Jawaharlal Nehru University Student Union (JNUSU) President Kanhaiya Kumar has compared 2002 Gujarat riots with 1984 anti-Sikh carnage, alleging that both the massacres were carried out “with the support” of state machinery. In my previous editorial on the topic, I mentioned how ‘2002 Gujarat riots’ were state sponsored. Here in second and concluding part today I will try to postmortem ‘1984 anti-Sikh massacre’ was state sponsored or not.
In 1973 Akali Dal and other Sikh groups introduced the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which demanded special status for Punjab and Sikhs. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, security in Punjab started deteriorating due to State level and religious politics, leading to the sacking of the Punjab government in 1983.
A section of Sikhs led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale turned to militancy in Punjab; some Sikh militant groups aimed to create an independent state called Khalistan through acts of violence directed at members of the Indian government, army or forces. Others demanded an autonomous state within India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. A large number of Sikhs condemned the actions of the militants.
By 1983, the situation in Punjab had become highly volatile. In October 1983, some Sikh militants stopped a bus and shot six Hindu bus passengers. On the same day, another group of extremists killed two officials on a train. The Congress (I)-led Central Government dismissed Punjab state government of their own party, and imposed President’s Rule in the state. During the five months preceding Operation Blue Star, from 1 January 1984 to 3 June 1984, 298 people had been killed in various violent incidents across Punjab. Increasing calls for action by various groups, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered an operation by the Indian army to flush out militants from the temple complex in early June 1984, to establish control over the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the complex buildings. Bhindranwale had earlier taken residence in Harmandir Sahib and made it his headquarters in April 1980. Bhindranwale was accused of amassing weapons in the gurudwara to start a major armed uprising. After the operation, the Army placed total casualties.
Unofficial casualty figures were much higher than the declared one, civilian casualties numbered 20,000. The operation caused widespread damage to structures in the temple complex with total destruction of the Akal Takht temple. It also led to protests by Sikhs all over India and the world. The calls for revenge for the desecration eventually led to the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi by two of her own bodyguards on 31 October 1984 and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots.
After the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi, anti-Sikh riots erupted on 1 November 1984, and continued in some areas for days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and perhaps 8,000 or more in 40 cities throughout India. 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. The mobs swarmed into Sikh neighbourhoods, arbitrarily killing any Sikh men or women they could find. Their shops and houses were ransacked and burned. In other incidents, armed mobs stopped buses and trains, in and around Delhi, pulling out Sikh passengers to be lynched or doused with kerosene and burnt alive. Others were dragged out from their homes and hacked to death with bladed weapons. Sikh women were reportedly gang-raped. We have seen the same brutality in Gujarat too, where the pregnant women were killed and many Muslim women were gangraped by the mob.
Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police or machinery help. Let it be 2002 of Gujarat or 1984 of Delhi and Punjab. Both had somewhat similar plot, but different issues. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full support to rioters who were in fact working under the 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”. However, it will be wrong to say that Delhi Police had not done anything, 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 afterwards.
India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) 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. CBI submitted a report to the Delhi court which stated that no evidence or witness was found to corroborate the allegations against Tytler of leading murderous mobs during 1984. It was also alleged in the court that then member of Indian Parliament Jagdish Tytler was complaining to his supporters about relatively “small” number of Sikhs killed in his parliamentary constituency Delhi Sadar, which in his opinion had undermined his position in the ruling Indian National Congress party of India.
On 18 December 2007, Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi court, Sanjeev Jain, who had earlier dismissed the case after CBI submitted a misleading report in his court, ordered India’s Central Bureau of Investigation to reopen cases relating to 1984 anti-Sikh riots against Jagdish Tytler.
Even in 2002 Gujarat riots, prosecution of the perpetrators of the violence hampered by witnesses being bribed or intimidated and the perpetrators’ names being deleted from the charge sheets. Local judges were also biased. With passing time, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and others were given clean chit and now Modi is Prime Minister of this country. However, whether its Congress or BJP whenever they wants to hit each other, these two incidences come up.
Instead of attacking Kanhaiya Kumar for comparing both the incidences, one has to see, no political leader is convicted in both the massacres and they are roaming guilt free.
With inputs from agencies
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