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The 1984 anti-Sikh riots, also known as the 1984 Sikh Massacre and the 1984 genocide of Sikhs, was a series of pogroms[3][4][5] against Sikhs in India by anti-Sikh mobs (notably Congress Party members) in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Official Indian government reports numbered about 2,800 killed across India, including 2,100 in Delhi.[5][6] Independent sources estimate the number of deaths at about 8,000,[2][7][8] including at least 3,000 in Delhi.[9] The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigative agency, believes that the violence was organised with support from the Delhi police and some central-government officials.[10] Rajiv Gandhi, who was sworn in as prime minister after his mother's death, said when asked about the riots: "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes".[11]

1984 anti-Sikh riots
Sikh man being surrounded and beaten
Sikh man surrounded and beaten by a mob
Location Punjab, Delhi
Date 31 October – 3 November 1984
Target Sikhs
Attack type
Massacre, mass murder, forced conversion, arson, abduction, rape
Deaths (official) 2,800[1]
(unofficial) 8,000[2]
Perpetrators Congress Party members
Motive Avenging the assassination of Indira Gandhi

Sporadic violence continued as the result of an armed Sikh separatist movement which sought independence. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents; it had been occupied by Sikh separatists, who were reportedly stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were conducted to clear the separatists from the state of Punjab.[12]

The violence in Delhi was triggered by the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards who responded to her authorisation of the military operation. The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos. In the aftermath of the riots, the government reported that 20,000 had fled the city; the People's Union for Civil Liberties reported "at least" 1,000 displaced persons.[13] The most-affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods of Delhi. Human rights organisations and newspapers across India believed that the massacre was organised.[5][10][14] The collusion of political officials in the violence and judicial failure to penalise the perpetrators alienated Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement.[15] The Akal Takht, Sikhism's governing body, considers the killings genocide.[16]

In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported that the Government of India had "yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings".[17] According to the 2011 WikiLeaks cable leaks, the United States was convinced of Indian National Congress complicity in the riots and called it "opportunism" and "hatred" by the Congress government of Sikhs.[18][19] Although the U.S. has not identified the riots as genocide, it acknowledged that "grave human rights violations" occurred.[20] In 2011, a new group of mass graves was discovered in Haryana and Human Rights Watch reported that "widespread anti-Sikh attacks in Haryana were part of broader revenge attacks" in India.[21]

Contents

BackgroundEdit

Akali Dal and other Sikh groups introduced the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, demanding special status for Punjab and the Sikhs, in 1973. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, security in Punjab deteriorated due to state and religious politics; this led to the sacking of the Punjab government in 1983.[22][23]

A group of Sikhs led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale turned to militancy in Punjab; some Sikh militant groups aimed to create an independent state, Khalistan, through acts of violence directed at members of the Indian government or the military. Others demanded an autonomous state in India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Many Sikhs condemned the militants' actions.[24]

By 1983, the situation in Punjab was volatile. In October, Sikh militants stopped a bus and shot six passengers. On the same day, another group killed two officials on a train.[25]:174 The Congress-led central government dismissed the Punjab state government (led by their party), invoking the president's rule. During the five months before Operation Blue Star, from 1 January to 3 June 1984, 298 people were killed in violent incidents across Punjab. In the five days preceding the operation, 48 people were killed by violence.[25]:175

Amid increasing calls for action, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered an Indian Army operation to flush out the militants from the temple complex,[26] establish control[27] of the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the complex in early June. Bhindranwale had taken up residence in Harmandir Sahib, making it his headquarters in April 1980, and was accused of amassing weapons in the gurudwara to foment a major uprising.[28] After the operation, the army reported total casualties of[29] 492 civilians dead and 136 military killed and 220 wounded. Unofficial casualty figures were much higher,[30] with suggested civilian casualties of 20,000.[31]

According to Mark Tully and Satish Jacob, tanks were deployed by the army in the Sultanwind area against Sikh civilians marching towards Amritsar.[32] Civilian casualties included Bhindranwale and his closest associate, former Major General Shabeg Singh. The operation caused widespread damage to structures in the temple complex; the Akal Takht temple was destroyed, and Sikhs across India and abroad protested. Calls for revenge led to Gandhi's assassination by two of her bodyguards on 31 October 1984 and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots.[33]

