-Sikh unity were organised by the same people.
PRECIOUS PROOF OF THE CRIMES IS VANISHING
As stated in earlier chapters, because of the highly professional nature of the massacre, it is very hard to prove the identity of the criminals, both who were on and off the scene. The only eye-witnesses, who are holding on to the memory of what and who they saw executing those crimes, are, the immediate families of the victims. Fourteen years later, perhaps, there is a question mark even on that. Not only because memory can fade with time and pain but also because some of the eye-witnesses may be too traumatised to come out with everything that happened to them. For instance, hundreds of young girls and women were gang-raped but none has even spoken about it. Rape, despite the rate at which it takes place in India and despite no rapist in the country having ever got more than two years behind bars, is, officially, still considered a crime. Besides, some eye-witnesses were very young at the time and their memory is lost in the cycle of time.
Life expectancy in India is not high and it goes without saying that the poor and the sick die quite young. In millions of cases they never live to be young. The survivors of the massacre, with wounds in their hearts that will stop bleeding only with their last breaths, cantons be expected to live much longer. In fact, hundreds of old men and women who saw their young sons being brutally killed are already dead. One hundred and seventeen young women who witnessed those spine-chilling killings (whom I knew personally due to my involvement in the relief work) committed suicide.
Thousand of others have nothing to live for, nobody to turn to. Words like "keep faith in God," draw a blank from them. There is really no language to describe their pain and poverty.
The point to underline here is that the surviving eye-witnesses must be heard before it is too late. Already, there is a dearth of proof that can withstand a legal investigation. What is there is too precious to be lost.
INDIAN JUDICIARY’S DOUBLE STANDARDS
Study the following facts and draw your own conclusions.
The assassins of Mrs. Gandhi, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh, after shooting Mrs. Gandhi, surrendered their weapons. They were taken to a room by the others in Mrs. Gandhi’s security, including, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) commandos and shot at. Beant Singh died on the spot and Satwant Singh survived to be hanged for the crime, thirty six moths after committing it. Among the most glaring gaps in the trial of Satwant Singh was the fact that, the ITBP commandos who shot him and Beant Singh, were not allowed to stand witness, despite concerted efforts by Satwant Singh’s lawyer, Mr. Ram Jethmalani.
Kehar Singh was hanged alongwith Satwant Singh. His crime, according to those who tried him in court? He was a party to the conspiracy to kill Mrs. Gandhi. He was nowhere on the scene of the crime, nor could they prosecutors convincingly prove that he had been a party to the conspiracy. But he was hanged.
That is the efficiency and speed with which justice was meted out to the killers of Mrs. Gandhi.
Now read the other side of the story.
Thousands of Sikhs were openly massacred for four long days in the streets if India. Hundreds of killers, seen by and known to the victims families, are prowling free. Those who planned and organised the anti-Sikh violence, some of them on trial, still have state-provided security (comprising of the country’s best-trained commandos).
For the consolation of the survivors, the state set up many commissions of inquiry but all were equally useless.
The first appointee to the august post of Chairman of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the government, was, justice Ranga Nath Mishra.
What did Justice Mishra do? He gave a clean chit to the Congress party by concluding the inquiry on this note: No congress leader was involved in the violence. This, despite the fact that, the question, whether the Congress party had a hand in the anti-Sikh violence, was not even listed in the scope of inquiry. Justice Mishra was suitably rewarded for this. His next posting (from an ordinary judge of the Supreme Court) was as the Chief Justice of India. There seems to be no end to the irony which marks government’s actions in the period after the carnage of Sikhs. Justice Mishra went on to become the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), set up by a Congress government.
Now, a look at the way justice Mishra conducted the inquiry- alone, behind closed doors, where the survivors gave him their accounts of the violence.
Who did they blame? What did they say? How did they say? Nobody, other than Justice Mishra has a clue. Apparently, they said enough for Justice Mishra to give a clean chit to the Congress Party, but not enough to find anybody else guilty of violence.
