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1984 Eye Witness Accounts Part 2

Few eyewitness accounts of what happened during the 1984 Sikh Genocide. Nothing can be done to undo what these and many more people faced. The people behind don't even feel guilty of what they did.

Case 6

A survivor from Mangolpuri, who had been operating his own scooter-rickshaw in shifts jointly with his brother, had been brought to a relief camp on 3 November by the army or CRP, he was not sure which. He related that there was increasing tension on 31 October after the news of the attack became known. He went to his neighbor for shelter and was given protection but told to cut his hair, which he refused to do. The following morning when a crowd came around, his neighbors asked him to leave their house. Sikhs emerging on the street were seized and their hair and beards were forcibly cut. The mob, who, he said, was from the same locality, thereafter indulged in violence and looted individual homes. However, the damage done was mainly to the woodwork. Some movable property was stolen.

Very early on the following morning, at about 4 am, the crowd returned, dragged the men out of their homes and beat them up. The neighbors pleaded for their lives and they were thus saved but only for the time being. In the evening the neighbors were also threatened with violence and that silenced them. Then five persons of his family--his brother, brother-in-law, uncle and two cousins--were belaboured with sticks and rods and burnt alive. Attempts to rape some of the women were, however, thwarted. The witness himself managed to escape by obtaining refuge in the house of a Harijan woman. On 3 November he was removed along with other survivors to a refugee camp. He named seven persons amongst the perpetrators of the crimes, one of whom was a local Congress-I worker identified as a supporter of a former MP.

Case 7

The Commission gathered the following facts at the Sadar Bazar gurdwara (Delhi Cantonment).

Having heard of the news of the assassination, one witness feared trouble and brought his family to the gurdwara. He found that some other families had already collected there. Leaving the women and children downstairs, the men went up to the roof from where they saw a crowd collecting at the local Congress-I office about 200 yards away. They had come by truck at 8.30 on morning of 1 November.

This mob then advanced towards the gurdwara and started stoning the people they saw on the roof. The Sikhs had also collected some bricks which they threw at the crowd. When their supply was exhausted, the mob became emboldened and set fire to a shop which the gurdwara had rented out. The group of Sikhs, about twelve in number, collected all the swords available with them in the gurdwara and came out. The mob retreated in the face of this puny show of force. The police, who had been informed, came at about 3.30 pm. By that time, the fire had been put out. The police surprisingly expressed their inability to do anything further to help them. Consequently the Sikhs went back inside and locked the iron gates of the gurdwara. On 2 November, the army brought refugees from other colonies in the area surrounding Palam until there were 2,000 refugees in the gurdwara. They were housed, clothed and fed entirely by voluntary effort. The gurdwara itself fortunately escaped damage.

Case 8

This victim's family consisted of his father, four brothers, mother, two sisters-in-law, his wife and children. The family owned a bakery, a confectionery, a kirana shop and a small chemical industry.

On 1 November at about 11 am, a mob of some four hundred attacked the shop and the factory. The father and the four brothers came out and pleaded with them. Some local Congress-I workers arranged a compromise and asked them all to go back. Eight persons from the mob, who were looting inside the shops, also came out and went away. Fifteen minutes later a bigger mob of about two thousand came and burnt the shops and the factory. One of the local Congress-l workers had a fair price shop in his name which, because of the complaints of the residents, had been canceled and allotted to this family. That seemed to be the bone of contention. The victim's house had the symbol 'Om' on the front and could not be identified as Sikh house unless it had been pointed out as such by a local person.

The victim's father, three brothers and sister-in-law were beaten and set on fire. Some liquid chemical and a powder were used as incendiary material. The victim himself escaped by hiding in the neighboring house of a Jat friend. He cut his hair and went to Palam airport from where he returned to the gurdwara on the 4th. There was no help from the police. There was no electricity in the locality (Sadh Nagar) for 72 hours. Army rescue work started on 3 November. The victim, who is a young man, is left with his widowed mother, widowed sister-in-law, brother's children and his own family to look after. He is not prepared to go back to his original home, which he considers unsafe, but is ready to settle down in Delhi in a safe area and to reestablish his bakery. He has already applied for a bank loan. The mob leader has been identified as a local Congress-l worker, who is said to be the right hand man of a former MP.

Case 9

What follows is a summary of an eye-witness account sent to the Commission by a practicing Chartered Accountant (a non-Sikh) living in New Friends' Colony. His account begins:

"Delhi had been considered by us to be a civilized city. The news of rioting coming from different parts of the country from time to time had always carried an aura of remoteness--something which could not happen in Delhi. Or so it seemed up to 30 October recently."

