Neither the general public nor the survivors have good words to say about the behaviour of the police. Acts of devotion to duty were few and far between and they did not receive the support of colleagues. According to the replies to our questionnaire by the victims and their neighbours in 19 riot affected areas of Delhi, 86 percent of the neighbours said that the role of the police was very negative. A significant proportion (15 to 30 percent) among both the categories said that the police joined the looting and killing. 54 percent of the victims said that no response came from the police when they were contacted for help.
That the police had full knowledge of the carnage that swept Delhi from the morning of November 1, is documented in the form of FIRs lodged by the police themselves at various Police Stations in the capital.
In Mangolpuri Police Station the first FIR was claimed to have been registered on November, 1, 1984 at 1.30 p.m. under section 147/148/149/302/307/395/397/427/436 I.P.C. as No. 174 (Annexure I) but it was not sent to Metropolitan Magistrate immediately on the same day as required under law. Instead it was sent on November 7. This FIR lodged by Shri Rajinder Singh, SHO, Mangolpuri Police Station states that there was strong anger and resentment among the residents of Delhi because of the cruel murder of Smt. Indira Gandhi, Prime Minister of India on October 31 by two of her Sikh Security Guards. Therefore, on November 1, mobs were gathering at several places in Mangolpuri in defiance of the law, roaming about, looting the houses, Gurudwaras, shops and properties of Sikhs. The Mangolpuri Police Station had received reports of such violence from Block Nos. B, C, D, I, J, Q and Avantika Colony. The SHO also stated in the FIR that he would immediately require a gas squad, fire brigade and a photographer and that is why he was sending the report immediately to the concerned high official through special messenger (a motor cycle-rider).
The following questions are relevant in this connection:-
What kind of actions and measures did the concerned police officials take in order to control the extra-ordinary situation which they themselves noticed vide FIR No. 174 dated 1.11.1984?
Why was the police not able to mention the names of the victims and accused in the said FIR? Did the victims refuse to give such information? And if they did give, why were the criminals not immediately arrested?
What did they do to investigate the number of deaths and incidents of loot and arson?
Why did the police not send the copy of the said FIR No. 174 immediately to the concerned Metropolitan Magistrate on 1.11.1984 itself and why they sent the same to him on 7.11.1984, inspite of the fact that in the said FIR the police noted that the special report was being immediately sent to the concerned higher officials by special motorcycle rider?
To which higher officials was the special report send by the motorcycle rider messenger and what action did they take?
In the said FIR the SHO indicated the immediate need of a gas-squad, fire brigade and photographer. Did he get these? And if he got, how and at what places was the said gas squad was used? What kind of photographs did the police photographer take and at which places?
How is it that between 1.11.1984 to 11.11.1984, the Mongolpuri Police was able to register only three FIR’s i.e FIRs No. 174,175 and 176?
And of the concerned police officials did not perform their duties in the above matter as required under law, why was no action taken against them under section 217 and 221 of the Indian Panel Code? (Section 217 and 221 IPC provide punishment for public servants who intentionally disobey directions of the laws to save guilty persons and intentionally omit to arrest them.)
These questions are relevant for almost all the police stations where such riots occurred. The various facts mentioned in this report clearly show that the concerned police officials did not conduct themselves as police officials but functioned as criminals, and the government connived at their behaviour.
The FIR No. 176 (Annexure 2) at Mongolpuri Police Station is dated 11.11.1984 which was lodged by one Gurdip Singh, r/o Q-6/118, JJ Colony, Mongolpuri, Delhi. In this report Shri Gurdip Singh has pathetically narrated how his two brothers Shri Kulwant Singh and Shri Rattan Singh were dragged out from the house and burnt alive on 1st November, 1984. He has also narrated how Smt. Davinder Kaur, wife of Shri Kulwant Singh was raped by the miscreants. In his report has given the names and addresses of the miscreants and the witnesses.
When we tried to contact Shri Gurdip Singh we found that he had left Delhi for Punjab. We discovered that while Shri Gurdip Singh together with his family was in Narang Colony Camp near Janakpuri he made various repeated efforts to get the police to apprehend the said miscreants who were roaming freely in the locality. Instead of being apprehended, the miscreants were allowed to threaten and warn Shri Gurdip Singh and his family of dire consequences. Shri Gurdip Singh saw no alternative but to escape to Punjab with his family for safety. Now the fate of his complaint can be well gauged. This is an example of what is happening to similar complaints.
In fact, one of our members visited Narang Colony camp on 16.1.85 and several Sikh refugees showed him the copies of complaints sent by them to the police in which they had mentioned the names and addresses of the miscreants but still the said miscreants were roaming around freely as no action was being taken against them. Consequently these refugees were feeling apprehensive about their own safety. It appeared from their faces as if they were living in an alien land and not in their own country.
In Sultanpuri Police Station, FIR Nos. 250 (Annexure 3) and 251 were lodged by the police themselves . FIR No. 250 is claimed to have been registered on November 1, at 3.45 p.m. while FIR No. 251 is dated November 3. Both these FIRs were, however, sent to the concerned Metropolitan Magistrate on November 9. These FIRs are similar to FIR No. 174 dated November 1, 1984 of Mangolpuri Police Station and also speak of the intense anger and resentment of the people of India over the cruel murder of Smt. Indira Gandhi by two Sikh Security Guards and the consequent large-scale arson, looting and killings.
What is significant about the above FIRs lodged by the police themselves is that none of them mention any names of suspects or criminals as a FIR should. It is most likely that they were filed much after the incidents, so as to cover up the gross negligence of the police. This would explain why the FIRs reached the relevant Metropolitan Magistrates so late, in some cases after a week.
In Kalyanpuri Police Station, two FIRs Nos. 422 and 423 were lodged by the police on November 1, 1984. The first was lodged at 1.30 p.m. and received by the concerned Metropolitan Magistrate on November 3 at 5.30 p.m. The FIR No. 422 lodged by some constables who were on patrol duty at Pandav Nagar Bus Stop. According to them, two or three Sikhs were indulging in argument with one non-sikh at 1.30 p.m. on November 1 in front of Patparganj Road. The non-sikh was telling the Sikhs that they had killed “our” Prime Minister and therefore, the people would take revenge on them. At this the Sikhs are reported to have become angry and shouted loudly that they would finish everyone who would try to damage their Gurudwara. Soon there were heated arguments. A large number of Sikhs and Non – Sikhs began to assemble and then the two groups attacked each other. Inspite of the best efforts, reportedly of the duty constables, they could not control the angry mobs who started arson, burning and looting. The constables lodged the FIR seeking more help to control the crowd. FIR No. 423 also speak of general violence. It is significant that neither of these FIRs speak of any killing.
That the police was negligent in carrying out their duty and in giving due protection to the life and property of the Sikhs in clearly revealed by FIR No. 425 lodged at Kalyanpuri Police Station on November 2, 1984 by the Assistant Commissioner Police of the area. The ACP complained against the SHO of Kalyanpuri Police Station and two of his colleagues, the duty officer and the motor cycle rider, that these three policemen were witness to the spate of incidents of loot, arson and killings on November 1 and 2 in Blocks 32 and 34 of Trilokpuri. That the victims informed the police about the violence and sought protection from them. However, the SHO, so the complaint ran, failed to give any protection to the lives or property of Sikhs, did not inform any senior police officials about the incidents, did not register any case against the criminals who had indulged in arson and killings and also did not make any arrest. Hence the ACP lodged the FIR against the SHO under Sections 217/221 of the Indian Penal Code for not making arrangements for saving the property of the Sikhs in this area.
The above FIR is significant because it is not only a clever attempt to cover up the inhuman and brutal negligence on the part of the Delhi Police in general, but also it is a clear attempt to find some scapegoats in the lower-rung of the police hierarchy for the criminal negligent displayed by the top police officials as also the political leadership. On enquiry one of the suspended police officials informed that the lower officials had duly sent such reports of the incidents within time to higher officials, and they were merely scapegoats to cover up the negligence of their superiors.
The least damaging comment on the police can be that they were “silent spectators” when gruesome killing or burning of Gurudwaras or looting of houses and shops were taking place. In Sultanpuri, on the mokrning of November 2, when the mob set ablaze every house in Block C-4 and started beating and burning the male Sikhs, the police officers waited in the nearby lanes but did not come to their rescue.
But were they really mere “silent spectators”-just apathetic, neutral ? We shall quote a few instances of their active involvement in different areas of the capital – such as Sultanpuri, Jehangirpuri, Trans-Jamuna, Dayanand Colony (Lajpat Nagar), Trilokpuri, East Vinod Nagar and New Delhi.
SULTANPURI: The Sultanpuri SHO, accused of torturing Wilson, the balloon seller of F-7 jhuggis, who subsequently died, was no “silent spectator” when he rushed to C-3 Block to disarm the Sikhs and arrest them as they were resisting the attack of a huge mob which had already allegedly burnt the Granthi alive. A policeman is alleged to have shot down the Pradhan of Sikh community while two other constables are reported to have actively participated in the murder.
JEHANGIRPURI: In Jehangirpuri, on the morning of November 1 the police were heard by the victims, saying “Tumhare paas chhattis ghante hain. Jo karna hai, kar lo” (“You have 36 hours. Do whatever you wish to do”). Some victims and neighbours in ‘K’ Block, Jehangirpuri, testify to the active role of the police in burning down the ‘K’ Block Gurudwara.
TRANS-YAMUNA (from Nanaksar Report)
(1) The officer of the Yamunapuri/Yamuna Vihar Police Station went to C-Block, Yamuna Vihar around 4 or 4.20 p.m. on November 2, and told the mob that it had the rest of the evening and the night to kill the remaining Sikhs.
(2) The police officials of the Khajori Police Station who told the mobs early morning of November 3, that they had 3 days to kill the Sikhs, but not still completed the job.
(3) On November 1, four policemen on duty in Gamri told a large crowd at around 11 a.m. that they had 2 days to finish all the Sikhs or else the Sikhs would finish them.
(4) When the Army entered Vijay Park, Maujpuri, looting was going on. In the mob were three policemen from the Seelampur Police Station.
(5) On the morning of November 4, another police official of the Yamuna Vihar Police Station took a group of thugs to a house in Khajori Colony. He broke open the lock on the pretext of searching for weapons and then allowed these hoodlums to loot the house.
LAJPAT NAGAR: While 26 Sikhs were rushing to the Dayanand Colony Gurudwara on the morning of November 1, for protection against the 500 strong mob, chanting slogans, 4 policemen were instigating the mob when they burnt the Gurudwara. These policemen were heard saying, “Delhi is burning, and what are you doing?”
TRILOKPURI: The police came, peeped in the homes in Block 30 and left. “Whenever people complained about killings for protection” writes Vidya Kaur in her affidavit, “they asked us not to worry. Later the police directed the mob to where the Sikhs were hiding.” “Ous ghar mein Sardar Chipe hain, nikal bahar karo” (Sardars are hiding in that home, drag them out). The mob continued pelting stones and hurled abuses- “We will rape their women”. Some women addressed them as brothers and begged them to spare them. They said in front of the police, “we are not your brothers. We are your husbands. We will kidnap you tonight,” and so they did. The number of young women missing is very large; the police so far have not been able to trace them.
On the flyover joining Bhogal to Ashram – 20 policemen just sat on, looking, when six Sikhs were beaten to death.
IN EAST VINOD NAGAR ALSO When the anti-socials first began to assemble in the early morning of November 1, one of the residents who had hidden her neighbours and saved their lives, said, that suddenly some police men turned up; seeing them the mob was on the point of retreating when the police called them back and said “Why are you going back?” Encouraged, the whole lot of them returned and waited for the Congress (I) leaders to arrive by bus.
