Role Of The Administration
Men at the top in the administration and the ruling party displayed repeatedly a curious lack of concern often bordering on deliberate negligence of duty and responsibility throughout the period of October 31 to November 4. From our talks with various Opposition Party leaders and prominent citizens we found that many among them had got in touch with senior Ministers as well as people in the Delhi Administration on October 31 itself, warning of impending troubles following the announcement of Mrs. Gandhi’s assasination. The newly sworn in Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao was said to have assured the BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee on October 31 evening that “everything would be brought under control within a couple of hours” (The statement, November 10, 1984). Yet at the same time on the same day, Cautam Kaul, Additional Commissioner of Police in front of the All India Medical Institute, referring to the disturbances which were just breaking out, said: ” We cannot deal with the situation of this nature”. (INDIAN EXPRESS, November 1, 1984) Strangely enough, even after this, Mr. Kaul has been made Additional Commissioner, Security. Inspite of such warnings given well in advance, those in positions of authority did not seem to bother to take any firm step. (See Annexure 3).
Soon after the assassination (October 31), we heard from a reliable source, a meeting was held at 1 Safdarjung Road, the Prime Minister’s official residence where the then Lt. Governor P.G. Gaval, a Congress (I) leader M.L. Fotedar and the Police Commissioner among others, met. A senior police officer present at the meeting expressed the view that the army should be called as otherwise there would be a holocaust. No attention was paid to the view.
On November 1, when almost all of Delhi was aflame, an opposition MP rang up Mr. Shiv Shankar, a Minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s new cabinet, and the Home Minister, Narasimha Rao, to inform them about the situation in the city and the need for army action. The Ministers were reported to have assured him that the army was about to be called and curfew would be imposed. (Several citizens including some senior government officials went to the President of India on the afternoon of November 1, and they told that the Government was still considering whether to call out the army.)
But our experience on November 1 tells a different story. As already mentioned earlier, till late night there were no signs of either curfew or army, while miscreants were on the rampage in front of the police. In the hearts of the city – Connaught Circus – Sikh owned shops were being set on fire right under the nose of heavy para-military and police pickets. We later heard that the DC of Faridabad has asked for army on November 1, but troops arrived only on November 3.
On November 2, although the newspaper that day announced three official measures (I) clamping of an indefinate curfew; (ii) shoot at sight orders; and (iii) deployment of army since 2 p.m. the previous day. When we went around South Delhi in the afternoon of November 2, we found that the miscreants were not only at large, but had swelled in numbers and had become more defiant.
In the Lajpat Nagar market, while police pickets sat by idly, hundered of young men, armed with swords, trishuls and iron rods, blocked the main raod. Around 3 p.m. an army convey passed through the road. The miscreants did not scamper or panic. They merely made way for the convey to pass by temperarly retreating to the by lanes, and regrouped themselves as soon as the convey left and began intimidating a peace march that had arrived on the spot.
On the morning of November 3, 8.30 a.m. onwards two opposition M.P.’s repeatedly requested both Mr. Narsimha Rao and Shiv Shankar to provide army protection to trains carrying Sikh passangers arriving from punjab. No troops were sent, with the result that every train was left at the mercy of gangstars who dragged out Sikhs from the incoming train compartments lynched them, their bodies on the platforms or the railway tracks and many were set on fire. Newspaper report that 43 persons were killed. This was denied by Doordarshan in the evening. Visiting the Tughlakabad station around 3.30 p.m., the STATEMAN reporters saw “two bodies still smouldering on the platforms across the tracks”. (November 3, 1984). The troops had either arrived after the incident, or the incident took place in front of the troops who did not intervene.
While analysing the role of the administration, we cannot remain content to blame the Delhi administration and the bureaucrats only. The Lt. Governor Mr. Gaval, who was incharge of administration of Delhi during the period under review and who has been replaced now, could not have acted on his own – whether they were acts of commission or omission. Both the Delhi administration and the Union Cabinet Ministers, including the Home Minister, were well-informed of the sequence of events beginning from the evening of October 31, (as evident from the report of communications between the opposition leaders and the Cabinet Ministers are recorded earlier in this report). We are left wondering whether the Union Ministers direct and the Lt. Governor refuse to abide by their directives ? in some case, should not the Union Minstry punish the Lt. Governor ? But we were merely told on November 4 that Mr. Gaval had “Proceeded on leave” and that Mr. M.M.K. Wali had taken over.
What in rigues us further is the appointment of Mr. Wali as the Lt. Governor Mr. Wali was the Home Secretary before his new appiontment.
The record of what happened in Delhi from October 31 to November 3 (the eve of Mr. Wali’s appointment) is sufficient to prove the failure of the Home Ministry administrative machinery in supressing riots. We wonder why the former Home Secretary, Inspite of the proved failure of an administration of which he was a leading component, has been appointed the Lt. Governor As evident from our review of official relief poperations, (Chaper III), Mr. Wali’s administration seem to continue the same policy of callousness and inefficiency towards the refugees as was demonstrated in the recent past towards the Sikh victims during the riots in Delhi.