This Article is From Feb 08, 2014

Truth vs Hype: 1984 Riots - Political complicity, aborted justice

New Delhi: Rahul Gandhi's claim that in 1984, Congress government protected the Sikhs, has reopened old wounds. Evidence, however, suggests how the regime of the day was not just complicit in the violence, but made every attempt to suppress justice for over three decades.

As Delhi still smouldered, some of India's most respected human rights activists, the PUCL and PUDR, set out across the city, capturing in a report, 'Who Are the Guilty?' the extent of political and police collusion.

And yet, 30 years later, only a handful of cases were filed against Congress leaders accused of inciting mobs, those too are on the brink of collapse.

On the morning of November 1, 1984, Nirpreet Kaur, only 16-years-old at that time, saw a mob, led by local Congress leaders, murder her father not far from the Raj Nagar Gurudwara, where he was the head priest.

That night, her neighbour Jagsher Singh, who was 17-years-old, claims a higher profile Congress politician paid a visit - the area's MP Sajjan Kumar. He said he saw Mr Kumar incite the mobs to kill more Sikhs.

The next morning, Jagsher's three brothers were chased down and killed by a mob.
Soon afterwards, Nirpreet would report the second sighting of Sajjan Kumar, making a speech in which he said even those Hindus who were protecting Sikhs should be killed.

It was a speech also witnessed by Jagdish Kaur, whose husband, Kehar Singh and son, Gurpreet were killed before her eyes the previous afternoon.

The CBI based their chargesheet on these testimonies, which the court found powerful enough to convict all the other local Congress leaders they named like Balwan Khokar, Captain Bhagmal, Mahendra Yadav.

All, except Sajjan Kumar.

The judge argued that in the case of Sajjan Kumar, the witnesses were inconsistent - not naming him earlier, and only naming him before the Nanavati Commission set up in 2000, an argument that would be used again and again to acquit high profile politicians, but a logic which the CBI says ignores the active role played by the police in defending the powerful.

Nirpreet says that she did name Sajjan Kumar in 1984, immediately after the riots, but in  response the police branded her a terrorist, slapping the now-defunct TADA law on her for alleged links with Sikh militant groups.

The charges were later dropped.

There is no more chilling proof of police complicity than the diaries of Delhi Cantonment police station, under which Raj Nagar falls.
In just 72 hours, 340 were killed in the area under this police station.

But diary entries, accessed by NDTV, simply say at the end of the day of 1st and 2nd of November: all clear, nothing to report.

Three decades later, the police's conspiracy of silence continues - one of the constables on duty, Chajju Ram, told the court that Sajjan Kumar never addressed any gathering or visit the area around the police post.

This the same constable who says 'When I was on patrolling duty, I did not notice any burnt house, or dead body.'

Sajjan Kumar's acquittal has been challenged in the High Court by the CBI, but those who claim to have seen him incite mobs, have little faith.

For those who hold Sajjan Kumar responsible for stoking the riots, the only hope rests on the testimonies of Joginder Singh, who lived in dense bylanes of Sultanpuri.

 He says that on the morning of the 1st, he saw Sajjan Kumar and a mob of Congress leaders, including former MLA Jaikishen, enter their area. He says they were armed with iron bars, rods, kerosene and started dragging people out of their homes. He adds, "Sajjan was laughing and ordering the mob to search for Sardars and kill them. I was a clean shaven Sikh so they were unaware of the fact that I am a Sardar. They threatened me when I said I would report against them."

As with Delhi Cantonment, Sultanpuri witnessed intense brutality - 360 were killed.

But again, as with Delhi Cantonment, the police named only 25 accused. Sajjan Kumar was not one of them.

All 25 were let off after quick trials. It finally took the intervention of the Nanavati Commission, for the CBI to reopen the Sultanpuri murders - only 3 cases, which has boiled down to just one case of murder: that of Joginder's cousin Surjeet Singh. Joginder describes in chilling detail how his cousin was dragged and beaten mercilessly.

The trial court found there was sufficient evidence in the Sultanpuri cases to frame charges against Sajjan Kumar for murder, abetment, rioting and spreading hatred.