ViolenceEdit

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, anti-Sikh riots erupted the following day. They continued in some areas for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and an estimated 8,000 or more in 40 cities across India.[5] Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected. Mobs carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material (including kerosene and petrol). They entered Sikh neighbourhoods, killing Sikhs indiscriminately and destroying shops and houses. Armed mobs stopped buses and trains in and near Delhi, pulling off Sikh passengers for lynching; some were burnt alive. Others were dragged from their homes and hacked to death, and Sikh women were reportedly gang-raped.[34]

Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police help. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full help to rioters who were in fact working under able guidance of sycophant leaders like Jagdish Tytler and H K L Bhagat. It is a known fact that many jails, sub-jails and lock-ups were opened for three days and prisoners, for the most part hardened criminals, were provided fullest provisions, means and instruction to "teach the Sikhs a lesson". But it will be wrong to say that Delhi Police did nothing, for it took full and keen action against Sikhs who tried to defend themselves. The Sikhs who opened fire to save their lives and property had to spend months dragging heels in courts after-wards.

— Jagmohan Singh Khurmi, The Tribune[full citation needed]

The riots are identified as pogroms,[3][4][35] massacres[36][37] or genocide.[38]

Meetings and weapons distributionEdit

On 31 October, a crowd around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences began shouting vengeance slogans such as "Blood for blood!" and became an unruly mob. At 17:20, President Zail Singh arrived at the hospital and the mob stoned his car. It began assaulting Sikhs, stopping cars and buses to pull Sikhs out and burn them.[39] The violence on 31 October, restricted to the area around the AIIMS, resulted in many Sikh deaths.[39] Residents of other parts of Delhi reported that their neighbourhoods were peaceful.

During the night of 31 October and the morning of 1 November, Congress Party leaders met with local supporters to distribute money and weapons. Congress MP Sajjan Kumar and trade-union leader Lalit Maken handed out 100 notes and bottles of liquor to the assailants.[39] On the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar was observed holding rallies in the Delhi neighbourhoods of Palam Colony (from 06:30 to 07:00), Kiran Gardens (08:00 to 08:30), and Sultanpuri (about 08:30 to 09:00).[39] In Kiran Gardens at 8:00 am, Kumar was observed distributing iron rods from a parked truck to a group of 120 people and ordering them to "attack Sikhs, kill them, and loot and burn their properties".[39] During the morning he led a mob along the Palam railway road to Mangolpuri, where the crowd chanted: "Kill the Sardars" and "Indira Gandhi is our mother and these people have killed her".[40] In Sultanpuri, Moti Singh (a Sikh Congress Party member for 20 years) heard Kumar make the following speech:

Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them. Whoever kills Roshan Singh and Bagh Singh will get 5,000 rupees each and 1,000 rupees each for killing any other Sikhs. You can collect these prizes on November 3 from my personal assistant Jai Chand Jamadar.[note 1]

The Central Bureau of Investigation told the court that during the riot, Kumar said that "not a single Sikh should survive".[10][42] The bureau accused Delhi police of keeping its "eyes closed" during the riot, which was planned.[10]

In the Shakarpur neighbourhood, Congress Party leader Shyam Tyagi's home was used as a meeting place for an undetermined number of people.[41] Minister of Information and Broadcasting H. K. L. Bhagat gave money to Boop Tyagi (Tyagi's brother), saying: "Keep these two thousand rupees for liquor and do as I have told you ... You need not worry at all. I will look after everything."[41]

During the night of 31 October, Balwan Khokhar (a local Congress Party leader who was implicated in the massacre) held a meeting at Pandit Harkesh's ration shop in Palam.[41] Congress Party supporter Shankar Lal Sharma held a meeting, where he assembled a mob which swore to kill Sikhs, in his shop at 08:30 on 1 November.[41]

Kerosene, the primary mob weapon, was supplied by a group of Congress Party leaders who owned filling stations.[43] In Sultanpuri, Congress Party A-4 block president Brahmanand Gupta distributed oil while Sajjan Kumar "instructed the crowd to kill Sikhs, and to loot and burn their properties" (as he had done at other meetings throughout New Delhi).[43] Similar meetings were held at locations such as Cooperative Colony in Bokaro, where local Congress president and gas-station owner P. K. Tripathi distributed kerosene to mobs.[43] Aseem Shrivastava, a graduate student at the Delhi School of Economics, described the mobs' organised nature in an affidavit submitted to the Misra Commission:

