1984 Massacre: Rajiv completely absolved

1984 Massacre: Rajiv completely absolved August 9, 2005


Justice G T Nanavati Commission has examined the killings of 2733 Sikhs (The official figure of Sikhs killed in 1984 riots is now accepted by Justice Nanavati also) in New Delhi between October 31 and November 7.

As many as 2557 fresh affidavits were filed before the commission.

Long before the Nanavati Commission inquiry, Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission had inquired into anti-Sikh riots.

Around 3752 affidavits were filed before Mishra Commission. These were also produced before the Nanavati Commission.

Besides this, another 5000 affidavits were filed of general nature asking for compensation.

In his 339 pages report, Justice Nanavati has given summary of evidences and it’s assessment in 184 pages.

While giving an overall view, the report says that the events leading to the assassination of former prime minister Indira Gandhi show that it was not an unconnected event.

He says, "There was progressive deterioration in Punjab since 1981. Violent activities of extremist elements in Punjab had increased. Many Hindus were killed by Sikh extremists."

Nanavati says that manoeuvrings by the political parties "had led to a smouldering resentment against the Sikh community. Probably there was a desire on the part of some persons to teach a lesson to Sikhs."

The assassination of Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards appears to have "triggered the massive onslaught on the lives and properties of Sikhs in New Delhi."

Justice Nanavati gives a debatable view in his observation behind the events that lead to riots.

He says since Gandhi was a popular leader and the prime minister it was therefore "not unusual" that on coming to know about her assassination by her Sikh guards "the people reacted angrily."

The report says that first sign of public resentment was seen at 2.30 pm when mobs started assaulting Sikhs. At about 5 pm the cars in entourage of President Zail Singh were stoned near AIIMS.

Justice Nanavati thinks that till All India Radio announced the death of Gandhi the attacks were not organised. Mobs till then were not having arms or inflammable materials.

Nanavati says that from the morning of November 1 "the nature and intensity of the attacks changed. After about 10am the slogans like "khoon ka badla khoon" were raised by the mobs. Rumors were circulated which had the effect of inciting people against the Sikhs and prompt them to take revenge. There is evidence to show that at some places mobs indulging in violent attacks had come in DTC buses or vehicles. They either came armed with weapons and inflammable materials like kerosene, petrol and some white powder or were supplied with such materials soon after they were taken to the localities where the Sikhs were to be attacked."

Justice Nanavati concludes "there is also evidence to show that on October 31 either meetings were held or the persons who could organise attacks were contacted and were given instructions to kill Sikhs and loot their houses and shops. The attacks were made in a systematic manner and without much fear of the police almost suggesting that they were assured that they would not be harmed while committing those acts and thereafter."

Male members of Sikh community were taken out, "were beaten first and then burnt alive in a systematic manner. In some cases tyres were put around their neck and then petrol was poured on them. In some cases white inflammable powder was thrown on them, which immediately caught fire. This was common pattern followed. The shops were identified and looted and then burnt."

Nanavati says "thus what had initially started as an angry outburst became an organised carnage."

Justice Nanavati differentiated between violence on October 31 and violence on November 1 and thereafter. He says that on October 31 it was spontaneous reaction and anger of the public. He says on November 1 "taking advantage of the anger of the public other forces had moved in to exploit the situation. Large number of affidavits states local Congress leaders and workers had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs."

At many places outsiders were seen while in slums of Sultanpuri and Yamunapuri local persons were also seen.

Justice Nanvati says that bringing people from outside and supplying them arms requires organised effort.

The report says "there is evidence to show that outsiders were shown the houses of Sikhs."

At many places Sikhs were persuaded to go back to their houses and there arms and other articles were taken away by police. After that attacks had started on them. This could not be termed as "spontaneous reaction of the angry public."

Nanavati says that "the systematic manner in which the Sikhs were thus killed indicate that the attacks on them were organised."

Anti-social elements and poor sections of the society also exploited the situation along with local political leaders. Absence of fear of police was also responsible for so many deaths.

The commission says it then went into the details to see who organised the crime.

It has been unable to fix responsibility against individuals in decisive manner.

It says that some of the affidavits generally state that the Congress leaders or workers were behind the riots.

Only Rajiv Gandhi’s role is debated in unambiguous terms.

The report says: "It was suggested that Shri Rajiv Gandhi had told one of his officials that Sikhs should be taught a lesson. The commission finds no substance in that allegation. The evidence in this behalf is very vague. It is also not believable that Shri Rajiv Gandhi would have stated so to an official assuming that some conversation took place between him and that official. It does not become clear that in respect of which subject the conversation had taken place and in which context Shri Rajiv Gandhi is stated to have said, "Yes we must teach them a lesson."

The commission, while giving a clean chit to Rajiv Gandhi, says that evidence suggests that he "showed much concern about what was happening in New Delhi."  

The commission notes that he issued an appeal for peace, on receiving complaints from public he had called police officers to set right the emergency number 100 and he had visited affected areas on night of November 1.

Justice Nanavati has given absolutely laudatory remarks to Congress top brass.

He says: "There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that Shri Rajiv Gandhi or any other high ranking Congress-I leader had suggested or organised attacks on Sikhs. Whatever acts were, were done by the local Congress-I leaders and workers and they appear to have done for their personal political reasons."

Nanavati has endorsed Justice Mishra’s findings on the role of police that it was negligent and had helped mobs in attacking Sikhs.

While defending the reasons behind its inability to recommend action against persons named by witnesses, the commission says this is due to the fact that separate FIRs were not registered and witnesses’ statements were not recorded as stated by them and investigation was not properly done.

Twenty-one years after the incident, the commission also recommended that government should consider giving compensation to victims’ family who has lost all their earnings and male members.

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