Cobrapost investigation of police complicity in 1984 anti-Sikh riots #Chapter84

Chapter 84 - Delhi's anti-Sikh riots in 1984

Cobrapost Investigates Complicity of Delhi Police in Anti-Sikh Riots in Delhi

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984, resulted in more than 3,000 deaths in the national capital. In a new sting operation titled “Chapter 84”, Cobrapost exposes the open secret of police collusion to “stay in on the good side” of the Congress and the methods they used to cover up. The sting shows police officers candidly admitting to their failure as a force. Some of them confess that the top brass of the police force colluded with the government of the day to teach Sikhs “a lesson”.

The police officers covered in the sting are Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, then Station House Officer (SHO) Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO Delhi Cantonment; S. N. Bhaskar, SHO Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO Srinivaspuri; and Jaipal Singh, SHO Mehrauli.

S.C. Tandon, then chief of police, parried all questions and Gautam Kaul, then Additional Commissioner of Police, rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting. Amrik Singh Bhullar, then the SHO of Patel Nagar – who the Cobrapost reporter also met – had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them of instigating and even leading the frenzied mobs.

Cobrapost Special Correspondent Asit Dixit met these official, retired with a clear name and enjoying perks and benefits that government servants are entitled to. In their interviews with Dixit, disclosures made clearly establish the following:

  • The police force had succumbed to anti-Sikh sentiments, thus abetting rioting and arson, even encouraging rioters
  • Warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs went unheard by senior officers
  • While news of arson and rioting bombarded the police control rooms, only two per cent of the messages were recorded
  • Police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers
  • Some officers did not act for fear of punishment being transferred
  • Some police officers dumped bodies of victims somewhere else to minimize riot-related crimes
  • The police did not allow the victims of rioting file FIRs or when they filed FIRs, they clubbed many cases of murder and arson that took in disparate places in one FIR
  • Messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’
  • The government of the day did not allow the police to act while creating an impression that the police were not performing their duty
  • Senior police officers did not allow their subordinates to open fire on rioters
  • Even the Fire Brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson had been reported by police.

While former Commissioner of Police S. C. Tandon evaded questions posed to him by the Cobrapost Special Correspondent, other officers in the sting independently described S. C. Tandon’s role in not providing leadership to the force in addressing the crisis. At least three officers castigated the then police chief without mincing words.

Tyagi criticizes Tandon for acting under the influence of the government of the day:

Toh jaane anjane mein wo government ke influence mein rahe hain ki unhone mismangage kiya shuru mein aur do din jab asal mein baat jab haath se nikal gayi (So, knowingly or unknowingly, he was under the influence of the government. He mismanaged in the beginning and in the first two days the situation went out of control).

Yadav accuses Tandon of not providing leadership to the force, while Bhaskar says that instead of singling out some station house officers, the police chief’s head should have rolled.

The Ranganath Mishra Commission as well as the Kapur–Kusum Mittal Committee abundantly establish that S. C. Tandon at the very least grossly underestimated the gravity of the situation in remaining complacent that promulgation of section 144 would be adequate in maintaining control. The When the Cobrapost reporter met Tandon, the former police chief excused himself saying any comment by him may create a controversy in poll season.

The breakdown of the law and order machinery was complete with messages for reinforcement being ignored by senior officials.

“Main toh apne level se ye keh sakta hoon ki jab maine chaar baje message bheje aapse force mang raha hoon toh aapne mujhe kyon nahi di (I can tell you at my level that when I had messaged them asking for force, then why did not they send it to me?).” ~ S N Bhaskar, then SHO of Krishna Nagar

Then there were senior officers like Hukam Chand Jatav who did not act even when the press informed him about the murder and mayhem all around Delhi.

Hukam Chand Jatav ye yahan ke hi the Karol Bagh ke hi IPS the toh uss time the DIG ab wo Control Room mein baithe huye the aur reporter wahan unko pooch rahe hain aur wo keh rahe hain everything is all right unhone kaha wahan toh bande mar gaye hain aapki itni duniya lut gayi hai ja ke dekho toh sahi nahi nahi main yahan Control Room mein hoon and he knew everything lekin wahan se move hi nahi kiya (Hukam Chand Jatav. Karol Bagh fell under him. He was an IPS and was a DIG at that time. He was sitting in the control room and calling him up press reporters told him of murders and arson taking place all around, asking him to go out there to intervene. He said, ‘everything is all right … no, no, I am here in the Control Room’ … and he knew everything but did not make any move).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

To make matters worse, officers like then Deputy Commissioner of Police Chandra Prakash did not allow his subordinates to open fire on the rampaging mobs.

“Na unhone [DCP Chandra Prakash] mujhe ye keh diya ki matlab likh ke bhi diya hai ye bhi keh diya yaar wo toh goli chalne se toh Indira Gandhi wala kaand itna bada ban pada hai tum kyon naya kaand khada karte ho (No, he [DCP Chandra Prakash] told me, and gave me in writing, that Indira Gandhi’s murder is big enough an event. Now should you make an even bigger event by opening fire).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Rohtas Singh alleges that Chandra Prakash had messages that would indict him changed.

“Agar wo record ho gayi hoti toh main kaafi kuch sabit kar sakta tha not even two per cent were recorded control room mein jo log book thi (If those message had been recorded, I could have proved many things but not even two per cent were recorded in the log book of the Control Room).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

“Toh wireless log book ke ki bata raha hoon … usmein kuch aise message the jo usko le baithte … jahan jahan usko suit nahi kar rahi thi wo saba change kara diya (I am telling about wireless log book … there were some such messages in it which could have been damaging for him … he had the logbook changed at places which did not suit him).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

The reason the police personnel behaved in a biased manner was the communal fluke that had infected the rank and file of Delhi Police.

“Ismein mujhe koi sankoch nahi hai kehne mein humare policemen bhi yahin local men the wo bhi communal-minded ho gaye the (I have no hesitation saying that our policemen who were drawn from the local men too had become communal minded).” ~ Rohtas Singh, then SHO of Delhi Cantonment

Covering up the anti-Sikh riots

After several bouts of murder and mayhem, when the rioting died down upon the intervention of Army after three days, began a cover-up operation by Delhi Police. First, they did not register cases and when they did, they clubbed disparate cases in one FIR.

“Logon ne case register nahi kiye dabane ki koshish ki tere ilake mein hua ke itne lambe chaure riots hue unko koshish ki kum se kum karne ki apni naukri bachane ke liye aur utha ke body wahan fenk di Sultan Puri (The police did not register cases, instead they tried to suppress the cases. They knew there were huge riots in their areas, so they tried to minimize, even picked up corpses and dumped them in Sultan Puri, to save their jobs).” ~ Amreek Singh Bhullar, then SHO of Patel Nagar

While the police have been indicted by several separate inquiries, there has been no real action taken against those whose complacency led to humanitarian disaster, or who actively prevented action against criminals, so this investigation by Cobrapost, in my view is quite relevant and well timed given that people are making choices with regard to who will rule them.
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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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