The attack on Sikhs and their property in our locality appeared to be an extremely organized affair ... There were also some young men on motorcycles, who were instructing the mobs and supplying them with kerosene oil from time to time. On more than a few occasions we saw auto-rickshaw arriving with several tins of kerosene oil and other inflammable material, such as jute sacks.[44]

A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs told journalist Ivan Fera that an arson investigation of several businesses burned in the riots had found an unnamed combustible chemical "whose provision required large-scale coordination".[45] Eyewitness reports confirmed the use of a combustible chemical in addition to kerosene.[45] The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee later cited 70 affidavits noting the use of a highly-flammable chemical in its written reports to the Misra Commission.[43]

Congress Party voter-list useEdit

On 31 October, Congress Party officials provided assailants with voter lists, school registration forms, and ration lists.[46] The lists were used to find Sikh homes and business, an otherwise-impossible task because they were in unmarked, diverse neighbourhoods. During the night of 31 October, before the massacres began, assailants used the lists to mark Sikh houses with an "S".[46] Because most mob members were illiterate, Congress Party officials provided help reading the lists and leading the mobs to Sikh homes and businesses in other neighbourhoods.[43] With the lists, the mobs could pinpoint the location of Sikhs they otherwise would have missed.[43]

Sikh men not at home were easily identified by their turbans and beards, and Sikh women were identified by their dress. In some cases, the mobs returned to locations where they knew Sikhs were hiding because of the lists. Amar Singh escaped the initial attack on his house by having a Hindu neighbour drag him into the neighbour's house and announce that he was dead. A group of 18 assailants later came looking for his body; when his neighbour said that his body had been taken away, an assailant showed him a list and said: "Look, Amar Singh's name has not been struck off from the list, so his body has not been taken away."[43]

TimelineEdit

31 OctoberEdit

  • 09:20: Indira Gandhi is shot by two of her Sikh security guards at her residence, and is rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
  • 10:50: Gandhi dies.[47][48]
  • 11:00: All India Radio reports that the guards who shot Gandhi were Sikhs.
  • 16:00: Rajiv Gandhi returns from West Bengal to the AIIMS, where isolated attacks occur.
  • 17:30: The motorcade of President Zail Singh, returning from a foreign visit, is stoned as it approaches the AIIMS.

Evening and nightEdit

  • Organized, equipped gangs fan out from the AIIMS.
  • Violence towards Sikhs and destruction of Sikh property spreads.
  • Rajiv Gandhi is sworn in as Prime Minister.
  • Senior advocate and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani meets Home Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao and urges him to take immediate steps to protect Sikhs from further attacks.
  • Delhi lieutenant governor P. G. Gavai and police commissioner S. C. Tandon visit affected areas.

1 NovemberEdit

  • The first Sikh is killed in East Delhi.
  • 09:00: Armed mobs take over the streets in Delhi. Gurdwaras are among the first targets. The worst-affected areas are low-income neighbourhoods such as Trilokpuri, Shahdara, Geeta, Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony. Areas with prompt police intervention, such as Farsh Bazar and Karol Bagh, see few killings and little major violence.

2 NovemberEdit

A curfew is announced in Delhi, but is not enforced. Although the army is deployed throughout the city, the police did not co-operate with soldiers (who are forbidden to fire without the consent of senior police officers and executive magistrates).

3 NovemberEdit

By late evening, army and local police units work together to subdue the violence. After law-enforcement intervention, violence is comparatively mild and sporadic. In Delhi, the bodies of riot victims are brought to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and the Civil Hospital mortuary in Delhi.[49]

AftermathEdit

The Delhi High Court, delivering its verdict on a riot-related case in 2009, said:[50]

Though we boast of being the world's largest democracy and the Delhi being its national capital, the sheer mention of the incidents of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in general and the role played by Delhi Police and state machinery in particular makes our heads hang in shame in the eyes of the world polity.

