When Congress goons killed thousands of Sikhs

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31 Oct 2012

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At 9.30 am on October 31, 1984, Mrs Indira Gandhi, iron-willed and iron-fisted Prime Minister of India, famously described by her aunt Vijayalakshmi Pandit as “the only man in her Cabinet”, was assassinated at her 1, Safdarjung Road residence. The assassins, both Sikhs, were Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, two of the guards who were meant to protect her. Satwant Singh was arrested; Beant Singh was shot dead by the other guards.

Satwant Singh later told investigators that he and Beant Singh had assassinated Mrs Gandhi to avenge the desecration of Harmandir Saheb and destruction of the Akal Takht in ‘Operation Blue Star’, the Army action of June 5-7, 1984. Mrs Gandhi had ordered the military operation to flush out Khalistani terrorists, including Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who had made the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar into their headquarters.

‘Operation Blue Star’ was a military success but a political disaster. The objective of ‘flushing out’ the Khalistanis was achieved, but at a huge price. According to the White Paper published by the Government of India, 493 people, including terrorists (200 in the Akal Takht alone), were killed.

The ‘official’ toll was far less than what foreign agencies and newspapers reported: 1,000. BBC journalist Mark Tully, in his book Amritsar – Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, placed the death toll at 2,093. Eyewitnesses said at least 8,000 were killed. The ‘White Paper’ said 83 soldiers had died in the three-day-long action. This figure, too, remains disputed.

The backlash was hideous, and beyond what had been anticipated, alienating the Sikh masses at home and abroad (Khalistanis in Canada plotted and executed the bombing of Emperor Kanishka, Air India’s Montreal-London-Delhi Flight 182, killing all 329 people aboard the aircraft on June 23, 1985) and fuelling the Khalistani movement which was finally crushed in the early-1990s, thanks to the then Punjab Police chief KPS Gill. But the restoration of peace in Punjab is another story.

On January 6, 1989, Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh, who had been held guilty of conspiracy in the crime but pleaded his innocence till the end, were executed at Tihar Jail.

That, in brief, is the story of Mrs Gandhi’s assassination. But there’s a longer story to be told – that of what followed the deed.

Twenty-eight years is a long time. Public memory is notoriously short and it is unlikely those who have come of age in these 28 years would know of the terrible pogrom that left at least 4,733 Sikhs dead, most of them slaughtered in Delhi, retribution massacres carried out by Congress thugs led by Congress leaders, among them Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.

It would, therefore, be in order to recall the chain of events lest we be persuaded to believe that nothing of consequence happened by a remorseless Congress which is quick to point its blood-stained finger at others, without realising there are millions of fingers that point to it for the horrendous crime committed by its foot soldiers in the guise of ‘avenging’ their leader’s death.

So, here is the story of how thousands of innocent Sikhs were slaughtered; in Delhi alone, 2,733 Sikhs were burned alive, butchered or beaten to death. Women were raped while their terrified families and children pleaded for mercy, little or none of which was shown by the Congress goons. In one of the numerous such incidents, a woman was gang-raped in front of her 17-year-old son; before leaving, the marauders torched the boy.

For three days and four nights the killing and pillaging continued without the police, the civil administration and the Union Government, which was then in direct charge of Delhi, lifting a finger in admonishment. The Congress was in power and could have prevented the violence, but the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, his Home Minister, PV Narasimha Rao, indeed the entire Council of Ministers, twiddled their thumbs.

Even as street dogs gorged on charred corpses and wailing women, clutching children too frightened to cry, fled mobs armed with iron rods, staves and gallons of kerosene, AIR and Doordarshan kept on broadcasting blood-curdling slogans like “Khoon ka badla khoon se lengey” (We shall avenge blood with blood) raised by Congress workers grieving over their dear departed leader.

Mrs Gandhi was assassinated at 9.30 am, but her death was ‘officially’ confirmed at 6 pm, after due diligence had been exercised to ensure Rajiv Gandhi’s succession. By then, reports of stray incidents of violence against Sikhs, including the stoning of President Zail Singh’s car, had started trickling in at various police stations.

