New Delhi/April 22
In an investigation, Cobrapost exposes officers of Delhi Police. While most of them candidly admitting to their failure as a force, some of them confessed that the top brass of the police force colluded with the government of the day to teach Sikhs “a lesson”. These police officers are Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, then Station House Officer (SHO) Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO Delhi Cantonment; S N Bhaskar, SHO Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO Srinivaspuri; and Jaipal Singh, SHO Mehrauli. S.C. Tandon, then chief of police, conveniently parried all questions and Gautam Kaul, then Additional Commissioner of Police, straightaway rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting. Amrik Singh Bhullar, then the SHO of Patel Nagar – who the Cobrapost reporter also met – had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them of instigating and even leading the frenzied mobs.
Cobrapost Special Correspondent Asit Dixit met all these officials who are now retired, enjoying all the perks and benefits that government servants are entitled to. In their interviews with Dixit, these officials make the following confessions:
• The police force had succumbed to anti-Sikh sentiments, thus abetting rioting and arson, even encouraging rioters
• Warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs went unheard by senior officers
• While news of arson and rioting bombarded the police control rooms, only two per cent of the messages were recorded
• Police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers
• Some officers did not act for fear of punishment being transferred
• Some police officers dumped bodies of victims somewhere else to minimize riot-related crimes
• The police did not allow the victims of rioting file FIRs or when they filed FIRs, they clubbed many cases of murder and arson that took in disparate places in one FIR
• Messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’
• The government of the day did not allow the police to act while creating an impression that the police were not performing their duty
• Senior police officers did not allow their subordinates to open fire on rioters
• Even the Fire Brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson had been reported by police.
The operational dysfunction was so marked through the rank and file of Delhi Police that the Kusum Lata Mittal Committee, formed on the recommendation of the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, had identified 72 police officers for their connivance in the riots and arson or gross negligence in discharging their duty. Of these, the committee had sought 30 police officers to be dismissed. However, such recommendations fell through for obvious reasons.
Some of the officers interviewed by Cobrapost were unanimous in condemning the dubious role of former Commissioner of Police S C Tandon played in not providing leadership to the force. At least three officers castigated the then police chief without mincing words. For instance, Tyagi criticizes Tandon for acting under the influence of the government of the day: “Toh jaane anjane mein wo government ke influence mein rahe hain ki unhone mismangage kiya shuru mein aur do din jab asal mein baat jab haath se nikal gayi (So, knowingly or unknowingly, he was under the influence of the government. He mismanaged in the beginning and in the first two days the situation went out of control). Similarly, Yadav accuses Tandon of not providing leadership to the force, while Bhaskar says that instead of singling out some station house officers, the police chief’s head should have rolled.
The Ranganath Mishra Commission also held Tandon responsible for breakdown of law and order, so did the Kapur–Kusum Mittal Committee, which devoted an entire chapter of its report to Tandon’s role. The When the Cobrapost reporter met Tandon, the former police chief excused himself saying any comment by him may create a controversy in poll season.
The breakdown of the law and order machinery was complete with messages for reinforcement being ignored by senior officials. To quote Bhaskar: “Main toh apne level se ye keh sakta hoon ki jab maine chaar baje message bheje aapse force mang raha hoon toh aapne mujhe kyon nahi di (I can tell you at my level that when I had messaged them asking for force, then why did not they send it to me?).”
Then there were senior officers like Hukam Chand Jatav who did not act even when the press informed him about the murder and mayhem all around Delhi. In the words of an SHO: “Hukam Chand Jatav ye yahan ke hi the Karol Bagh ke hi IPS the toh uss time the DIG ab wo Control Room mein baithe huye the aur reporter wahan unko pooch rahe hain aur wo keh rahe hain everything is all right unhone kaha wahan toh bande mar gaye hain aapki itni duniya lut gayi hai ja ke dekho toh sahi nahi nahi main yahan Control Room mein hoon and he knew everything lekin wahan se move hi nahi kiya (Hukam Chand Jatav. Karol Bagh fell under him. He was an IPS and was a DIG at that time. He was sitting in the control room and calling him up press reporters told him of murders and arson taking place all around, asking him to go out there to intervene. He said, ‘everything is all right … no, no, I am here in the Control Room’ … and he knew everything but did not make any move).”
To make matters worse, officers like Chandra Prakash did not allow his subordinates to open fire on the rampaging mobs. Says Rohtas Singh about Chandra Prakash: “Na unhone mujhe ye keh diya ki matlab likh ke bhi diya hai ye bhi keh diya yaar wo toh goli chalne se toh Indira Gandhi wala kaand itna bada ban pada hai tum kyon naya kaand khada karte ho (No, he told me, and gave me in writing, that Indira Gandhi’s murder is big enough an event. Now should you make an even bigger event by opening fire).” Prakash was Deputy Commissioner of Police then.
If Rohtas Singh is to be believed, only two per cent of wireless messages were recorded: “Agar wo record ho gayi hoti toh main kaafi kuch sabit kar sakta tha not even two per cent were recorded control room mein jo log book thi (If those message had been recorded, I could have proved many things but not even two per cent were recorded in the log book of the Control Room).” Rohtas Singh alleges that Chandra Prakash had messages that would indict him changed.
“Toh wireless log book ke ki bata raha hoon … usmein kuch aise message the jo usko le baithte … jahan jahan usko suit nahi kar rahi thi wo saba change kara diya (I am telling about wireless log book … there were some such messages in it which could have been damaging for him … he had the logbook changed at places which did not suit him).”
The reason the police personnel behaved in a biased manner was the communal fluke that had infected the rank and file of Delhi Police. Rohtas Singh admits to it: “Ismein mujhe koi sankoch nahi hai kehne mein humare policemen bhi yahin local men the wo bhi communal-minded ho gaye the (I have no hesitation saying that our policemen who were drawn from the local men too had become communal minded).”
After several bouts of murder and mayhem, when the rioting died down upon the intervention of Army after three days, began a cover-up operation by Delhi Police. First, they did not register cases and when they did, they clubbed disparate cases in one FIR. In the words of Bhullar: “Logon ne case register nahi kiye dabane ki koshish ki tere ilake mein hua ke itne lambe chaure riots hue unko koshish ki kum se kum karne ki apni naukri bachane ke liye aur utha ke body wahan fenk di Sultan Puri (The police did not register cases, instead they tried to suppress the cases. They knew there were huge riots in their areas, so they tried to minimize, even picked up corpses and dumped them in Sultan Puri, to save their jobs).”
All such confessions lead to this unmistakable inference that police inaction cannot be by chance but by design, and proves complicity of the force in what came to be known as worst state-sponsored pogrom of a minority community.
New Delhi/April 22