The government allegedly destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. Asian Age, an Indian daily newspaper, ran a front-page story calling the government actions "the mother of all cover-ups."[51][52]

From 31 October 1984 to 10 November 1984 the People's Union for Democratic Rights and the People's Union for Civil Liberties conducted an inquiry into the riots, interviewing victims, police officers, neighbours of the victims, army personnel and political leaders. In their joint report, "Who Are The Guilty", the groups concluded:

The attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of "madness" and of popular "grief and anger" at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration.[13]

According to eyewitness accounts obtained by Time magazine, Delhi police looked on as "rioters murdered and raped, having gotten access to voter records that allowed them to mark Sikh homes with large Xs, and large mobs being bused in to large Sikh settlements".[53] Time reported that the riots led to only minor arrests, with no major politicians or police officers convicted. The magazine quoted Ensaaf,[54] an Indian human-rights organisation, as saying that the government attempted to destroy evidence of its involvement by refusing to record First Information Reports.[53]

A 1991 Human Rights Watch report on violence between Sikh separatists and the Government of India traced part of the problem to government response to the violence:

Despite numerous credible eye-witness accounts that identified many of those involved in the violence, including police and politicians, in the months following the killings, the government sought no prosecutions or indictments of any persons, including officials, accused in any case of murder, rape or arson.[55]

The violence was allegedly led (and often perpetrated) by Indian National Congress activists and sympathizers. The Congress-led government was widely criticised for doing little at the time and possibly conspiring in the riots, since voter lists were used to identify Sikh families.[14]

A few days after the massacre, many surviving Sikh youths in Delhi had joined or created Sikh militant groups. This led to more violence in the Punjab, including the assassination of several senior Congress Party members. The Khalistan Commando Force and Khalistan Liberation Force claimed responsibility for the retaliation, and an underground network was established.

On 31 July 1985, Harjinder Singh Jinda, Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Ranjit Singh Gill of the Khalistan Commando Force assassinated Congress Party leader and MP Lalit Maken in retaliation for the riots. The 31-page report, "Who Are The Guilty?", listed 227 people who led the mobs; Maken was third on the list.[56]

Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha assassinated Congress Party leader Arjan Dass because of his involvement in the riots. Dass' name appeared in affidavits submitted by Sikh victims to the Nanavati Commission, headed by retired Supreme Court of India judge G. T. Nanavati.[57]

ConvictionsEdit

In Delhi, 442 rioters were convicted. Forty-nine were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and another three to more than 10 years' imprisonment. Six Delhi police officers were sanctioned for negligence during the riots.[58] In April 2013, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal of three people who had challenged their life sentences.[59] That month, the Karkardooma district court in Delhi convicted five people – Balwan Khokkar (former councillor), Mahender Yadav (former MLA), Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – for inciting a mob against Sikhs in Delhi Cantonment. The court acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar, which led to protests.[60]

InvestigationsEdit

Ten commissions or committees have been formed to investigate the riots. The most recent, headed by Justice G. T. Nanavati, submitted its 185-page report to Home Minister Shivraj Patil on 9 February 2005; the report was tabled in Parliament on 8 August of that year. The commissions below are listed in chronological order. Many of the accused were acquitted or never formally charged.

Marwah CommissionEdit

The Marwah Commission was appointed in November 1984. Ved Marwah, Additional Commissioner of Police, was tasked with enquiring into the role of the police during the riots. Many of the accused Delhi Police officers were tried in the Delhi High Court. As Marwah was completing his inquiry in mid-1985, he was abruptly directed by the Home Ministry not to proceed further.[61] The Marwah Commission records were appropriated by the government, and most (except for Marwah's handwritten notes) were later given to the Misra Commission.

Misra CommissionEdit

The Misra Commission was appointed in May 1985; Justice Rangnath Misra was a judge on the Supreme Court of India. Misra submitted his report in August 1986, and the report was made public in February 1987. In his report, he said that it was not part of his terms of reference to identify any individual and recommended the formation of three committees.

The commission and its report was criticised as biased by the People's Union for Civil Liberties and Human Rights Watch. According to a Human Rights Watch report on the commission:

It recommended no criminal prosecution of any individual, and it cleared all high-level officials of directing the pogroms. In its findings, the commission did acknowledge that many of the victims testifying before it had received threats from local police. While the commission noted that there had been "widespread lapses" on the part of the police, it concluded that "the allegations before the commission about the conduct of the police are more of indifference and negligence during the riots than of any wrongful overt act."[55]

The People's Union for Civil Liberties criticised the Misra Commission for concealing information on the accused while disclosing the names and addresses of victims.[62]

Kapur Mittal CommitteeEdit

The Kapur Mittal Committee was appointed in February 1987 at the recommendation of the Misra Commission to enquire into the role of the police; the Marwah Commission had almost completed a police inquiry in 1985 when the government asked that committee not to continue. This committee consisted of Justice Dalip Kapur and Kusum Mittal, retired Secretary of Uttar Pradesh. It submitted its report in 1990, and 72 police officers were cited for conspiracy or gross negligence. Although the committee recommended the dismissal of 30 of the 72 officers, none have been punished.