By the morning of November 1, hordes of men were on the rampage in south, east and west Delhi. They were armed with iron rods and carried old tyres and jerry cans filled with kerosene and petrol. Owners of petrol pumps and kerosene stores, beneficiaries of Congress largesse, provided petrol and kerosene free of cost. Some of the men went around on scooters and motorcycles, marking Sikh houses and business establishments with chalk for easy identification. They had been provided with electoral rolls to make their task easier.

By late afternoon that day, hundreds of taxis, trucks and shops owned by Sikhs had been set ablaze. By early evening, the murder, loot and rape began in right earnest. The worst butchery took place in Block 32 of Trilokpuri, a resettlement colony in east Delhi. The police either participated in the violence or merely watched from the sidelines.

Curfew was declared in south and central Delhi at 4 pm, and in east and west Delhi at 6 pm on November 1. But there was no attempt to enforce it. PV Narasimha Rao, the then Home Minister, remained unmoved by cries for help. In his affidavit to the Nanavati Commission of Inquiry, Lt Gen Jagjit Singh Aurora, decorated hero of the 1971 India-Pakistan war, said, “The Home Minister was grossly negligent in his approach, which clearly reflected his connivance with perpetrators of the heinous crimes being committed against the Sikhs.”

The first deployment of the Army took place around 6 pm on November 1 in south and central Delhi, which were comparatively unaffected, but in the absence of navigators, which should have been provided by the police and the civil authorities, the jawans found themselves lost in unfamiliar roads and avenues.

The Army was deployed in east and west Delhi in the afternoon of November 2, more than 24 hours after the killings began. But, here, too, the jawans were at a loss because there were no navigators to show them the way through byzantine lanes.

In any event, there was little the Army could have done: Magistrates were ‘not available’ to give permission to fire on the mobs. This mandatory requirement was kept pending till Mrs Gandhi’s funeral was over. By then 1,026 Sikhs had been killed in east Delhi. Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were among Congress ‘leaders’ who, witnesses said, incited and led mobs. Both deny the allegation, but the evidence is overwhelming.

A report on the pogrom, jointly prepared by the PUCL and PUDR and published under the title, Who Are the Guilty? names both of them along with others. The report quotes well-known journalist Sudip Mazumdar:

“The Police Commissioner, SC Tandon was briefing the Press (about 10 Indian reporters and five foreign journalists) in his office on November 6, at 5 pm. A reporter asked him to comment on the large number of complaints about local Congress MPs and lightweights trying to pressure the police to get their men released. The Police Commissioner totally denied the allegation… Just as he finished uttering these words, Jagdish Tytler, Congress MP from Sadar constituency, barged into the Police Commissioner’s office along with three other followers and on the top of his voice demanded, ‘What is this Mr Tandon? You still have not done what I asked you to do?’ The reporters were amused, the Police Commissioner embarrassed. Tytler kept on shouting and a reporter asked the Police Commissioner to ask that ‘shouting man’ to wait outside since a Press conference was on. Tytler shouted at the reporter, ‘This is more important.’ The reporter told the Police Commissioner that if Tytler wanted to sit in the office he would be welcome, but a lot of questions regarding his involvement would also be asked and he was welcome to hear them. Tytler was fuming…”

The slaughter was not limited to Delhi, though. Sikhs were killed in Gurgaon, Kanpur, Bokaro, Indore and many other towns and cities in States ruled by the Congress. In a replay of the mayhem in Delhi, 26 Sikh soldiers were pulled out of trains and killed.

After quenching their thirst for blood, the mobs retreated to savour their ‘revenge’. The flames died and the winter air blew away the stench of death. Rajiv Gandhi’s Government issued a statement placing the death toll at 425!

Rajiv Gandhi had no qualms about justifying the carnage. “Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji,” Rajiv Gandhi said on November 19, 1984, even as thousands of families grieved for their loved ones killed by Congress hoodlums, “We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed India had been shaken. But when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”

Some riots? Only natural? Shake a little?

(This is a revised version of an article that originally appeared in The Pioneer and rediff.com . The sequence of events has been reconstructed with the help of newspaper reports of those horrific days, reports of inquiry commissions, affidavits by victims, PUDR’s exhaustive report on the pogrom and oral history. All visuals have been sourced from various websites and were originally published in newspapers.)

