The resettlement colony of Sultanpuri has a mixed population of Hindus and Sikhs employed in various occupations. Many of the Hindus belong to the lower castes and are employed in various bodies as safai karamcharis. Among the Sikhs are Sikligars (who specialise in preparing metal gratings for building construction), charpoy weavers from Alwar, scooter rickshaw owners, TV mechanics, electricians, and shop keepers. Some also work as scooter rickshaw drivers, rickshaw pullers, vendors and labourers.
It is significant that the members of the two communities lived in perfect harmony prior to the riots. This was testified to by the Sikhs in the various relief camps. On no occasion in the past had there been any evidence of tensions between them.
The Sikh residents of the colony were taken by surprise when in the late hours of Thursday (November 1) the were suddenly attacked by violent mobs. According to eye witnesses the mob consisted of local people and of outsiders believed to be Jats of neighbouring villages (Mundka is one such village). The attacks were directed at the men folk and a large number of Sikh males were killed. Some of the survivors were able to identify these who played a leading role in the attack. The leaders include local politicians, the police and some local people.
In trying to identify and understand the assailants and arsonists it seems indubitable that sweeper urchins, beggars, mechanics, drivers, vegetable sellers, etc. from the local areas were involved. But it was not entirely on their own initiative. Most of the killers in sultanpuri were led by Pradhans, who were at the base of the political hierarchy. It was they who incited the mobs against the Sikhs and helped to identify Sikh houses and establishments. The Pradhans were in turn linked to the local Congress M. P. Some of the Pradhans who were repeatedly held responsible by the survivors for acts of incitement and for aiding and abetting the rioters were Mr. Chauhan, Mr. Bagri and Mr. Gupta, The M. P. who was most common held responsible for the attacks was Mr. Sajjan Kumar of the Congress (I).
Police connivance with the rioters in Sultanpuri is indicated by the fact that the SHO by the name of Mr. Bhatti reportedly not only killed a couple of Sikhs, but also helped the mob to disarm the Sikhs. The police involvement may be summed up in words of one survivor “Khud Mara Hai, Miley Huey the”, (they themselves killed : they were in complicity).
Almost every refugee we spoke to gave an identical version. Also involved in the Carnage in Sultanpuri were kerosene suppliers Brahmanand Gupta, Verenand, Master and Ved Prakash who provided the fuel for the Sikh funeral as also a Jat doctor Changa.
Others actively participating were the owner of the Hanuman ration shop, Gajanand, godown owner, Gulab Singh and an auto rickshaw driver Omi. All these criminals supervised the Carnage.
The attacks which began on the Sikh residents on Thursday night went on relentlessly till Friday afternoon (November 1-2). Among the directions heard being shouted to the mob were “kill men, rape women”. The mobs were equipped with lathis, iron rods and other weapons and carried kerosene with them.
Many Hindu neighbours had sheltered Sikh families and locked them up in different houses. Unfortunately this did not save them from the looting, arson, lynching, and killing that followed. Houses were being identified, set on fire, and Sikh males killed, women were seen acen carrying away loot from the houses of better off Sikhs : gold jewellery , TV sets and other things were carried off. A lot of property including means of livelihood such has handcarts and rickshaws were systematically destroyed.
The killings were brutal, One Sikh was pushed into a car, which was then set a blaze. Others were hit, thrown on the ground, doused with kerosene and set on fire.
A pregnant women was stabbed by the rioters and some women are reported to have been raped. A graphic account is available with certain members of our team who visited the relief camp at Shakurpur (Pant Bagh).
In a large hail of Shakurpur Camp housing the Sultanpuri victims of the carriage sit a row of women and children huddled together with shock and grief inscribed on every part of their beings. There is not a single boy of over ten years in the group and boys are rare. Each group consists of a women of the older generation, three or four young widows, a few adolescent girls and the rest are children, ranging from ten years to nursing infants. One such household consists of 18 people rendered absolutely destitute with not a single earning member left; all four adult males have been murdered. Two of the younger women have new born babies, one six day old (it was born day before the killings) and another 10 days old. They stared blankly into space holding the babies in their arms too dazed to speak or even mourn. But the older women who had lost her husband and three sons gave vent to her grief bitterly “ab to sabse accha yeh hoga ki aap ham sab ko jahar dila dain; ab ham ji nahin sakte ; kaise jiyenge, kis ke liye jiyenge ?” (It would be best to give us all poison, how will we live and for whom?).