He continues to relate that after the announcement of Smt. Gandhi's death over the AIR, they began receiving telephone calls from friends informing them of incidents in various parts of the city--from lorbagh, from Ring Road, from Safdarjung Enclave” of Sikhs being badly beaten up and otherwise harassed. In view of the trouble, he and a friend decided to go to the airport later that night to receive a Sikh friend arriving in Delhi. On their way back they saw a car burning near the IIT on outer Ring Road. Then they saw a bus on fire. A little further on, they saw five taxis ablaze at a taxi stand. It was about midnight by now and, after dropping their friend at Panchsheel Enclave, they encountered several more burning vehicles and shards of glass from broken wind-screens littering the road. They saw only two policemen on the way home. Both of them were unarmed. One of them was hurling stones at the Sikhs along with the crowd. The other was urging people in the crowd to join in the attacks.

The crowd was armed with lathis, crow-bars and iron rods. They did not see any firearms, either with the crowd or with the beleaguered Sikhs. In New Friends' Colony, they saw several Sikh-owned shops which had been set on fire. Intervening shops belonging to Hindus had not been touched. Two trucks parked nearby were set on fire. The crowd then invaded the gurdwara opposite the shops. They ransacked the rooms in the gurdwara compound and set fire to the buildings. Efforts to contact the police on the telephone were anfractuous. He saw no signs of a police presence, much less intervention. The absence of the police, according to him, emboldened the mob. He felt that the 'scenes of wild mourning and mass popular anger on the television were not helping in calming the fury of the mob'.

That afternoon he saw another mob looting a house in a cool and unhurried manner, without any dispute or competition among the looters. Within half-an-hour, the house had been completely ransacked and then set on fire. At about 4 pm, while the looting was going on, the siren of an approaching police vehicle was heard. This alarmed the mob who began to disperse but the vehicle just drove by and the crowd re-assembled.

Case 10

A 75 year old army officer, having retired in 1958, narrated that a mob consisting mostly of some DTC bus drivers from Hari Nagar Depot accompanied by anti-social elements attacked some shops and nearby houses in 'G' Block of Hari Nagar. Arson followed the looting. Cars, private buses, trucks and scooters parked in that area were also burnt. The Sikh residents, assisted by Hindu neighbors of Fateh Nagar and Shiv Nagar, came out and succeeded in challenging the miscreants and driving them away.

On 3 November, at midday, the SHO of Tilak Nagar Police Station turned up in a jeep and asked the people to go indoors. Given the previous day’s experience, the residents did not trust the police and some of them continued to maintain a vigil in the streets. Seeing this, the police officer sent some constables to the army officer's house. They began abusing and beating his family members and even threatened one of them with a gun. They also beat this 75-year old man and confiscated his unloaded licensed revolver which he had owned since 1944. They dragged him by his hair to the jeep and took him to the Police Station, continuing to hit him with the butts of their guns. He was told to kill two Sikhs if he wanted to be freed.

At the Police Station he was locked up and again beaten to the point of bleeding and becoming unconscious. He was beaten by a Sub-inspector (whom he named) who shouted that no Sikh would be able to live in the area with his hair and beard. Among the four police personnel who had beaten him, he named two--an Sl and an ASI. The following day, the police took him to Court where a case under Section 307 of the IPC was registered against him. He was locked up in Tihar Jail along with some criminals and was able to secure his release on bail only on 12 November.

Case 11

Having heard of the news of the assassination, one witness feared trouble and brought his family to the gurdwara. He found that some other families had already collected there. Leaving the women and children downstairs, the men went up to the roof from where they saw a crowd collecting at the local Congress-I office about 200 yards away. They had come by truck at 8.30 on morning of 1 November.

This mob then advanced towards the gurdwara and started stoning the people they saw on the roof. The Sikhs had also collected some bricks which they threw at the crowd. When their supply was exhausted, the mob became emboldened and set fire to a shop which the gurdwara had rented out. The group of Sikhs, about twelve in number, collected all the swords available with them in the gurdwara and came out. The mob retreated in the face of this puny show of force. The police, who had been informed, came at about 3.30 pm. By that time, the fire had been put out. The police surprisingly expressed their inability to do anything further to help them. Consequently the Sikhs went back inside and locked the iron gates of the gurdwara. On 2 November, the army brought refugees from other colonies in the area surrounding Palam until there were 2,000 refugees in the gurdwara. They were housed, clothed and fed entirely by voluntary effort. The gurdwara itself fortunately escaped damage.