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.