Kanchan Gupta was Editorial Director of Niti Digital from 2012 to June 2014 and had previously worked at several newspapers, including The Telegraph, The Statesman and The Pioneer. During a break from journalism he served in the PMO as an aide to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and as Director of Maulana Azad Centre in Cairo.

(c) NiTi Digital. Reproduction and/or reposting of this content is strictly prohibited under copyright laws.

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  • http://twitter.com/prashanthkpp Prashanth K.P.

    **Nonviolence is the first article of my faith. It is also the last article of my creed** – M.K. Gandhi. Shame on India, Shame on Congress, Shame on the Gandhi family for endorsing the genocide!

  • M Patel

    This article missed several important key-points whose absence is strengthening pro-khalistani and/or anti-hindu forces:
    1) Both, Congress and Akali, should be hold responsible for hindu pogrom in 1980s punjab. Attacks, including bus/train passenger massacres, began before operation bluestar. Instead of upholding law, Home minister Buta Singh gave a clean chit to Bhindranwale in parliament.

    2) Brave role RSS/BJP workers and leaders played in savings hundreds of sikh lives ( This one needs to be repeated million times because nearly all pro-khalistani websites are anti-hindu, most sikh websites, i found, have an anti-hindu bias, and many International agencies, like USCIRF, are busy blaming Sangh Parivar for violence against Sikhs).

    3) Effort to delegitimize Khalistani ideology by highlighting how brutal the terror phase was.


    Q:Why Khalistani history might repeat itself?
    1) Legitimacy of an ideology:
    Bhindranwale’s portrait is placed in so many Gurudwaras, including Golden Temple, and adored by many sikhs (mostly in Canada) and endorsed by SGPC. An ideology, which hasn’t lost its legitimacy, would revive under right conditions (eg. Economic crisis, Akali’s losing election, SGPC factional politics etc).
    2) Playing politics with history:
    With the exception of KPS Gill, No one is trying to delegitimize Khalistani ideology. BJP is too busy blaming congress for propping up Bhindranwale and botched operation bluestar. This indirectly helps other culprit Akali Dal, whose loss of power in 1978 and slogan ‘Panth in Danger’, was equally responsible.
    3) No legal attempt to bring culprits to book:
    There are hundreds of Sajjan Singhs, who have played worse role than Sajjan Kumar in fomenting Khalistani terrorism, roaming freely in punjab. Should not those Sajjan Singhs be hold resposible for encouraging and justifying acts like Pulling out non-turbaned male passengers from trains/buses and Killing them in cold blood. Even self-confessed murderes like Ranjit Singh, who was found guilty of murder by court, was not only forgiven by President of India but also was elected as Jathedar of SGPC. Self appointed terrorist Jagjit Singh Chauhan who routinely claimed credit for many killing on BBC freely leaved in punjab until his death with no case and no arrest warrant against him.
    4) Media:
    Media kept readers ignorant about how violent the terror phase was. Moreover, Many, Pro-Khalistani and/or Anti-Congress forces, indirectly justify it as a reaction to insensitive operation bluestar; However, Many terror attacks, including 3 bus/train massacres, happened before operation bluestar killing hundreds.

    • The Courageous Kaur

      Only those communities who have witnessed mass massacres, extra judicial killings, excessive atrocities & injustice at d hands of others r able to fully interpret the meaning of second-class Nationality. VIOLENCE is not a rational choice made during life & death struggle but the expression of ppl’s moral outrage & frustration at not being taken seriously. Wt do u knw of Op. BlueStar? Only wt d govt told u – that Army had attacked Golden Temple Complex to free it from Bhindrawale & his armed men.U knw that he & his men were killed bt u dnt knw those 6,000 INNOCENT Sikh devotees who were killed by Indian Army in this highly misplanned & brutal operation.!! U knw dat Golden Temple was attacked, bt u dnt knw dat 38 other Gurudwaras all across Punjab were also attacked…!! U knw dat d Op. ended on 6th June , bt u may nt knw d ‘Sikh Reference Library’- a priceless treasure of literature & antiques of 500 yrs of Sikh history- was burnt by d Army later on 9th June..!! U may knw dat d Army found ammunition inside Akal Takht, bt u dnt knw dat there r witnesses who saw d Army bringing in weapons & placing dem inside the Takht to show dat d Sikhs inside were Heavily Armed…! Guru Granth Sahib says,”THE SIN OF KILLING A SINNER IS GREATER THAN ANY MORAL DEED. ” Both Indira & Rajiv played with thousands of Punjabi & Tamil lives to run their politics & both were made to pay for that. It’s not merely d death, bt d cause dat makes a martyr & their causes were NOT noble!! We are Sikhs. We value our ideals & dignity more than our lives. We, too, want peace, but do not bear undue oppression silently- as Gandhi wud want us to do. Guru Gobind Singh has taught us that, “WHEN ALL MODES OF REDRESSING A WRONG HAVE FAILED, THEN THE RAISING OF SWORD IS PIOUS AND JUST”. We raise our swords for welfare of mankind, not for r personal gains. Indira Gandhi, Lalit Maken & Arjun Das may be ur martyrs, bt not ours. Our martyrs r Satwant Singh, Sukha & Jinda – who tried to give us wt d Indian Courts of Law hv failed to give for 28yrs – JUSTICE. Congress CM Beant may b their hero, bt ours is Balwant Singh Rajoana – who saved 1000s of innocent Punjabis from d fake encounters of Beant & kps Gill. Why don’t I see common Indians from all faiths with us on streets when we, the Sikhs, demand justice for 84 genocide? Why d broad day killing of 10,000 innocent Indians has been made simply a ‘Sikh issue’ & not an ‘Indian issue’? And when we demand justice, we r labeled as ‘Separatists’..!! Learn 2 respect d diversities. Hindufication of everything doesn’t always work. Try 2 listen 2 d suffering ppl & not d oppressing Govt. No one is ‘born’ a terrorist- a terrorist is ‘made’, by circumstances, by govt, by Injustice..!! The Sikh militants, the Naxals, the ULFA , the Marxists, the Tamils, the Kashmiris – all want to live a peaceful life – but with DIGNITY & JUSTICE…!!!”

      • Impi

        Only those who live as a minority understand what second class nationality means! Oh ya. I do too. I am a Punjabi Hindu and the years of militancy were the first 15-18 years of my life. 1982-1984 is dark in my memory. Hindus were killed daily, separated from Sikhs from hijacked buses and shot dead. Most Sikhs acted nonchalant.

        It is only when the Government out its foot down and stormed the Golden Temple that the Sikhs started crying foul. Before that, Bhindranwala was so blase that he said no Hindu would enter the Golden Temple to fight.

        However, Unlike you, I cannot condone the massacre of innocents. Sikhs who were killed in Delhi riots had nothing to do with Indira Gandhi’s murder. I was hunted for half of my life, I know what it is like to be helpless when your own country and police and the system fails you.

        Jinda and Sukha are your Heros?? You should be asahmed of yourself. People like YOU and Sajjan Kumar and Sukha and Tytler and Jinda are a blot on India and their own religion as well.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002030822935 Bhardwaj Satish

    Was present at Sansad Marg, about few yards from Rakab Gunj where radical Sikh with the news of Indra Gandhi murder start celebration by distributing sweets, was it fare?
    After the murder of King Size leader public anger is not new, After the murder of Sikh Guru Gobind Singh ji, his follower Baba Banda Singh Bahadur along with his team killed thousands of innocent Children, women and man at Lahore, reference of which was made by noted historian Sir Adam Smith in Oxford History of India.
    Secondly it was public reaction anger against killing of Hindu in Punjab by radical Sikh funded by ISI. Indra regime was not the first to use state force to flush out enemy country funded militant from Golden Temple Sikh Maharaja Ranjit Singh used force against unarmed majbi singh rebellions resulted into killing 100s of them in the Golden Temple premises.
    I am not a man from Congress or BJP

    • Gurpreet

      Baba Banda Singh Bahadur went to Punjab before Guru Gobind Singh ji died. Second thing, Baba Banda Singh Bahadur hasn’t killed people in Lahore when he came to punjab. He killed Sultan of Sirhind because he has killed two younger children (5 years and 7 years) of Guru Gobins singh ji. No innocent children and all.
      One more thing, when sikhs killed lots of people after Blue Star, that was also wrong and they have been punished.
      Here the question is when somebody from Hindu community killed innocent sikhs like anything then atleast India Government should put guilty behind bars. But they are not doing bcoz those are Hindus and Congress men.