She was voicing the sentiment of many of the women present, all of whom had watched their men folk being attacked and cut down, then doused with kerosene and set ablaze. Not one of these were willing to consider returning to their original homes after the brutal massacre they had lived through. How can they even think of it unless the guilty are identified and punished ?.
The blocks most badly affected wereA4 (65 killed, 15 missing), P1, 2 and 3 (31 killed and 5 missing) and C3 and C4. From an enumeration done in Camp II (housing about 2000-survivors mainly from Sultanpuri) the figures are 157 dead, 25 injured and 52 missing from this group alone. This means that on an average every second family suffered at least at least one family member dead. According to an expert it is curious that the number of injured is so few compared to the number of dead. In cases of looting and killing due to mob frenzy, the number injured is usually much higher. This implies that the attackers were not disorderly.
Matters did not end with the events of November 1 and 2. During the next two days, Saturday and Sunday (November 3 and 4) the SHO is reported to have got a barber brought to a hall where the Sikhs were herded together (prior to evacuation) and made to pay Rs. 21 each to get themselves shaved. They were threatened that they would get shot if they did not comply. It was reported that the barber made Rs. 500.
Around 5000 Sikhs were herded together till the army evacuated them three days later. Some 800 are still in Sultanpuri under Army protection. Attempts at adequate arrangements for their food were still being made by the army on Thursday, November 8, a whole week after the terror started.
The survivors at Camp II with a few exceptions do not want to go back. Reportedly only 100 from the 2000 in this camp went back. But 20 had returned by November 9th. Even within the camp they are feeling insecure.
The same sweepers who only a few days ago looted their houses and killed their husbands and sons have managed to sneak into the camps for the ostensible purpose of doing the sanitation work. These people are regularly keeping watch on them and spying on their movements.
The centre of the holocaust was the jhuggi and jhopri colony (JJ colony) at Mangolpuri in West Delhi where a large number of Sikhs are concentrated in certain blocks.
The disturbances started on November 1 evening after a police van had come to the G Block and announced that water had been poisoned. The other two rumours- that Sikhs were celebrating Mrs. Gandhi’s death by distributing sweets and that Hindu corpses had arrived in trains from Punjab were also soon making the rounds.
Apprehending trouble, several Sikhs from different blocks approached the police for help. One woman survivor whom we met later at the Shakurpur relief camp on November 5 told us that when she want to the police station for protection, the police said “We cannot do anything- you are now on your own”. Later, during the riots, the miscreants were seen using diesel from police vans to set fire to the houses of the Sikhs. One group of survivors from Block X told us that the police took them out from their houses on the plea of rescuing them and then turned them over to the mob waiting outside.
According to information gathered from the survivors, the assailants were from the nearby Jat villages and were accompanied by local Schedule Caste people- the same composition of the mob which we found in Trilokpuri. Hovering around the arsonists were local Congress (I) leaders and followers in jeeps and other vehicles. The survivors identified Mala Ram, a local Congress (I) leader, who came with about 300 people and personally supervised the arson, looting and murders. Ishwar Singh, Salim Querishi and Shaukeen (Congress (I) workers belonging to the Waqf Club). Rajinder Singh all well known Congress (I) activists were found going around instructing the mob, providing kerosene and providing out Sikh homes.
One single name which cropped up wherever we went interviewing the residents of Mangolpuri was that of Sajjan Kumar, the Congress (I) MP of the area. Almost in one voice, they alleged that Sajjan Kumar had masterminded the violence. Some people accused him of having paid Rs. 100 and a bottle of liquor to each person taking part in the may-hem. The extent of hatred towards him among the Sikh survivors of Mangolpuri was evident when Sajjan Kumar visited the Mangolpuri police station on November 4 where the survivors were waiting to be transported to a refugee camp. Members of our team were witness to a scene where the Sikhs abused him openly and held him responsible for the carnage. The Congress (I) MP tried to pacify them by pleading his innocence. “Why should my party kill you who are Congress (I) supporters?” he said, and laid the blame on the Lt. Governor who had been replaced the previous day by a new successor. A little later when the team visited the Punjabi Bagh camp where some among the Mangolpuri refugees had arrived, the team was told that the hungry refugees had refused to touch the foodstuff brought earlier by sajjan Kumar.
