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1984 Sikh Massacres: Mother of All Cover-ups


The Asian Age, New Delhi, Aug. 9, 2005

Photo: 1984 Sikh massacres

The Nanavati Commission report, which has failed to fix responsibility for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence, has involuntarily disclosed what can be described as one of the most elaborate cover-up exercises undertaken by successive Central governments for the past 20 years.

Nine inquiries later, the Sikhs demanding justice are no closer to fixing responsibility on specific leaders and officers, many of whom have been exonerated in criminal cases because of 'lack of evidence.'

The Nanavati Commission itself received 2,557 affidavits naming Congress leaders for inciting and leading mobs in Delhi during those days. It recorded interviews with 89 persons, including journalists, Army officers, police officers and eminent persons who had either witnessed the violence, or tried to knock at the government's door for action at the time. Much of this evidence is included in the report, but even so Justice Nanavati took the view that the violence was not systematically organised by the Congress party, that just a few of the Congress leaders named were involved, and that it was actually the police that had failed to do its duty.

The earlier commissions of inquiry had also preferred to hold the police and the administration responsible for the deaths of 2,733 Sikhs (unofficially 4,000) and had remained reluctant to pin the blame on the politicians.

But even here the commissions remained unsuccessful in bringing erring police personnel to book. Committees under a retired secretary, Kusum Latta Mittal, and another under Justice J.D. Jain and Mr. D.K. Agrawal, had identified 72 and 90 police officials respectively for action. No action was taken against 42 officials because they were either dead or retired. The ministry of home affairs exonerated five of the eight cases of police officers it dealt with as charges against them could not be substantiated. Of the other three officers, one was 'punished' with a 30 per cent cut in his pension for five years, which is long since over, another was not served with a final order, and the third got a stay from the Central Administrative Tribunal.

The Delhi government processed the cases of the remaining 97 officers. Again, no action was taken against 29 officers as they were either dead or retired. No action was initiated against nine others as they were already facing inquiries. Finally, only about 22 criminal cases were registered against the remaining 72 police officers. Till date most of these cases are gathering dust with the noting 'filed untraced' against their names. Others have been acquitted, four are still pending trial and only one, Amir Khan, A.S.I., has been convicted. Of the total of 587 F.I.R.s filed in Delhi during the time, 11 were quashed, three had the proceedings withdrawn, 241 were filed as untraced, 253 were acquitted, and 11 were discharged. Only 25 of the total were convicted, one is still pending investigation, and 42 are pending trial.

The Nanavati Commission, while dedicating several pages to police inaction, has taken the view that 'as appropriate actions were initiated against them, the Commission thought it fit not to recommend any further action against them.' It further claimed that it was difficult to make recommendations against many of those named by the witnesses simply because the statements were poorly recorded, or F.I.R.s improperly registered. However, the Nanavati Commission has given a clean chit to the Congress party, maintaining there was 'absolutely no evidence' to suggest the involvement of senior Congress leaders, and 'whatever acts were done were done by local Congress (I) leaders and workers, and they appear to have done so for purely personal reasons.'

On many of these leaders, against whom it has found 'credible evidence,' the Nanavati Commission has surprisingly taken the view that 'as they have been acquitted in the criminal cases filed against them, the Commission does not recommend any further action against them.' Mr. H.K.L. Bhagat also falls in this particular category because of 'his physical and mental condition.' In fact, the only leaders that the commission speaks out against are Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar, Dharam Dass Shastri (who is dead) and one Balwan Khokhar, against whom it has found credible evidence of involvement. The commission is of the view that these leaders were 'probably involved.'

Here the government has come to their rescue with the Action Taken Report making it very apparent that the home ministry has found no reason to take action against these leaders. And the case, as far as the government is concerned, is closed.