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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Nanavati Report Updates

The DK Sankaran Committee, recently organized to provide relief to survivors of the 1984 pogroms of Sikhs, held its first meeting:


The issue of giving relief to the Sikhs, who left their homes in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh to go to Punjab, was raised by the representatives from Punjab who attended the first meeting of the committee chaired by Secretary in the Union Home Ministry D K Sankaran here on Friday...

The Punjab representatives told the committee that 28,000 to 30,000 Sikhs had migrated to the state after the violence and were now living in one-room LIG flats and they needed to be given relief to allow them to lead a better life, the sources said.
The Committee has two months to prepare its recommendations for submission to the central government. Again, the Committee discussed employment opportunities for survivors in Indian paramilitary organizations. Such paramilitary organizations, however, like the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), participated in human rights abuses in Punjab during the mid-1980s and 1990s.

Several reports have appeared supporting the claim that the Nanavati report failed to hold senior police officials accountable. ENSAAF's report Twenty Years of Impunity extensively discusses the role of police in instigating the violence and destroying evidence. In an article in the Indian Express, Manoj Mitta discusses how Justice Nanavati exonerated all of the police officers from the worst site of the carnage:


The largest Sikh massacre in a single locality in 1984 took place at Block Nos 32 and 36 of Trilokpuri in East Delhi, where, according to the Nanavati Commission, ‘‘almost all Sikh males of these two blocks were killed.’’ Out of the official death toll of 2,733 in the carnage, East Delhi alone accounted for 1,086 deaths.

And yet, what got lost in the debate over Jagdish Tytler’s resignation and the Prime Minister’s evocative speech in Parliament, was one startling fact: none of the police officials Nanavati indicted was from this area or from anywhere in East Delhi—or even from West Delhi, the two worst-affected police districts in that order...

Sewa Dass, who was then in charge of East Delhi, is now special commissioner, the number two in the Delhi Police. He is due to retire next month.

The Nanavati Commission did not recommend any action against him even after recording the allegation made by ‘‘many witnesses’’ that Sewa Dass and his subordinates in East Delhi ‘‘had even encouraged the mobs while they were attacking Sikhs.’’

The commission glossed over one sensational discovery that was made about the Trilokpuri massacre in the course of the inquiry. That Sewa Dass knew about the mass killings in Block Nos 32 and 36 long before The Indian Express reporters Rahul Bedi and Joseph Maliakan—Bedi has since left the newspaper—brought it to the notice of the police headquarters in the evening of November 2.
The former joint director of India's Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), NK Singh calls for further investigations by a task force, excluding Delhi policemen. He sites to the unanswered questions that remain about the role of senior government officials:


The role of two top functionaries of the Congress government in 1984, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, as also of top functionaries of the PMO, cannot be brushed aside. They may have been absolved of the blame of instigating the killings, but what about the failure to act for two days or to call in the army promptly and to ensure firm and effective action by them and the police? Both the Nanavati Commission and the Rangnath Mishra Commission have observed that there was delay in calling the army. And then, that infamous statement by the PM that the earth was “bound to shake”, when a big tree fell.

Former MPs, senior lawyers, retired generals and a former prime minister have deposed how evasively Narasimha Rao behaved when they met him and requested him to call in the army. Then Lt. Governor P.G. Gavai has openly come out against him. We have had many other accounts in the public discussion in the past few days as well, including, notably, by former DG Punjab Police Julio Rebeiro. In the light of these, how far was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh justified in stating in Rajya Sabha on August 11, that “the lie which has been used for 21 years to poison the Sikhs mind has been nailed” by the commission?
An article in Tehelka (subscription required) discusses in detail how senior officers who instigated and participated in the massacres were actually awarded with promotions.

[This entry is cross-posted on ENSAAF's blog]

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