The violence indulged in by the mob was marked by the most brutal atrocities. Women survivors told us how their children were ripped apart, their husbands and sons made to cut off their hair, beaten up with iron rods and then burnt alive. Almost all the Sikh houses in the 26 blocks of Mangolpuri were attacked and destroyed and the main targets of murderous assault were the young male members of the households. Official attempts to underestimate the extent of killings by giving out the Delhi State Committee of the CPI (M) which from a house-to-house survey in a few blocks alone found at least 51 killed.
When we visited Mangolpuri on November 5 we were shown spots were the bodies were burnt and we were taken to a ‘nallah’ between Mangolpuri and Sultanpuri where we were told several hundred bodies were dumped.
It was only on the evening of November 3 that the army arrived at Mangolpuri. Narrating the event, one Sikh whom we met at the Shakurpur relief camp where he was staying with other refugees, told us that they were taken out by the mob, made to stand in a park and when they were about to be set on fire, the troops arrived and saved them.
Before the arrival of troops, the few sources of protection available to the sufferers of Mongolpuri were the Hindu and Muslim neighbours who at tremendous risk to their lives gave shelter to the Sikhs. They hid them in their homes and shops and resisted attempts by the mob to trace them out. A Muslim young man in Nangloi told us how his family saved a number of Sikh men, women and children and secretly transported them to the relief The experience of a Hindu, C. Lal of Mangolpuri is revealing. He passed through the days of the 1947 partition, when he crossed over from Sialkot to India. He relived the same days during the first week of November when his brother’s shop was looted and burnt, because he gave shelter to several Sikh families and formed a peace committee in his locality to protect the Sikhs.
The happenings in Trilokpuri, a trans-Jamuna resettlement colony in the east of Delhi, between October 31 and November 2 were a gruesome picture of the intensity of the butchery. Within just 48 hours, at least 400 Sikhs, mainly young men were burnt alive, with the connivance of the local police machinery and active participation of an organised group of miscreants led by a Congress (I) Councillor.
As in other areas, here also the carnage was preceded by the usual floating of the familiar rumour that Sikhs had distributed sweets to ‘celebrate’ Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination on October 31. The other version which we heard when we visited Trilokpuri three days later was that a Hindu mob had come to attack the Gurudwara on October 31, and the Sikhs resisted by waving their swords, when the mob attacked the ‘Gurudwara’ stones were hurled from the top of the temple, and the rampage began. In the course of our investigation however we could not find any single person who could claim that he had personally seen the Sikhs distributing sweets. Some people however corroborated the report about the Sikhs waving swords from the Gurudwara when the Hindu mob came to attack it.
From accounts related to us by the survivors, by the Hindu neighbours and by some reporters who visited the spot soon the incident on November 2, we could reconstruct the grisly sequence of events.
The beginning of the tragedy could be traced to the night of October 31 when reportedly the Congress (I) Councillor Ashok Kumar, a doctor who runs a clinic in Kalyanpuri, one kilometre from Trilokpuri, held a meeting at the latter place. The violence that broke out immediately following the meeting reached its climax the next morning, when Gujar farmers from the neighbouring village of Chilla landed at Trilokpuri, and accompanied by a group of local inhabitants (described by the residents as scheduled Caste people) raided Blocks 28, 32, 33 and 34 and systematically attacked the Sikh houses, dragged out the young men, killed and burnt them and set the houses on fire. In some cases, the assailants hit the victims with iron rods on their heads before pouring kerosene on them.
Between Blocks 32 and 31 there are large open spaces where over 50 Sikh families were living in jhuggies and jhopries. These hutments were burnt down and the menfolk were killed.
A Study of the list of those who were alleged to have taken part in the loot and killings reveals that a large number of them were notorious anti-social elements well known in the area. One of them, Somnath of House 90, Block 32, was responsible for the murder of several Sikhs including Hoshiyar Singh, son of Milap Singh and three other young men he locked up in a house and later killed them with the help of others.
(A detailed list of the alleged criminals and the nature of their crimes of Trilokpuri during the period under survey is given in Annexure 1).
Some of the participants were keepers who supplied kerosene to the arsonists. Some other among the neighbours of the victims were petty traders like milkmen, mechanics or dealers in cement. The majority of the victims were poor Sikhs-mechanics, artisans and daily wage labourers.
The role of the police was on the same lines as found elsewhere in Delhi during the period. The sanctioned strength of the police in the Kalyanpuri police station, under which Trilokpuri falls is 113, including one inspector (who is the Station House Officer) and around 2.30 p. m. on November 1 when the plunder and killings were taking place. The first the spot, allowing the criminals to escape whatever little detection there was possible. It was a continuous spree of arson, rape and murders after that, Later enquiries conducted by a senior police official revealed that at least four women, their ages ranging from 14 to 50 were gang raped. Later seven cases of rape from Trilokpuri were officially reported by the J. P. Narayan Hospital, Delhi.
During the height of the killings however, there was little effort on the part of the police either to stop the orgy or to check the figures of casualties. On November 2, at around 5.30 p. m. Nikhil Kumar, ACP of the police received information that ‘Block 32 mei mar kat ho rahi hai” (Murders are taking place in Block 32). The police control room curiously enough recorded that only three people entire rows of houses in several blocks of Trilokpuri were burning and their inmates killed.
A reporter of a Delhi based newspaper who reached Trilokpuri at about 2 p.m. on November 2 was greeted by a belligerent mob in Block 28 which threatened him and
stoned his car. When he went back to the Kalyanpuri police station ,the SHO Survir Singh told him that ‘total peace’ was reigning in the area. He however spotted a truck outside the station with four bodies inside, one of them still alive. When the reporter, out of despair, turned back to contact the police headquarters, on his ways he came across about 70 Sikh women and children walking along the told the road under Nizamuddin bridge. They told him that all their menfolk had been killed in Trilokpuri, and that they were fleeing for their lives. The reporters attempts to seek help from several army personnel on the road elicited little response, since most of the latter had been either lost touch with their respective headquarters, or had no specific orders.
Finally, reaching the police headquarters at ITO, he met the ACP, Nikhil Kumar, who told him that he could not do anything and could only pass his message to the control room. He described his rule as that of a ‘guest artist’.
The reporter revisited Trilokpuri in the evening of the same day and found the remains of the carnage-burnt house, dead bodies and the SHO with two constables walking around. The SHO told him that he did not have any knowledge of what had happened. When later in the evening the reporter visited the police headquarters, he was told by another ACP that according to the latter’s information there was ‘peace’ in Trilokpuri. The reporter pointed out that at least 300 people had been burnt and that the police were only counting dead bodies that were still recognizable ignoring those which had been reduced to cinders.
It was only around 7 p.m. on November 2 that senior police officials reached Trilokpuri. Personnel of the Central Reserve police force were deployed them, and the survivors were rescued from the affected blocks.
When members of our team reached Trilokpuri at about 7 a.m. on November 3 we found the survivors-old men, women and children, some of them with severe burns, huddling together in the open in the main road. Weeping women narrated to the how their menfolk were slaughtered and alleged that in some cases the police directed the attacks. Many among the survivors told us that Dr. Ashok Kumar the local Congress (I) Councillor had instigated the mob. The entire Sikh community in the area, they said, was left at the mercy of the mob for two full days till arrival of the CRP.
As soon as we entered Block 32, we were greeted by a strong stench of burnt bodies which were still rotting inside some of the houses. The entire lane was littered with burnt pieces of furniture, papers, scooters and piles if ash in the shape of human bodies the unmistakable signs of burnt human beings. Dogs were on the prowl. Rats were nibbling at the still recognizable remains of a few bodies.
As we watched the scene, we remembered what we had just read in the morning newspapers that day. Describing the situation in Delhi on the previous day-November 2, when the carnage was continuing at Trilokpuri the Lt. Governor Mr. Gavai had said that the situation in the capital was ‘under control’ . From what we witnessed at Trilokpuri, it was evident that the situation there on November 2 was indeed ‘under control’, but the ‘control’ was wielded by a powerful group on influential persons who could mobilise the local police to help them in the may-hem and immobilise the entire administration for more than 48 hours to enable them to carry out meticulously their plans of murder and destruction.
The first relief to be given to the Trilokpuri victims was not by the authorities but by a voluntary group of over two dozen who brought them food, medical care and concern. Even though a women had given birth to a child among the victims, the authorities had not even arranged for medical care for her or the other persons seriously injured more than a day earlier. Members of this voluntary team rescued Sikh families who were hiding in Hindu homes as late as 7.30 in the evening. These rescues were made in the presence of the District Commissioner who had to be cajoled into helping. The authorities assured the victims that they will be given all help and things like blankets though they had none on hand. In fact the authorities have been using the Farash Bazaar Camp (where Trilokpuri victims were sent ) to show their efficiency whereas a great deal of the work there has been done by voluntary agencies.