The Agony of the Sikhs after the 1984 Genocide

Joseph Maliakan

Thirty-eight years after the Sikh genocide in India in 1984 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her armed Sikh body guards the agony of the Sikh community around the world is continuing.

According to official figures in Delhi alone 2733 Sikhs were murdered in cold blood between 1 November and 4 November 1984.  Unofficial estimates say that more than 5000 Sikhs were murdered during the four days. During the period frenzied mobs spread terror indulging in mass murders, mass rape, arson ,looting , acid throwing and burning Sikhs with tyres around their necks.

Singer actor Diljit Dosanjh who plays a family man in the Netflex movie Jogi which is set during the massacre says that 84 Sikh massacre should be described as  genocide because it affected all of us. Directed by Ali Abbas Zafar the film explores the agony and sorrow of the Sikh community in Delhi during the genocide. They are still living with agony.

Contrary to claims made by the then ruling party leaders and even judges appointed to enquire into the massacre , eyewitess accounts prove that the killings, rapes, arson and lootings were planned and executed with military precision. Most of those killed were pulled out of their

homes, buses or trains , beaten up and burnt alive.

Many prominent Congress leaders of the time were involved in planning and executing the mass murders. Though commissions and committes which enquired into the conduct named many Congress leaders, very few have been prosecuted and convicted for the crimes they committed. Only one prominent Congress leader of the time,  Sajan Kumar was sentenced to life imprisonment for his role in the killing of the Sikhs. Even he was convicted only in 2018, more than 30 years after the massacre.

One of the most frieghtening feature of the massacre was the complicity of the police . The police participated in the massacre by engaging in the murders, inciting people to seek vengeance and provided murderous mobs with weapons , kerosee and petrol to burn the Sikh bodies.

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The survivors , even after 38 years are yet to get justice. No policeman has been prosecuted , no cases have been registered for the hundreds of rapes that took place and in the 2733 murders officially admitted cases have been concluded only in the cases of 10 FIRs.

Only 587 firs were filed with regard to the unprecedented violent incidents during four fateful days , out of these the police closed 241 cases without any investigation whatsoever, for lakh of evidence.


In this context , the finding of the Nanawati Commission which was the last one to enquire into the massacre is very pertinent. The commission said: The attacks were made in 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 even thereafter. Male members of the Sikh community were taken out of their houses . They were beaten first and then burnt alive in a systematic manner. In some cases tyres were put around their necks and then they were set on fire by pouring kerosene or petrol over them. In some cases white inflamable powder was thrown on them which immediately caught fire.

This was a common pattern which was followed by the big mobs which had played havoc in certain areas.The Sikh shops were identified , looted and then burnt. Thus what was initially started as an angry outburst became an organised carnage.

The commission further pointed out : But for the backing of and help of influential and resourceful persons , killings of Sikhs so swiftly and in so large numbers could not have happened. Mobilising mobs and supplying them with weapons and inflamable material also required an organised effort.

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However,so far neither the Congress party nor the governments led by it has owned any responsibility for the Sikh genocide. On the other hand , two weeks after the terrifying genocide and large scale looting and burning  of sikh properties in the capital on 19 November at a rally to observe Indira Gandhi’s birthday,  Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi said that when a big tree falls the earth shakes, justifying the carnage the magnitude of which the pilot turned Prime Minister failed to understand.

In 2005, Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh while intervening in a discussion in the Parliament, on the report of the Nanawati Commission , profusely apologized for killing of the Sikhs in the aftermath of the assassination  of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi . But he did not own the governments failure to protect the life and property at a time of grave crisis created by the assassination of the Prime Minister.

No cases were registered against any policeman for complicity or participation in the killings.The Kaapoor Mittal committee did investigate the role of the police in the 1984 genocide.The committee identified 72 officers who were negligent and recommended that 30 of them be dismissed. However, apart from setting up a few departmental enquiries the government took no action to punish the guilty police officers. This reporter  who reported the massacre from east Delhi , one of the worst affected areas was a witness in some of the enquiries, which were actually a sham because everyone was exonorated and some of them were even promoted and rewarded.

Commenting on the completely shody investigation by the police , Justice S.N.Dhingra in State v.Rana A Saroj , a trial that began 11 years after the genocide remarked : the police investigation in each of the riot cases filed in the courts has been wanting in quality. The manner in which the trial of the riot cases has proceeded is unthinkable in any civilised country.

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In  fact, the inordinate delay in the trial of the rioters had legitimised violence and criminals through the instrumentalities of the state to stifle the investigation , cannot be relied upon to dispense justice uniformly to the people. It amounts to total wiping out the law. Investigations by the police were absolutely casual, perfunctory and faulty , Justice Dingra added.

In fact the Mittal report had said : The police had quitey collected and disposed off the bodies of those whom the mobs were unable to complete burn. During the killings mre than 30 sih wen were kidnapped from Trilokpuri and held captive at the Chilla vilage for days. There was no investigation conducted in the matter and no compensation was paid to the women.

As for relief and rehabilitation of the survivors of the genocide the less said the better. More than 600 widows who had lost everything was dumped in Tilak Vihar to fend for themselves on a princely pension of  Rs.500 a month. The single mothers found it impossible to bring up their children properly and many have become drug addicts ad are ueducated and jobless. They are destined to suffer till the end their lives.

The totally communal mindset of the police in Delhi has not changed a bit is proved from the fact that the police aided and abetted the anti muslim violence in the North East Delhi in February 2020 in which 40 Muslims and 13 Hindus were killed.