But the fate of the case depends almost entirely on Joginder, who the defence has argued has been unreliable - at times claiming he never saw his brother being killed.

As proof Joginder asks his son to shows us his burnt body. The son claims that in 2001 an unnamed mob came at night, poured petrol on him and set him on fire.

Joginder also says his young daughter was abducted, and never found.

There is however, one case against Sajjan Kumar that has been long buried under the radar, only now, beginning to surface.

This pertains to Gurbachan Singh, a former egg-vendor, who lived in Nangloi, a slum resettlement colony in North Delhi.

Grief becomes anger as he recalls the morning of November 1, when he says Sajjan Kumar arrived at Nangloi settlement.  Sajjan, he says, was accompanied by a mob with knives, rods, and cans of fuel.

His father was killed, as well as 2 members of his wife's family.

But two days later, when he was called to the police station, he was made to fill out a pre-formatted FIR. In the blanks next to who led the mob, the word 'unknown' was filled out by another's hand.

The police clubbed Gurbachan's  FIR with an FIR filed by one of his neighbours, Pratap Kaur, who did manage to name Sajjan Kumar in the killing of her family. Using the 2 contradictory accounts, the police were able to exonerate Sajjan from killings in Nangloi.

But three decades later, after a prolonged legal battle the Court has asked for the two FIRs to be separated. The Nangloi case has finally reached the CBI.

But the passage of time has been brutal for Gurbachan. Grief chokes him as he tells us how his wife died of shock. His second wife, with whom he lives, worries about the stress that comes in his battle for justice.

We made repeated attempts to contact Sajjan Kumar, at his office, at his home, on the phone - with little success.

In the lawns of his bungalow, Jagdish Tytler defends his innocence, with a stack of confidential documents.

The strongest of these is the closure report by the CBI, which has, on two occasions, gone to great pains to rubbish the testimonies of the two men who claim to have seen Mr Tytler incite mobs in the riots.

One of them Surinder Singh, who was the head granthi of Gurudwara Pul Bangash, in Central Delhi, who claims to have seen Mr Tytler incite mobs on the November 1.

The other, Jasbir Singh, who claims to have seen Mr Tytler at a hospital in North Delhi on the night of the November 3, asking a mob why have only a few Sikhs been killed in his area.

The Nanavati Commission found the testimonies strong enough to say that "it safe to record a finding that there is credible evidence against Shri Jagdish Tytler to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organizing attacks on Sikhs."

But CBI, which was handed the case, produced multiple witnesses to show that Jasbir Singh may have been lying.
While Surinder Singh, the CBI says, changed his statement multiple times.

Mr Tytler himself, seems to have access to all the affidavits filed in his favour. He says, "His son wrote from America that my father is under threat from Mr Phoolka (lawyer for the 1984 riot victims). This is a record which is available with me and the CBI, that his father was threatened by Mr Phoolka. So he had to change the statement."

Mr Phoolka has denied this, saying that Mr Tytler's access to confidential documents shows he was guiding the investigation and intimidating witnesses.

The CBI has also accepted Mr Tytler's other proof, Doordarshan footage, which he claims shows that he was at Teen Murti Bhawan, where Indira Gandhi's body was lying in state, the entire morning of the November 1.

Mr Tytler maintains, "From 7:30 am, right up to 3:30 pm, I've got the full list of the footage. May be 10- 15 minutes I've gone inside and outside. But from Teen Murti to Pulbangash, it takes one and a half hours to reach."

But Mr Phoolka says the footage has no timecodes. And that the CBI never questioned the other VIPs who were present on Mr Tytler's movements.

A former Joint Director of CBI, M Narayanan, who handled the Tytler case, admitted the CBI may have come under pressure to not pursue the case against Mr Tytler.

He says he suspects that Mr Tytler was let off the hook because 'it appeared that there was some pressure from him or people were influenced by his presence'.

Mr Tytler rebutted this charge by saying he is not even named in any of the FIRs and why would he influence the CBI.

The Court has asked the CBI to re investigate the matter - Mr Tytler's attempts to get this struck down, so far, have been unsuccessful.