NEW DELHI: In the case of Sikh taxi driver killed in the house of DMKP leader, Ram Bilas Paswan, the Patriot (November 2) reported that after the crowd set fire to the house and the garage, “ a few minutes later a jeep packed with policemen came down the road and the ‘guardians of the law’, instead of controlling the situation, cheered and exhorted the men and sped away”.
Were the police always present either when things were happening and people were asking for protection? Did they not quietly disappear when to quote only one instance, the mob was surging forward to destroy the Trilokpuri Gurudwara in Block 36? In some of these settlement colonies, violence continued for over 48 hours, the attackers came back again and again to verify if the houses had been reduced to ashes, if the burnt man was actually dead. In Sultanpuri after the first attack on November 1, at 3 p.m. on the Gurudwara in A-4 and the killing and burning of the Granthi and of other male members, the mob came back again next morning, and those who survived were killed in a subsequent attack. Would such verifications and constant visits by hundreds of hoodlums have been possible if the police had been there? But sometimes their presence helped the criminals as it did in Sultanpuri where along with the criminals the police removed the bodies of the dead and every evidence of the crimes. The bodies were not handed over to the relatives- all their requests were refused. It is still not known how their bodies were disposed of. These actions were taken deliberately, in order to minimize the number of dead reported to the public.
On Thursday, November 1, Shri M.M.K. Wali, the then Home Secretary who is now Delhi’s Lt. Governor, said that the number of people dead in the country was 10 of which 5 were in Delhi (Times of India, 2nd November). On that day police sources put the figure at 35 killed in the East District of Delhi alone (Indian Express, 2nd November). On Thursday itself Shri Wali is reported to have expressed confidence that by Friday evening, November 2 the situation would be brought under control. He was of the view that passions roused get spent in two days. (Indian Express, 2nd November). On Sunday, November 4, Shri Wali said, “the situation is much better. I hope it will be totally controlled by the night.” On being pressed he gave the official figure as being 58 dead. That day the mortuary had taken on a grisly appearance with bodies piled high on four trucks after the space inside was filled (Statesman, 5th November). Shri Wali said on Monday, November 5, that the Press was giving exaggerated accounts of the death toll and incidents but on November 6, he announced the number of deaths to be 599 (Patriot, 7th November). On November 11, however, the Hindustan Times published a table giving the official number of those killed in Delhi as 325.
The exact figure of the dead will never be known – all that one can see is the disconsolate widows whose number is not less than 1300 and 4000 desolate orphans.
But perhaps the cooperative, rather protective and encouraging attitude of the police vis-à-vis the criminals has some logical explanation – such as unwritten orders from the political patrons to give green signals to the miscreants to go ahead and then give them support. “Whether there were political instructions not to implement curfew restrictions imposed on Friday, November 2, in earnest to allow the ‘darshan’ at Teen Murti or not is unclear”, commented the Statesman (3rd November), but the general consensus among public, everywhere – especially after the non-implementation of the curfew order and the shoot-at-sight order – was that ‘Sarkar kara rahi hain’ (‘the Government is behind this violence’) while the miscreants were openly bragging “ Police hamare saath hai” (“ The police is with us”). Even the ‘deployment’ of para-military forces of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) and the Border Security Force (BSF) announced by the Government on Wednesday evening were no where to be seen. “ I have called CRPF and BSF control rooms every 10 minutes”, said a duty officer at the Nizamuddin Police Station, “but each time I am told that there is nothing that can be done.” (Indian Express, November 2)
So everything was done leisurely – the killing, the arson, the looting ; liquor flowed like water, tea was served to the ‘vigilant’ police sitting on their stools, jokes were shared, there was a lot of laughter and glee, trucks came and went loaded with booty – dispatched unhurriedly to safe place – car loads of well dressed men stopped for a while to supervise if things were going according to plan. To a real ‘silent spectator’ walking helplessly it was like a slow motion shooting of a gory film.