Jain Banerjee CommitteeEdit

The Jain Banerjee Committee was recommended by the Misra Commission for the registration of cases. The committee consisted of former Delhi High Court judge M. L. Jain and retired Inspector General of Police A. K. Banerjee.

In its report, the Misra Commission stated that many cases (particularly those involving political leaders or police officers) had not been registered. Although the Jain Banerjee Committee recommended the registration of cases against Sajjan Kumar in August 1987, no case was registered.

In November 1987, press reports criticised the government for not registering cases despite the committee's recommendation. The following month, Brahmanand Gupta (accused with Sajjan Kumar) filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court and obtained a stay of proceedings against the committee which was not opposed by the government. The Citizen's Justice Committee filed an application to vacate the stay. The writ petition was decided in August 1989 and the high court abolished the committee. An appeal was filed by the Citizen's Justice Committee in the Supreme Court of India.

Potti Rosha CommitteeEdit

The Potti Rosha Committee was appointed in March 1990 by the V. P. Singh government as a successor to the Jain Banerjee Committee. In August 1990, the committee issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits submitted by victims of the violence; there was one against Sajjan Kumar. When a CBI team went to Kumar's home to file the charges, his supporters held and threatened them if they persisted in pursuing Kumar. When the committee's term expired in September 1990, Potti and Rosha decided to end their inquiry.

Jain Aggarwal CommitteeEdit

The Jain Aggarwal Committee was appointed in December 1990 as a successor to the Potti Rosha Committee. It consisted of Justice J. D. Jain and retired Uttar Pradesh director general of police D. K. Aggarwal. The committee recommended the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri and Jagdish Tytler.

It suggested establishing two or three special investigating teams in the Delhi Police under a deputy commissioner of police, supervised by an additional commissioner of police answerable to the CID, and a review of the work-load of the three special courts set up to deal with the riot cases. The appointment of special prosecutors to deal the cases was also discussed. The committee was wound up in August 1993, but the cases it recommended were not registered by the police.

Ahuja CommitteeEdit

The Ahuja Committee was the third committee recommended by the Misra Commission to determine the total number of deaths in Delhi. According to the committee, which submitted its report in August 1987, 2,733 Sikhs were killed in the city.

Dhillon CommitteeEdit

The Dhillon Committee, headed by Gurdial Singh Dhillon, was appointed in 1985 to recommend measures for the rehabilitation of victims. The committee submitted its report by the end of the year.[vague] One major recommendation was that businesses with insurance coverage whose claims were denied should receive compensation as directed by the government. Although the committee recommended ordering the (nationalised) insurance companies to pay the claims, the government did not accept its recommendation and the claims were not paid.

Narula CommitteeEdit

The Narula Committee was appointed in December 1993 by the Madan Lal Khurana-led BJP government in Delhi. One recommendation of the committee was to convince the central government to impose sanctions.

Khurana took up the matter with the central government, which in the middle of 1994, the Central Government decided that the matter did not fall within its purview and sent the case to the lieutenant governor of Delhi. It took two years for the P. V. Narasimha Rao government to decide that it did not fall within its purview.

The Narasimha Rao Government further delayed the case. The committee submitted its report in January 1994, recommending the registration of cases against H. K. L. Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar. Despite the central-government delay, the CBI filed the charge sheet in December 1994.

The Nanavati CommissionEdit

The Nanavati Commission was established in 2000 after some dissatisfaction was expressed with previous reports.[63] The Nanavati Commission was appointed by a unanimous resolution passed in the Rajya Sabha. This commission was headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India. The commission submitted its report in February 2004. The commission reported that recorded accounts from victims and witnesses "indicate that local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs".[63] Its report also found evidence against Jagdish Tytler "to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs".[63] It also recommended that Sajjan Kumar's involvement in the rioting required a closer look. The commission's report also cleared Rajiv Gandhi and other high ranking Congress (I) party members of any involvement in organising riots against Sikhs. It did find, however, that the Delhi Police fired about 392 rounds of bullets, arrested approximately 372 persons, and "remained passive and did not provide protection to the people" throughout the rioting.[63][64]

