Delhi Genocide

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards, riots erupted on 1 November 1984, and continued in some areas for days, killing some 800 Sikhs. Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected. Mobs belonging to Congress (I) carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material, including kerosene. The mobs swarmed into Sikh neighbourhoods, arbitrarily killing any Sikh men or women they could find. Their shops and houses were ransacked and burned. In other incidents, armed mobs stopped buses and trains, in and around Delhi, pulling out Sikh passengers to be lynched or doused with kerosene and burnt.

Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police help. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full help to rioters who were in fact Congress Workers or else mercenaries hired by the Indian National Congress who where working under able guidance of sycophant leaders like Jagdish Tytler and H K L Bhagat. It is a known fact that many jails, sub-jails and lock-ups were opened for three days and prisoners, for the most part hardened criminals, were provided fullest provisions, means and instruction to "teach the Sikhs a lesson". But it will be wrong to say that Delhi Police did nothing, for it took full and keen action against Sikhs who tried to defend themselves. The Sikhs who opened fire to save their lives and property had to spend months dragging heels in courts after-wards.

On 31 October, the crowd around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), began shouting for revenge with slogans like "Blood for blood" and turned into an unruly mob. At 5:20 PM, President Zail Singh arrived at the hospital and the mob outside stoned his car. The mob began assaulting Sikhs by stopping cars and buses to pull Sikhs out of them and burn their turbans. The violence on 31 October was restricted to the area around the AIIMS and did not result in any Sikh deaths. People in other parts of Delhi reported their neighbourhoods were peaceful.

Throughout the night of 31 October and morning of 1 November, Congress leaders met with local supporters to distribute money and weapons. Congress party MP Sajjan Kumar and Trade Union leader Lalit Maken handed out 100 rupee notes and bottles of liquor to assailants. On the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar was seen holding rallies in, at least, the following Delhi neighbourhoods; in Palam Colony from 6:30 AM to 7:00 AM, in Kiran Gardens from 8:00 AM to 8:30 AM, and in Sultanpuri from around 8:30 AM to 9:00 AM. In Kiran Gardens at 8:00 AM, Sajjan Kumar was seen distributing iron rods from a parked truck to a group of 120 people and instructing them to "attack Sikhs, kill them, and loot and burn their properties". At an undefined time in the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar led a mob of people along the Palam Railway main road to the Mangolpuri neighbourhood where the crowd answered his calls with chants of "Kill the Sardars" and "Indira Gandhi is our mother and these people have killed her". In Sultanpuri, Moti Singh, a Sikh who had served in the Congress party for 20 years heard Sajjan Kumar give the following speech:

Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them. Whoever kills Roshan Singh and Bagh Singh will get 5000 rupees each and 1000 rupees each for killing any other Sikhs. You can collect these prizes on November 3 from my personal assistant Jai Chand Jamadar.

In the neighbourhood of Sharkapur, Congress (I) leader Shyam Tyagi's home was used as a meeting place for an undefined number of people. H. K. L. Bhagat, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting distributed money to Boop Tyagi, Shyam Tyagi's brother, and ordered him to “Keep these two thousand rupees for liquor and do as I have told you.... You need not worry at all. I will look after everything". During the night of 31 October, Balwan Khokhar, a local Congress (I) party leader who was later implicated in the ensuing massacre, held a meeting at the Ration Shop of Pandit Harkesh in the Palam Colony. At 8:30 AM on 1 November, Shankar Lal Sharma, an active Congress party supporter, held a meeting at his shop where he formed a mob and had the people swear to kill Sikhs.

The chief weapon used by the mobs, kerosene was supplied by a group of Congress Party leaders who owned filling stations. In Sultanpuri, Brahmanand Gupta, the president of the A-4 block Congress Party distributed oil while Congress Party MP Sajjan Kumar "instructed the crowd to kill Sikhs, and to loot and burn their properties" as he had in other meetings throughout New Delhi. In much the same way, meetings were held in places like Cooperative Colony in Bokaro where P.K. Tripathi, president of the local Congress Party and owner of a gas station in Nara More, provided kerosene to mobs. Aseem Shrivastava, a Masters student at the Delhi School of Economics described the organised nature of the mobs in an affidavit submitted to the Misra Commission:

The attack on Sikhs and their property in our locality appeared to be an extremely organized affair...There were also some young men on motorcycles, who were instructing the mobs and supplying them with kerosene oil from time to time. On more than a few occasions we saw auto-rickshaw arriving with several tins of kerosene oil and other inflammable material such as jute-sacks.