  • Just Sayin’

    Kanchanda, this article should not be allowed to go into limbo, otherwise the official CONgress history will prevail.

    But I do have one small problem with the first para; ‘Mrs Indira Gandhi, iron-willed and iron-fisted Prime Minister of India, famously described by her aunt Vijayalakshmi Pandit as “the only man in her Cabinet”…’. She was the worst PM India had ever had. Worse than Deve Gowda, worse than Nehru, worse than Gujral. And most folks know what damage these gents have caused this country. But the damage by Indira is more insidious, more long term and more crippling. Even Nehru’s perennial Kashmir problem hasn’t wounded India as severely as her deeds, too numerous to mention is a small posting here. Just because she surrounded herself with dwarfs doesn’t make her tall.

  • DexTex

    It is so chilling to even read about these systematic attack on Sikhs by the thugs of Congress. Congress party works in a very similar fashion to the Communist Party of the erstwhile USSR or North Korea or China. There is nothing democratic about them. Their “workers” and their “deer leader” !!! If there hadnt been Jai Prakash Narain and the new BJP, India would have been a one party system like China – minus the efficiency of China.

  • Balakrishnan

    Interesting that the Punjab story only begins with Operation Blue star….the Operation did not occur out of the blue….in the 80s Punjab was a horror story when Hindus would be dragged out of buses and killed without mercy…a list is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Victims_of_Terrorism_in_Indian_Punjab….the Delhi riot victims are still mourned but these Hindus are murdered and forgotten …their lives of no value….we seek justice where it suits us and these miserable dead have died in vain

  • Bharati

    This is rubbish! We know the Congress is a secular party – and it is certified so by its assorted allied political parties and Muslim and Christian leaders. The anti-Sikh pogrom is a Hindutva conspiracy, and your columnist should be prosecuted for defaming a Nehru-Gandhi.

    • Rathore

      It seems either you belong to congress or you have lot of black money made during last 65 yr of congress rule. If none is correct then its 100% sure you are one of the girls with no brain.

      • Bharati

        Please, Rathore, you clearly need to develop your own brain! You’ve never heard of sarcasm, of satire? And “Bharati” can be used by a “boy” too! You’ve never heard of, for example, Chinnaswami Subramanya Bharathi? Of Agehananda Bharati? They were “girls”??

        • Rocco

          you don’t even seems to be a human. so don’t justify yourself to be man or woman, because peoples supporting such a heinous crime, did by congress peoples, & giving a political color are really stupid & endanger national integrity always.

  • http://twitter.com/Gopendrakumarsa Gopendra kumar sarka

    Congress is having rapped with skin of Rhino’s, The are the shameless creature of modern India. Those who killed thousands of unarmed sikhs (including old. women, children) became hero latter and later on awarded ministerial post. But it is not clear why Late Indira Gandhiji was called back from Gopalpur, Orissa. Who was the main culprit who brought the sikh guards to be in the same shift even though the were earlier alloted with different shift. Of course these thing I listen from Radio, I have no authenticated proof on the subject. Any way I still ask me how the congress man killed their own neighour, burnt them alive underneath the culvert where some children took shelter for their life. Why the young brigade of todays congress is not talking of that shameful killings.

  • Pingback: 1984 riots: Where is the justice?

  • S.Suchindranath Aiyer

    It started as “Show me the person, and I shall show you the law”. It became, “Show me the person and I shall make or interpret the law”. The leitmotif of law less India.

  • Nuts

    you forgot to mention Amitabh bacchan was also encouraging the mobs by giving speeches .

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