1984: Who are the Guilty?

Report of a joint inquiry into the causes and impact of the riots in Delhi from 31 October to 10 November 1984. Published jointly by Gobinda Mukhoty, President, PUDR, 213, Jor Bagh, New Delhi- 110003 AND Rajni Kothari, President, PUCL, 1, Court Road, Delhi – 110054. November 1984

Following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh Bodyguards on 31 October 1984, parts of Delhi, North India and other areas with Sikh populations became engulfed in an anti-Sikh pogrom. From 31 October to 3 November 1984 in the national capital, organised violence against the Sikh community was unleashed, unlike anything it had witnessed previously since the anti-Muslim carnage of September 1947. The ‘official’ claim later was that 2,800 Sikhs were killed in Delhi and 3,350 elsewhere in the country. However, independent sources suggest a much high figure. Among these, one of the first to come out was this fact-finding report by political scientist Rajni Kothari of the People’s Union For Civil Liberties and Gobinda Mukhoty of the People’s Union for Democratic Rights, which investigated the murders, looting and rioting that took place during those 10 days and published it later the same month. It starkly concluded that:

…the attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of “madness” and of popular “grief and anger” at Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination, as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration. Although there was indeed popular shock, grief and anger, the violence that followed was the handiwork of a determined group which was inspired by different sentiments altogether.

Further reading:

Manoj, Mitta & H S Phoolka. When a tree shook Delhi: the 1984 carnage and its aftermath. Lotus. 2007.

Mukhopadhyay, Nilanjan. Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984. Westland, 2015.

Pandey, Gyanendra. “Partition and Independence in Delhi: 1947-48.” Economic and Political Weekly (1997): 2261-2272.

Suri, Sanjay. 1984: The Anti-Sikh Riots and After. HarperCollins, 2015.

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