A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs informed journalist Ivan Fera, that an arson investigation of several businesses burned in the pogroms had uncovered an unnamed combustible chemical "whose provision required large-scale coordination". Eyewitness reports confirmed the use of a combustible chemical besides kerosene. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee later identified 70 affidavits which cited the use of a highly flammable chemical in its written arguments before the Misra Commission.

Use of voter lists by the Congress Party

On 31 October, Congress party officials provided assailants with voter lists, school registration forms, and ration lists. The lists were used to find the location of Sikh homes and business, an otherwise impossible task because they were located in unmarked and diverse neighbourhoods. On the night of 31 October, the night before the massacres began, assailants used the lists to mark the houses of Sikhs with letter "S". In addition, because most of the mobs were illiterate, Congress Party officials provided help in reading the lists and leading the mobs to Sikh homes and businesses in the other neighbourhoods. By using the lists the mobs were able to pinpoint the locations of Sikhs they otherwise would have missed.

In some cases, the mobs returned to locations where they knew Sikhs were hiding after consulting their lists. One man, Amar Singh, escaped the initial attack on his house by having a Hindu neighbour drag him into his neighbour's house and declare him dead. However, a group of 18 assailants later came looking for his body, and when his neighbour replied that others had already taken away the body an assailant showed him a list and replied, "Look, Amar Singh’s name has not been struck off from the list so his dead body has not been taken away". Sikh men not in their homes were easily identified by their distinctive turban and beard while Sikh women were identified by their dress.

The Congress opponents such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) strongly condemned the riots. Sikh author Khushwant Singh, who has otherwise been critical of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), mentions that RSS and BJP helped and protected the Sikhs from the rioters, and the BJP leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help the Sikh taxi drivers.

Timeline of Events

First day (31 October)

9:20 am: Indira Gandhi is shot by two of her Sikh security guards at her residence, No. 1 Safdarjung Road, and rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
10:50 am: Indira Gandhi dies.
11:00 am: All India Radio listeners learn that the two security guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs.
4:00 pm: Rajiv Gandhi returns from West Bengal and reaches AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks in and around that area.
5:30 pm: The motorcade of President Zail Singh, who is returning from a foreign visit, is stoned as it approaches AIIMS.

Evening and Night

Organized and well equipped gangs of ruffians set-up by ruling Congress-I party workers set out in different directions from AIIMS. The violence, including violence towards Sikhs and destruction of Sikh properties, spreads. Rajiv Gandhi is sworn in as the Prime Minister. Senior advocate and opposition leader Ram Jethmalani, meets Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and urges him to take immediate steps to protect Sikhs from further attacks. Delhi's Lt. Governor, P.G. Gavai and Police Commissioner, S.C. Tandon, visits some of the affected areas.

Second day (1 November)

The first killing of a Sikh occurs in east Delhi. 9:00 am: Armed mobs take over the streets of Delhi and launch a massacre. Among the first targets are Gurdwaras, the holy temples of Sikhs, possibly to prevent Sikhs from collecting there and putting up a combined defence. The worst affected areas are low income colonies like Trilokpuri, Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony. The few areas where the local police stations take prompt measures against mobs see hardly any killings or major violence. Farsh Bazar and Karol Bagh are two such examples.

Third day (2 November)

Curfew is announced throughout Delhi, but is not enforced. The Army deployed throughout Delhi too but ineffective because the police did not co-operate with soldiers (who are not allowed to open fire without the consent of senior police officers and executive magistrates).
Mobs continue to rampage.

Fourth day (3 November)

Violence continues. By late evening, the national Army and local police units work together to subdue the violence. After law enforcement intervention, violence is comparatively mild and sporadic. In Delhi the dead bodies of the victims of the genocide were taken to All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi and Civil Hospital Mortuary Tis hazari, Delhi.