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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom It Was A POGROM. Nov 1984 Delhi. Revisited

Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
www.outlookindia.com | ?Their Demeanour Was Frighteningly Casual?

Sikh riots
'Their Demeanour Was Frighteningly Casual'
Ashok Jaitly

Ashok Jaitly, an IAS officer posted in Delhi in November 1984, was
one of the rare officers to testify against the police and political
workers for their role in the anti-Sikh riots:

I was on leave around the time Indira Gandhi was assassinated in
1984. All through October 31, we heard reports of Congress Seva Dal
workers coming out on the streets shouting slogans like khoon ka
badla khoon se lenge; we heard reports of mobs attacking Sikhs. That
evening, my then wife Jaya and I drove down Lodhi Road to see gangs
pulling Sikhs out of buses. Around Defence Colony, we found a Sikh on
a motorcycle, his old father hanging on the pillion. Rather than
letting them risk their lives, we convinced them to come home with
us. I remember how shaken up the old Sardar was.

On the morning of November 1, a number of us got together around
Lajpat Nagar. While marching for peace, we passed a gurudwara to see
hoodlums standing outside with trishuls in their hands, wearing
saffron headgear. Inside, the scared Sikhs were holding swords. When
we came out onto the Ashram flyover, I remember seeing corpses lying
on the rail tracks. A group of us went to Congress leader Arun Nehru,
demanding the army be brought out. His demeanour was frighteningly
casual; he claimed he and his party were doing all they could.

Within no time, we had set up the Nagrik Ekta Manch. Groups went in
all directions, coming back with horrendous stories of people found
dead and burnt. We got affidavits from victims in which they detailed
what had happened. Much of that evidence was put before the Nanavati
Commission. I myself testified before the commission. On the basis of
the evidence we found, there is no question that what transpired in
1984 was not a riot, it was a pogrom. Thousands died and there was
barely a response because there was a quiet complicity between the
establishment and the mob, like in Gujarat.

When I look back, I realise my actions weren't out of the ordinary.
My generation had many bureaucrats who thought differently. We had an
ideology, which to use a cliche, was pro-poor, pro-minority,
pro-secular. Even our 'elitist' St Stephen's-Oxbridge education
taught us that. If one had to desperately hunt for a positive, it
would have to be that in 1984, there emerged a unique citizen's
movement, a spontaneous response to the pogrom.



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