Presuming that the Congress had no hand in the killings, could justice Mishra not fine anyone guilty? Or, did he believe there were no killings? If he acknowledges that the killings took place, was it not his job to find out the killers, on the basis of the survivors accounts? Why else was he appointed? To clear the name of the ruling party?
Who was responsible for the killings, if not the Congress? Justice Mishra?s silence on the question is had enough. But, how is it that 14 years later, this question is not even being asked much less answered by anybody in India? Don’t all these questions make us reflect on the sad state of democracy in India?
"FORGET AND FORGIVE," SIKHS ARE TOLD
Sikhs as a community and Sikh religious and political leadership, in particular, have had to listen to a lot of wise talk on the November, 1984 events. "Why rake up an old issue? "Time is the best healer." "Forget and forgive." "God will punish the guilty." And much more.
I too have been at the receiving end of such noble advice. And, who are the people giving it? Top government officials, agents of the Congress party, professional fixers dealing on behalf of some of those facing trial (none of whom can be named for obvious reasons). And, Just to make their advice credible they have recruited some Sikhs to influence me out of campaigning for justice for the victims’ families. Following is a clip of a conversation I had with a top government official who came to meet me along with a top Sikh industrialist.
"Babbar saab, we have come to ask you for a favour."
Sure, I will do it, if I can."
"We knew you would not disappoint us." They cheered up.
"Babbar saab you have done a lot on the November 1984 issue, spent so many years of your life on it. Isn it time we closed this sad chapter? It will bring relief both to the victims and to the country."
I agreed to their proposal on the following conditions.
"You forget Indira Gandhi. Let nobody ever visit her grave. Forget it is a national monument. Forget Rajiv Gandhi. Release all those directly or indirectly involved in his killing of jail. Forget they ever lived."
The two men left. They did not come back. But, many others did. Many more will come. I am prepared with my answer. I have rehearsed it over and over.
"RIOTS" IS A MISNOMER
For over 14 years, reams have been written on the November, 1984 anti-Sikh violence. A section of the media has played a very important role in keeping the issue alive, which would, hopefully, play a key role in the victims’ families eventually getting justice. However, in a majority of the reports, the violence has been referred to as a "riot". My book is a small attempt in correcting that wrong. To refer to a state-sponsored massacre of Sikhs, as "riots" would be a serious mistake and a distortion of history.
Let us examine what a riot is. It is a two-sided show of violence with the elements of action and reaction although, not necessarily, equal and opposite.
However, nothing of the sort happened in November, 1984. Sikhs did not react to any killing. They did not attack anybody. They did not attack any property. They did not attack any religious place. They did not rape any woman. There was not a single non-Sikh in any relief camp. In all these years, not a single witness has come forward to even claim that Sikhs were seen or heard celebrating Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s killing, a rumour that cost thousands of Sikhs their lives, in a show of violence which has no precedent in the history of pre or post-partition India.
The import of the book is to underline that the November, 1984 anti-Sikh violence was government-sponsored genocide of Sikhs.
CONGRESS (I) : THE CHIEF CULPRIT
The Congress party, each of whose members cannot stop croaking about the party’s commitment to secularism, emerges as the chief culprit in this genocide. In fact, It would not be an exaggeration to say that the massacre took place on the orders of late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and his coterie. Each of the Congress party members is guilty. The hands of each one them are soaked in the blood of Sikhs, never mind the propaganda material about their secular nature that they dish out through a largely insensitive and unthinking media. In fact, this is not the only example of the Congress’s role in participating in communal violence although it is the most serious example. The party has been known to be involved in a majority of the communal riots anywhere in the country, especially, in states where it was the ruling party. It may be of some interest to the public to know that, till date, the party has not even expressed sorrow at the genocide of Sikhs much less apologise for it. The Congress is the only political party in the country which has not made a single statement or submitted any memorandum to any quarters for the cause of the victims. Nor has it participated in explanatory and, of course, shining pointers to the Congress party’s "secular" character.