Role of Jagdish TytlerEdit

 
Tytler in 2010

The Central Bureau of Investigation closed all cases against Jagdish Tytler in November 2007 for his alleged criminal conspiracy to engineer riots against Sikhs in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination. The bureau submitted a report to the Delhi court that no evidence or witness was found to corroborate allegations that Tytler led murderous mobs during 1984.[65] It was alleged in court that Tytler – then an MP – complained to his supporters about the relatively-"small" number of Sikhs killed in his constituency (Delhi Sadar), which he thought had undermined his position in the Congress Party.[66]

In December 2007 a witness, Dushyant Singh (then living in California), appeared on several private television news channels in India saying that he was never contacted by the CBI. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded an explanation in Parliament from Minister of State for Personnel Suresh Pachouri, who was in charge of the CBI. Pachouri, who was present, refused to make a statement.[67] Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of the Delhi Court Sanjeev Jain, who had dismissed the case against Tytler after the CBI submitted a misleading report, ordered the CBI to reopen cases against Tytler related to the riots on 18 December 2007.[68]

In December 2008 a two-member CBI team went to New York to record statements from Jasbir Singh and Surinder Singh, two eyewitnesses. The witnesses said that they saw Tytler lead a mob during the riot, but did not want to return to India because they feared for their safety.[69] They blamed the CBI for not conducting a fair trial, accusing the bureau of protecting Tytler.

In March 2009, the CBI cleared Tytler amidst protests from Sikhs and the opposition parties.[70] On 7 April, Sikh Dainik Jagran reporter Jarnail Singh threw his shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram to protest the clearing of Tytler and Sajjan Kumar. Because of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Chidambaram did not press charges.[71]

Two days later, over 500 protesters from Sikh organisations throughout India gathered outside the court which was scheduled to hear the CBI's plea to close the case against Tytler. Later in the day, Tytler announced that he was withdrawing from the Lok Sabha elections to avoid embarrassing his party. This forced the Congress Party to cut the Tytler and Sajjan Kumar Lok Sabha tickets.[72]

On 10 April 2013, the Delhi court ordered the CBI to reopen the 1984 case against Tytler. The court ordered the bureau to investigate the killing of three people in the riot case, of which Tytler had been cleared.[73]

New York civil caseEdit

 
Kamal Nath in 2008

Sikhs for Justice, a U.S.-based NGO, filed a civil suit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on 14 March 2011 accusing the Indian government of complicity in the riots. The court issued a summons to the Congress Party and Kamal Nath, who was accused by the Nanavati commission of encouraging rioters.[74][75][76] The complaint against Nath was dismissed in March 2012 by Judge Robert W. Sweet, who ruled that the court lacked jurisdiction in the case.[77] The 22-page order granted Nath's motion to dismiss the claim, with Sweet noting that Sikhs for Justice failed to "serve the summons and its complaints to Nath in an appropriate and desired manner."[78] On 3 September 2013, a federal court in New York issued a summons to Sonia Gandhi for her alleged role in protecting participants in the riots.[79] A U.S. court dismissed the lawsuit against Gandhi on 11 July 2014.[80]

Cobrapost operationEdit

According to an April 2014 Cobrapost sting operation, the government muzzled the Delhi Police during the riots. Messages were broadcast directing the police not to act against rioters, and the fire brigade would not go to areas where cases of arson were reported.[81]

California State AssemblyEdit

On 16 April 2015, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 34 (ACR 34) was passed by the California State Assembly. Co-authored by Sacramento-area assembly members Jim Cooper, Kevin McCarty, Jim Gallagher and Ken Cooley, the resolution reads: "Government and law enforcement officials organized, participated in, and failed to intervene to prevent the killings." The assembly called the killings a "genocide", since they "resulted in the intentional destruction of many Sikh families, communities, homes, and businesses."[82][83]

Representing the official position of the citizens of California, the resolution remembers the victims of the genocide and those who fought it: "Many Sikh lives were saved from the massacre by compassionate Indians of all religious backgrounds who put their own lives at risk by providing shelter to their Sikh friends and neighbors." The assembly welcomed Sikhs from northern California, including representatives of Sikh temples in Stockton, Yuba City, Roseville, Sacramento and Fremont.[83][84] Assembly member Jim Cooper said, "Although we cannot change the horror of the events of 1984, as an assembly member representing families of genocide victims, I felt it was important that we tell the truth about those events and honor the thousands of victims. Sikhs around the world should know that, here in California, we will always stand against intolerance and will not forget the tragedy of 1984."[85]

The American Sikh Political Action Committee (PAC) wrote and sponsored the resolution to memorialise the atrocities committed by the Indian government and to honour the victims. The PAC has been increasingly active in California politics with fundraising, education and legislative campaigns. "This resolution is the first time that any nation or government has officially declared that the government of India was responsible for the slaughter of its own Sikh citizens across the country in November 1984", said attorney and American Sikh PAC board member Amar Shergill. "Indian officials and police officers led the way in the rape, torture and murder of thousands of Sikhs just a few miles from the prime minister's residence. Even today, Christians, Muslims, Dalits and Sikhs are at risk. The time has come for the Indian government to admit its culpability and make a commitment to protect all of India's minority communities."[84]

Ontario LegislatureEdit

In April 2017, the Ontario Legislature passed a motion condemning the anti-Sikh riots as "genocide".[86] The Indian government lobbied against the motion and condemned it upon its adoption.[87]

Impact and legacyEdit

It seemed easy for [former Prime Minister] Rajiv Gandhi to say, "When a giant tree falls, the earth below shakes." Our trees fell and we can still feel the tremors.
A victim whose husband was burnt alive during the riots[88]

On 12 August 2005, Manmohan Singh apologised in the Lok Sabha for the riots.[89][90] The riots are cited as a reason to support the creation of a Sikh homeland in India, often called Khalistan.[91][92]

Many Indians of different religions made significant efforts to hide and help Sikh families during the rioting.[93] The Sikh Jathedar declared the events following the death of Indira Gandhi a Sikh "genocide", replacing "anti-Sikh riots" widely used by the Indian government, the media and writers, on 15 July 2010.[94] The decision came soon after a similar motion was raised in the Canadian Parliament by a Sikh MP.[citation needed] Although several political parties and governments have promised compensation for the families of riot victims, compensation has not yet been paid.[95]

In popular cultureEdit

The Delhi riots have been the subject of several films and novels:

  • The 2005 English film Amu, by Shonali Bose and starring Konkona Sen Sharma and Brinda Karat, is based on Shonali Bose's novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a girl, orphaned during the riots, who reconciles with her adoption years later. Although it won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in English, it was censored in India but was released on DVD without the cuts.[96]
  • The 2004 Hindi film Kaya Taran (Chrysalis), directed by Shashi Kumar and starring Seema Biswas, is based on the Malayalam short story "When Big Tree Falls" by N.S. Madhavan. The film revolves around a Sikh woman and her young son, who took shelter in a Meerut nunnery during the riots.
  • The 2003 Bollywood film Hawayein, a project of Babbu Maan and Ammtoje Mann, is based on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, the 1984 riots and the subsequent victimisation of the Punjabi people.
  • Mamoni Raisom Goswami's Assamese novel, Tej Aru Dhulire Dhusarita Prishtha (Pages Stained with Blood), focuses on the riots.
  • Khushwant Singh and Kuldip Nayar's book, Tragedy of Punjab: Operation Bluestar & After, focuses on the events surrounding the riots.
  • Jarnail Singh's non-fiction book, I Accuse, describes incidents which occurred during the riots.
  • Uma Chakravarthi and Nandita Hakser's book, The Delhi Riots: Three Days in the Life of a Nation, has interviews with victims of the Delhi riots.
  • H. S. Phoolka and human-rights activist and journalist Manoj Mitta wrote the first account of the riots, When a Tree Shook Delhi.
  • The 2014 Punjabi film, Punjab 1984 with Diljit Dosanjh, is based on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination, the riots and the subsequent victimisation of the Punjabi people.
  • The 2016 Bollywood film, 31st October with Vir Das, is based on the riots.
  • The 2016 Punjabi film, Dharam Yudh Morcha, is based on the riots.
  • The 2017 book, India's Guilty Secret by Pav Singh, uncovers the hidden crimes of November 1984, the conspiracy behind the genocide and the indifference of the British government under PM Margaret Thatcher

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ On November 2, Moti Singh witnessed two policemen, one an SHO and another a constable, both of whom who had attended Sajjan Kumar's meeting the previous day, shoot and kill Roshan Singh (his son) and kill his grandchildren when they ran to help their father.[41]

ReferencesEdit

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Further readingEdit

External linksEdit