It will be only fair to quote an important police officer (name not to be mentioned) that whenever instructions were sought for from the above, there was silence. There was one lone police officer in Pandav Nagar called Vinod Sharma whose name was mentioned with deep gratitude by the relatives of victims; and because he had behaved as a police officer is expected to, he was summarily removed. The fact that 20 percent of Delhi Police- who happened to be Sikh – was removed and locked up during the entire period of the violence, was a clear indication to the police of Delhi how to deal with the Sikhs. The excuse for this action was that the Sikh police-men were not safe, hence it is for their safety they had been put away. This brings to the mind the ‘police protection that had been ordered for Jaiprakash Narian; wherever he went – even when he was in his own house – the police had to be there ‘ to protect him from the ‘ hostile people’.
There is no disputing that fact that the administration has collapsed during that period : the emergency telephones calling the police and the fire brigade never replied ; the looting went unchecked; the power connection had been cut off in Tirlokpuri so that the women could be raped in darkness, no DESU man could be contacted to set the line right; there was none from Delhi Municipal Corporation’s Water Supply office to reply to anxious questions if the water had really been poisoned; shops and markets remained close for 4 days; in several localities no milk was available, nor bread; even as it is Delhi has been a very unsafe especially for woman but these days with hundreds of bad characters roaming around with no policemen in sight there was a feeling of instability and grave insecurity even if he was a Hindu belonging to the majority community. It was total chaos.
One shudders to think what would have happened if some wicked power had chosen those days to attack Delhi-the capital of India.
The Police Commissioner having all the powers under the statute to pass orders for shooting down miscreants, stood helplessly by like any civilian and saw the big Gurudwara in Sadar Bazar burning. Distressed, when he rushed to consult Lt. Governor of Delhi, this high official could not summon necessary courage to impose curfew and waited till Rajiv Gandhi gave his clearance. According to the Statesman, a proposal to impose curfew in the city was made shortly before noon; until 6 p.m., Thursday, November 1, no decision was taken because no decision could be taken unless cleared by Mr. Rajiv Gandhi (The Statesman, November 3).
The people have been realizing with a sudden shock the rot that had set in during the last 10 years and the depth of damage in the system of our administration. When the one person alone holds the reins of control and all power is concentrated in one hand and nothing is expected to move without orders coming from that one source of power, it is only natural that the vast and expensive machinery of the Government should get rusted, and there would be a total degeneration in the system of governance which has become an abnormal monolith.
It did not require a seasoned administrator to realize that day that priority demanded the presence of the largest possible contingent of police force in those localities where there was anarchy and not in front of the Teen Murti House in such numbers. It is also worth noting (Patriot, November 1) that “one Army brigade consisting of 8000 men and another 1000 personnel from the Navy and Air force were to line the route of the funeral.” So there was no shortage of either army or police personnel. But only a three-men police force arrived in the secluded colony of Tirlokpuri around 6 p.m. on November 2, despite repeated information of the carnage to the authorities. It could do little to dispel the palpable menace in the air. (Indian Express, November 3).
It was not the police constables alone, all the high officials from the Commissioner of Police to the ACPs were concentrated in the Teen Murti House.
At Thursday’s wireless log, Police Commissioner Mr. Subhash Tandon’s day was spent at the following places- Teen Murti Bhavan, Police Headquarters, Raj Bhawan and back to Police Hqrs. (The Statesman, November 3). While the Additional Police Commissioner, Mr. Gautam Kaul, was at Teen Murti till about noon – born out by the log book as well as Doordarshan Cameras. In the afternoon he visited Gurudwara Rakabganj and the house of a colleague attacked by a mob in Mahadev Road. In the evening he attended meetings. (The Statesman, November 3).
That going around the troubled city – particularly visiting again and again the far flung Resettlement Colonies – was an integral part of the Police work which was totally forgotten. The capital was virtually handed over to the goondas, the mafias and the criminals – it was their raj for full 4 days.