H C Singh

Assassination of Indira Gandhi and its Aftermath

After attack on Golden Temple and demolition of Akal Takhat by Indian Army authorized by Indira Gandhi, it is said that Prime Minister was warned by intelligence agencies that there could be attempt on her life. She was even advised to do away with Sikh members of her personal body guards. But she rejected the suggestion saying that ‘aren’t we secular’ ( The Times). She did not, realize the gravity of attack on Golden Temple on Sikhs, or not forgetting that British General Dyer who had ordered indiscriminate firing in Jallianwale Bagh in April 1919 killing more than 400 peaceful Punjabi’s was shot dead in London by Udham Singh, a Sikh who waited for years. Thus Indira Gandhi who had masterminded the attacks on Golden Temple or even Gian Zail Singh who was President but could not do anything to prevent the attack, by resigning or even threatening to resign, were likely to be targets.

On 31st October 1984, Indira Gandhi was shot at point blank and killed by her two Sikh body guards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh early in the morning while walking from her residence to her adjoining office. Both Beant Singh and Satwant Singh had gone to Punjab to meet their families. It seems that they were shocked to hear and see the impact of operation Blue Star on not only those who had lost their Kith and Kin in Golden Temple on Guru Arjan’s martyrdom day but even ordinary Sikhs who must have wept while telling the atrocities and death of hundreds of innocent old Sikh peasants, women and children, besides thousands of men. Indiscriminate violence against sikhs began on the 31st October night, after Rajiv Gandhi had been sworn in as P.M after 6 pm. Till then Indira Gandhi’s death had not been announced on AIR though she had died on the spot and had been brought dead to the AIIMS hospital.

Assassination of Indira Gandhi or some VIP like Zail Singh or other was feared as Operation Blue Star was an attack on Golden Temple, on the Sikh religion and sikh honour. More than 10,000 Sikh had been butchered indiscriminately including old men, women and children by a cleverly manipulated crisis by Indira Gandhi to humiliate the Sikhs with a view to pose in the next election as a Durga—goddess of Hindus, because Indira Gandhi had lost hope of winning South and East India.

Some reaction even, violent reaction to be PM’s assassination was feared. But it could not, by any stretch of imagination, be thought that Congress, second line of leadership will lead the gangs, organize arson, loot and murder of Sikh’s simultaneously in many towns, Railway trains and buses Killing of Sikhs continued for 4 days with active participation of local police force.

We were eye witness to these traumatic happenings when Gurdwara just across our house was being gharoaed stoned and burnt and Holy Granth thrown and burnt. The details of these 1947-partition, like riots in the Capital can be best seen in Indian Express of Nov 1 to Nov 20. From the rough estimates it is gathered that more than 10,000 Sikhs perished in this “Nadirshahi” of Congress in certain cases there were 3 to 4 windows in one family done.

The Sikhs outside Punjab were hostages at the mercy of the hoodlums who could be organized, financed and instigated to commit unprintable crimes against Sikh men, women and children whether they happened to be poor workers in jhugis and settlement colonies or rich business men in posh colonies, middle class workers traveling to and from office or sikh army officers going to duty. Even clean shaven sikh truck drivers who are just sikhs by birth, neither extremists nor religious , all who were unfortunate on the days when hell itself was let loose, were mercilessly beaten and burnt alive.

In this genocide of Sikhs more than 25,000 sikhs were Killed—burnt alive by pouring kerosene on their heads in the presence of their wives, children, sisters and mothers. Some were burnt by putting burning tyres in their necks, some were killed with steel rods supplied by hooligans and Congress workers, some were dragged out of their houses, there hands tied with one end of there turbans and with the other end of turban tied on their necks, they were dragged and killed.

Sikh’s women were molested and raped in the presence of their husbands, sons and young daughters and old mothers. Such inhuman torture and killing of Sikhs went on for 4 days while police was just on lookers. Even policemen did not come forward to save the life or honour of such women victims.

It was not only Delhi, though Delhi was the worst sight of slaughter of Sikhs but in cities like Kanpur where 500 sikhs perished in the same way and dozen of other towns, in trains and buses. This was something like partition riots of 1947. In 1947 when trains full of dead bodies of Sikhs and Hindus reached Punjab, when about a million of Sikhs and Hindus were butchered, Sikhs retaliated by killing Muslims in Punjab and sending their dead bodies to Pakistan. This retaliation helped to end massacre of Sikhs and Hindus in Pakistan. But in Delhi in 1984 where Sikhs were hardly 5 percent and it was their own country, could not and did not retaliate. They only suffered silently for 4-5 days, and wept for days, months and years, but no justice was done. Not a single criminal was found guilty and sentenced to death or imprisonment. Khushwant Singh, eminent journalist and writer in his book My Bleeding Punjab writers:

“ At break of dawn of 1st November, the anti Sikh pogrom got going in right earnets. Truckloads of hoodlums armed with steel rods, jerry cans full of Kerosene oil and petrol went round the city setting fire to gurdwaras. One adjacent to my apartment was raided by a gang which threw out the carpets, the canopy along with the holy book, the Granth, in the courtyard and made a bonfire of them. They roughed up the 65 year old priest. The gang departed taking the Gurdwara money box amid shouts of “Indira Gandhi Zindabad”.

“ In the heart of New Delhi’s main shopping center, Connaught Circus, Sikh owned furnitures shops were set ablaze while crowds cheered and police looked on. There were no signs of grief over the death of Prime Minister but plenty of envy, hate and malicious pleasure at seeing Sikhs who had done better than they being cut to size”.

Khushwant Singh adds about his own grief panic and reaction:

“ I awaited my turn. I felt like a partridge in a partridge shoot waiting to be flushed out of cover and shot on the wing. For the first time I realized what jews must have felt like in Nazi Germany…. Get out of your place was the repetitive advice (to Khushwant Singh by his well wishers). But go where and how? They were killing Sikhs in trains, buses, taxis, scooters. The killings assumed the proportion of genocide of Sikh’s community.
I had half an hour to pack up. I wrenched off the nameplate from my door. What could I take with me from my home where I had lived ever since I had been driven out of Pakistan. They could have the bloody lot ( all my belongings ). Thirty seven years ago I left the same kind of stuff to Pakistan, now I would leave to Hindustan”.

“Romesh Thapar bundled us into the Car of a diplomat. We found sanctuary in the home of Rolf and Jeanne Gauffin of the Swedish Embassy. In my own homeland I had become a refugee, deprived of my birth right to mourn the assassination of my Prime Minister. Instead I mourned the deaths of thousands of men who were killed for no other reason than that they happened to belong to the same community as the Prime Minister assassins.” (My Bleeding Punjab).

Retired Supreme Court Justice V.M.Tarkunde, concluded in his report ‘ the carnage (of Sikhs) was orchestrated by Congress’. “ According to it plans for their massacre (of Sikhs) were nurtured by party leaders on the night of 31st October…Kerosene was collected, killers were gathered from both inside and outside the localities, Jhuggis (huts) and houses of Sikhs identified”.

The “SUNDAY” a widely circulated weekly from Calcutta, described Rajiv Gandhi’s silence on the subject as “ the first black mark he has got on his otherwise clean image”.

“Police instead of curbing violence by taking action against the killers of Sikhs in 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. The role of Delhi Police in preventing any viable Sikh defence is well testified. In a number of cases, Police personnel confiscated licensed fire arms from Sikh’s and shot at the defenders if they resisted”. (Religion Violence and Political Mobilisation).

Following quotations are from book by Manoj Mitra and H.S. Phoolka:
‘When a Tree Shook Delhi’.

It must be said that Mr Phoolka is a very eminent lawyer who has been fighting right from the beginning for justice for victims of 1984 Genocide of Sikhs.

Annexures from book when a Tree Shook Delhi by Mr Mitra and Sardar H.S. Phoolka. Again, “It would be startling to note that General Arora hero of 1971 war against Pakistan and who received surrender from Pakistan’s General Niazi who had agreed to hand area 90,000 Pakistani soldiers to Indian Army as Prisoners of War, had to be escorted and took shelter in the house Shri I.K. Gujral.”

‘Zail’s car stoned, panic in Delhi’ was a headline in The Telegraph, which said: ‘ The President’s motorcade, as it proceeded towards AIIMS from the airport, was heavily brickbatted. Three cars in the motorcade were damaged, though the President, who was in his bulletproof car, was unaffected.’

In his affidavit before the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, the first judicial inquiry ordered in 1985, Jagjit Singh gave an eyewitness account of the second attack on President Zail Singh. “ All the stone pelting, he said, was done by a small group which raised slogans such as ‘Giani Murdabad’ (Down with Zail Singh), ‘Sardar gaddar hai’ (Sikhs are traitors) and ‘Khoon ka badla khhon’ (Avenge murder with murder).”

As hundreds of affidavits were filed during and after1984 anti-Sikh riots and placed before the justice Ranga Nath Mishra Commission Jain-Aggarwal Committee was set up by Government to examine all these affidavits. After fully examining these affidavits , Jain-Aggarwal Committee submitted its report to the Lt Governor of Delhi, as required on 6th August 1993.The report highlighted the “colossal indifference towards the loss of human life and property of the Sikhs.” The committee also stated that the police, in many cases either did not register FIRs or deliberately misregistered them and subsequently “sabotaged” the investigation so that the cases could not stand up in court as many did.

It is noteworthy that the Jain-Aggarwal committee in view of its findings “recommended severe punishment for 298 dishonest police officers, the registration of 333 fresh cases and reinvestigation of 129 other cases to undo the misdeeds of earlier investigations. The committee also indicted many local congress functionaries who later on went on to become M P’s and Ministers for instigating and leading the rioters. No wonder no action has been taken against officials like the Police Commissioner S.C.Tondon who was rewarded by crucial appointment after retirement” ( Pioneer dt 19-08-93).

Had the guilty police officers and congress leaders and personnel listed by Jain-Aggarwal committee been punished, there would not have been demolition of Babri Masjid and consequent riots in many states particularly UP and Maharashtra, Bombay in particular casting thousands of lives, disturbing peace and harmony, now, between Hindus and Muslims.

It is regrettable and painful for all Sikhs all over the world and also thousands of non Sikhs and non Punjabis all over India that not a single Culprit and Criminal out of hundreds of politicians, policemen and paid ruffians has been convicted and punished even after 25 years when more than 10,000 Sikhs were massacred in the genocide of Sikhs in 1984. It is slur on our politicians and on our democracy.

Excerpts of testimonies before the Misra and Nanavati Commissions:
Writer Patwant Singh before the Nanavati Commission ….
“That Air Chief Marshall Arjan Singh (Retd), Lt. Gen. Jagjit Singh Aurora (Retd.), Brig. Sukhjit Singh (Retd.), S. Gurbachan Singh and I called on the President of India in the morning of 1 November 1984. We spent one hour with the President and told him that numerous Sikhs were being killed all over the capital, emphatically spelling out for him the violence overtaking the Sikhs throughout the city. We made clear that he as the President was morally and constitutionally bound to put an end to it. He replied, ‘I do not have powers to intervene.”

Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan before the Nanavati Commission….

“ That we visited Shakarpur, Pandav Nagar, and several east Delhi’s colonies, and rescued many trapped Sikh families, and took them to the nearest Gurdwara….We also saw many dead bodies of Sikhs who had been killed, and some bodies were still burning.”

Former Finance Minister Madhu Dandavate before the Misra Commission

“When the train reached Tughlakabad Station (on the suburbs of Delhi) on 2 November morning, a large number of persons carrying iron rods, axes, crow bars, etc. entered our train. They declared that no Sikh would be allowed to leave the train alive. At that time, I found that some Sikhs in the adjoining compartments were pulled down by those outsiders carrying weapons. I found two Sikhs killed and thrown on the platform, and then their dead bodies were set on fire on the platform. The police standing on the platform made no efforts to prevent either the killing or burning of the Sikhs.”

In october 84 I had gone on leave to my home in Delhi and was witness to destroying the Gurudwara opposite our house in Janak Puri B-1 Block and burning of Holy Guru Granth Sahib and throwing our in Nallah other copies of Holy Granth Sahib. Even my house was locked and glass panes of drawing room broken. Luckily my tenant in first floor was an Air force officer Squadron Leader. He came down immediately and faced the mob, saying this is my house and thus our family and our house was saved. It was a miracle. For three days and nights we did not move out. Then and there I decided that I shall not go back to Lucknow to join duty in the institute. So I applied for voluntary retirement and remained on leave for 3 months till Feb 28 when I went to handover charge and say goodbye to Director and the Institute.

Before concluding the chapter on assassination of Indira Gandhi and its aftermath. I would like to reproduce my four poems which I wrote in those days and were first published in my Punjabi book ‘Payyar Te Rossa’ and afterwards I translated these poems and included in my book ‘ Pluralist Politics and Poems of Revance Love and Sorrow’.

August 28, 2009 - Posted by | India, Religion, Sikhism | , , , , , , , , , ,

3 Comments »

  1. I was shocked and astonished when I first heard about the thousands of lives that were taken in 1984. It did make me wonder why millitant Sihks were allowed to keep guns and weapens in a temple that was considered so holy?

    Comment by Adam Fields | January 11, 2010 | Reply

    • The militants were initially encouraged by the then Prime Minister of India Mrs Indira Gandhi and she pitched them against the Akalis so that the Congress Party comes to rule the Sikh Dominant State of Punjab. So to say that Sikhs allowed militants to position themselves in the Golden Temple is factually incorrect

      Comment by Har Charan Singh | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  2. What happened was a massacre, bigger than the jallian wala bagh this was done by our people, its such a bloody shame, I will side with the sikhs and justice has to be given to them.

    Comment by Nikitha Mallya | April 20, 2011 | Reply


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: