"There is no doubt that the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 were a totally planned process. This is borne out by my personal experiences described here. The identities of those who carried out the planning not only in Delhi, but all over the Hindi belt, have been suppressed by the commissions or investigating agencies.
I was working with Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL), Hardwar, in 1984 and living in the BHEL colony at Ranipur, Hardwar.
We were in office on 31st October when the news of Indira Gandhi's assassination came in. There were no ill-feelings among the staff members except one or two personal clashes.
However, when we went to office on 1st November, the atmosphere had totally changed. People were huddled in groups and discussing something that they wanted to keep from me, but since we had been working together for nearly 20 years, they hesitatingly informed me that there was a list of Sikh properties and establishments, which were to be attacked and burned down on that day. The process was to start from the other end of Hardwar, near Bhimgoda, and end in BHEL and Jwalapur in the evening or at night.
Based on the list, people were monitoring the progress by contacting their near and dear ones by telephone and confirming whether the arsonists had burnt down this property or were proceeding to that property.
Throughout the day, I could see that the process was going almost as planned, because the police were with the arsonists, which was confirmed later, as described in some of the following paragraphs.
In the evening, when I reached home, I observed that many people had collected on the roof-top of the house just behind mine and were discussing loudly among themselves about Sant Talkies (a cinema-hall owned by a Sikh) having been set on fire. Since, Sant Talkies was located near BHEL and it represented the last item in the list for Hardwar, they had apparently been prepared to watch the show of the burning of the cinema hall, in the evening.
Since there was plenty of movement on the roads at that time, I decided to go and fetch the family's milk supply, which had to be brought from the other end of the colony, on foot, as I usually did. As I walked through the colony, I could hear people calling out to each other to proceed to the BHEL Gurdwara to participate in the attack on it or, at least, to watch it being destroyed.
As I was returning, I could see the crowds thickening and moving towards the Gurdwara. By the time I reached home, I could see huge crowds surrounding the Gurdwara and, subsequently, burning it down.
Sensing trouble, my family and I locked ourselves up in the house and simply waited for events to take shape.
Our neighbours were celebrating and saying that today our family was going to be eliminated. They were storing water in drums, which, according to them, was meant to be used for preventing the fire from spreading to their own houses, when ours was set on fire.
The mob, after burning the Gurdwara, went to the house of one of the Gurdwara's managing committee's members, but he and his family members escaped death, although injuries were sustained. The mob went away after his aged father drew a gun and prepared to shoot at the attackers. Another member of the committee was shot at with a country-made pistol, but he also escaped death as the bullet only grazed his neck.
Late into the night, the BHEL administration called in the army from the Raiwala cantonment and so the rest of the days of anti-Sikh violence in India passed off peacefully for us.
After a few days, my motorcycle mechanic visited me (I used to own an Ideal Jawa motorbike, at that time). He was a Sikh gentleman. I could not recognise him until he identified himself, as he was clean-shaven. When I asked him, he told me about all that had happened.
He used to be the only mechanic in Hardwar who could repair the Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycles. So, all police personnel of Hardwar used to go to him for getting their official motorcycles repaired. He said that early in the morning of 1st November, some policemen came to his house and told him that he was one of the targets on that day's list. They told him that they did not want him to be killed, but they could not protect him either. So, they suggested that he remove all external symbols of Sikhism, become clean-shaven and seek 'forgiveness' from the leaders of the mob, when they came to attack him and his motor-garage. So, in this way, they told him, he could be saved and not lose his source of livelihood i.e. his motorcycle repair facility.
He acted accordingly and he and his garage were spared.
He and some others also told me that when the Sikh establishments were looted and burned, the police personnel were encouraging the people to loot and were also noting down the names and addresses of the looters, as well as the items that each of them had looted. Later on they visited the looters and demanded a share, or, the looted items, if the looters were not prepared to pay.
One of Giani Zail Singh's (who was the president of India at that point of time)relatives was also working with BHEL, Hardwar. He told me that when he rang up Giani Zail Singh to ask for protection, Giani ji informed him that he was virtually a prisoner himself and unable to move out of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. The president told him that being helpless himself, he was unable to offer any help and that the relative should manage on his own, as best as he could.
These events clearly prove that the whole operation was very well-planned and the details known, in advance, to all concerned, including the police, so that all activities could go ahead as scheduled.
The conditions were similar in many other cities of the Hindi belt as well as in Delhi, as I subsequently came to know from many other Sikhs as well non-Sikhs, who were witness to such events."
Thursday, March 13, 2008
My father's memories of November 1984
My father has been kind enough to pen down some of his experiences and memories from those tumultuous times, which are as follows: