Role Of Congress (I)
Our surmise that during the period under survey the legitimate authorities were superseded and decision-making powers were assumed by a few individual Congress (I) leaders, is confirmed not only by the above mentioned incident, but also the experience of residents in the riot hit areas. We were told both by Hindus and Sikhs – many among the latter Congress (I) supporters – that certain Congress (I) leaders played a decisive role in organising the riots. Residents of Mangolpuri told us they saw Mr. Ishwar Singh, a Congress (I) Corporator among many others (their names are given in Annexure – 4) actively participating in the orgy of violence. All these people were described by the local residents as lieutanants of the Congress (I) MP from the area- Sajjan Kumar. Similarly in Anand Parbat, Congress (I) councillors like Bhairava, Mahendra and Mangat Ram, considered to be loyal followers of the Congress (I) MP Mr. Dharamdas Shastri, were named as the main culprits. In Prakash Nagar, Congress (I) people were found carrying voter’s lists to identify Sikh households. In the Gandhinagar area again, a local Congress (I) councillor Sukhanlal was identified by the victims as the main leader of the assailants. Escapees from the area who we met at the Shakarpur relief camp on November 6 blamed the Congress (I) MP from the area Mr. H.K.L. Bhagat for having masterminded the riots. On November 1, Satbir Singh (Jat) a Youth Congress (I) leader brought buses filled with people from Ber Sarai to the Sri Guru Harikishan Public School at Munirka and burnt the school building and buses and continued looting and assaults on Sikhs the whole night. Another group of Miscreants led by Jagdish Tokas, a Congress (I) corporator joined the above group on looting and assaults. In the Safdarjung – Kidwai Nagar area of South Delhi, eye witness accounts by those who stood in front of All India Medical Institute from where Mrs. Gandhi’s body was taken out in procession in the evening of October 31, confirmed the presence of the Congress (I) Councillor of the area, Arjan Dass at the time when attacks on Sikh pedestrains, bus drivers and conductors began (Annexure 2).
The allegations against these individuals repeatedly voiced by the residents of the respective localities which we visited, connot be dismissed as politically motivated propaganda, since many among the Sikhs who accused them of complicity in the riots, had been traditionally Congress (I) voters. Sufferers from Trilokpuri and Mangolpuri resettlement colonies whom we met looked dazed and uncomprehending when they said to us: “We were allotted these houses here by Indiraji. We have always voted for her party. Why were we attacked ?”
Additional indications of the involvement of the above mentioned Congress (I) leaders in the riots was provided later when we heard that the Congress (I) MPs from the respective areas were putting pressure on the local police station to release the culprits who had been rounded up on ¾ November. On November 5, Mr. Dharmadas Shastri went to the Karol Bagh police station to protest against police “misbehaviour” with those who were found in possession of looted property. (INDIAN EXPRESS, November 6, 1984). Mr. Shastri however dismissed the report as false. At about the same time H.K.L. Bhagat, another Congress (I) MP was reported to be trying to secure the release of several criminal who had been arrested by the Gandhinagar police station. Describing the dilemma before the police, a senior police official said to our team members: “Sher pinjre se nikal diya: phir kahte hain pakad ke le ao!” (First the tigers are let loose from their cages and then we are ordered to round them up). When asked who was releasing them, he gave a knowing smile.
The same official told us that when some Congress (I) leaders came to a police station seeking, the release of their followers, they were asked to accompany a police party in a raid on some houses for recovery of looted property. But these leaders refused when they were told that they would have to be witnesses.
We also heard of cases where even Sikhs close to the Congress (I) leaders were not spared. In Sajjan Kumar’s house at Paschimpuri on November 6, we were introduced to an elderly Sikh gentlemen who claimed to be an old Congressman whose shop was burnt by miscreants. He said that he knew who the culprits were. When our team members asked him why he did not file a complaint with the police, he said he would do it at the right time. Mr. Sajjan Kumar’s secretary drew us aside and dropped a hint that the RSS workers had been behind the arson. He however could not name any particular RSS leader or activist. Mr. Charanjit Singh, a Sikh Congress (I) MP from Delhi suffered a loss of Rs. 10 crores when his Pure Drinks factories were burnt down. Narrating his experience Mr. Singh said: “I telephoned the Lt. Governor and the Police several times, telling them that mobs were burning our factories. I was told that the force would be arriving but that never happened”. He added that he had been a “failure” to his constituents, since all assistance “was denied to him”. (STATESMAN November 10, 1984).
The administration appears to have been persuaded by the decision makers at the top to treat the alleged criminals with kid gloves. Inquiries at some of the police stations in the affected are as revealed that the police had announced that those in possession of looted property should submit them within a stipulated time period and would be let off if they did so. A senior Police Officer simply described this to us as a “Voluntary disclosure Scheme”. We feel that this is a strange way of dispensing justice. Restoration of the booty by the looters is no substitute for their punishment. In the absence of any convincing explanation on the part of the authorities for this extraordinarily queer way of dealing with criminals, we are left with the suspicion that there is a calculated design by some influential forces to protect them.
The Congress (I) High Command’s reluctance to probe into the allegations against their own councillors and other leaders further ends credence to the suspicious voiced above. Even Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi seems to dismiss the serious charges being levelled against his party men. On November 6, when Charan Singh who accompanied a team of Opposition leaders in a deputation to Mr. Gandhi, drew his ttention to the reports of Congress (I) men pressurising the police to get their followers released, which appeared in the INDIAN EXPRESS some days ago, Mr. Gandhi said that he had heard about it and then reported that the INDIAN EXPRESS is the opposition’s paper just as the National Herald is Congress I’s. The next day the AICC-I headquarters came out with a statement saying that the allegations were utterly malicious. On November 8 however, Mr. Gandhi asked his senior party colleagues to probe into every allegation of Congress-I worker’s involvement in the violent incidents. But till today no one knows what will be the nature of the “probe”.
In fact Mr. G.K. Moopanar, who is in charge of the organisation in the AICC(I) told newsmen on November 9 that the had not received any intimation for any such inquiry so far.
It is difficult to believe that Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, was unaware of the activities if important and well known members of his party for full five days (from October 31 to November 5). Mr. Gandhi had been the General Secretary of AICC(I) since 1982 and in charge of reorganising his party. He had been presiding over training camps for Congress (I) workers at various places. We wonder how after all these training programmes the cadres of Mrs. Gandhi’s party could go on such a murderous rampage.