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Nanavati Report Tabled in Parliament

August 8, 2005 | Comments Off on Nanavati Report Tabled in Parliament

One day before the deadline expired, the Indian government tabled the 339-page final report of the Nanavati Commission established to investigate the 1984 pogroms of Sikhs.  The government also tabled its Action Taken Report, in which it culled and responded to ten recommendations from the Commission’s report.

21 years after the brutal massacres of Sikhs, organized by state and political institutions such as the Congress Party and Delhi Police, survivors are left grasping at fleeting dreams of justice.  Once again, through yet another commission, the government has strengthened impunity for perpetrators of mass murder and stonewalled justice.  Hundreds of victims took to the streets in New Delhi in protest:

Gujjar Singh, who lost his father in the violence, said: “The mob entered our home in east Delhi and dragged my father out and cut him to pieces.

“You cannot understand how I have been living since then. We do not need compensation. Just give us justice.”

According to media reports, the Commission’s report exonerated the majority of perpetrators from the Congress Party and Delhi police who have been identified by victims and witnesses.  And for those leaders against whom the Commission found credible evidence of incitement to mass murder, the government has refused to take or has stalled action. 

For example:

The investigation found “credible evidence” against current Congress minister for non-resident affairs, Jagdish Tytler, “to the effect that very probably he had a hand in organising attacks on Sikhs”.

The inquiry recommended further investigation into Mr Tytler’s role.

In its Action Taken Report (ATR), the government, however, has refused to take action against Tytler:

However, the ATR observed that it is clear from the remark “very probably” against Tytler that the one-man panel itself was not absolutely sure about his involvement in the attacks.

The ATR observed: “It may be pointed out that in criminal cases, a person cannot be prosecuted simply on the basis of probability”.

The Commission also found credible evidence against Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar and Dharam Dass Shastri, and recommended the reexamination of cases against Kumar.  To these and other recommendations, the government gave three standard responses: there were legal hurdles in taking any action since the police officers or government officials had retired, the government had taken note of the Commission’s response and would consult another body for further action, and there was no evidence against the accused.  Thus, the government found that there was no justification to reopen cases against Sajjan Kumar because there was no evidence against him.

The Commission charged the police with passiveness, rather than active incitement as described by victims and witnesses:

The report said that the police “remained passive and did not provide protection to the people” during the riots.

“There was a colossal failure of the maintenance of law and order,” the report said.

The report fails in similar ways as the Misra Commission report.   In its report, Twenty Years of Impunity: The November 1984 Pogroms of Sikhs in India, ENSAAF analyzes thousands of pages of previously unavailable affidavits, government records and arguments submitted to the 1985 Misra Commission, established to examine the Sikh Massacres in Delhi, Kanpur, and Bokaro. The report reveals the systematic and organized manner in which state institutions, such as the Delhi Police, and Congress (I) officials perpetrated mass murder in November 1984 and later justified the violence in inquiry proceedings. 

ENSAAF’s report demonstrates that police officers not only passively observed the violence, but also actively participated in the attacks and made promises of impunity to assailants.  Senior officers: ordered their subordinates to ignore attacks against Sikhs; ordered policemen to disarm Sikhs to increase their vulnerability to attack; systematically disabled and neutralized any officers who attempted to deviate from the norm of police inaction and instigation; released culprits; and manipulated police records in order to destroy the paper trail of the violence and protect criminals from the possibility of effective future prosecutions.  At all times, the police and their superiors had sufficient force and knowledge to effectively counter the violence.

ENSAAF’s report further demonstrates the involvement of the Congress Party in organizing the massacres.  Senior political leaders provided for details such as deployment of mobs, weapons and kerosene, as well as for the larger support and participation of the police.  They conducted meetings the night before the onslaught of the massacres where they distributed weapons, money, voter and ration lists identifying Sikhs and their properties, and in inflammatory speeches, instructed attendees to kill Sikhs. 

Grave lapses in police investigations, delays in filing cases, the failure to identify and investigate prosecution witnesses, the deliberate misrecording of witness statements, and the failure to comply with legal procedures precluded effective prosecutions against major perpetrators. 

Over the last 20 years, prior to the Nanavati commission, a commission of inquiry and eight committees have been set up to investigate the pogroms. Officially, 2,733 people were killed but only a handful of people have been convicted.

As retired New York Times reporter Barbara Crossette writes in her preface to Twenty Years:

This is an age when countries as diverse as Mexico, Peru, Cambodia and Ethiopia, among others, are digging into violent eras of their histories to set records straight and name those in power who allowed human rights abuses to occur or, worse, ordered them.  In two decades, there has been no similar movement for a day of reckoning in India.

The survivors of the 1984 massacres have truly been left with no hope for justice in India.

*The above post is based on news reports regarding the conclusions of the Nanavati report.

Further Updates:

The Action Not Taken Report (5-page analysis of report)

“ATR Not to My Satisfaction,” Says Nanavati

“Why is Everyone Going Back to 1984 Today?” (Survivor Testimony) 

Return to Trilokpuri

Cong Buries the Sikh Massacre Again (discusses recommendations and government response) 

“Rao told me to protect friends…Rajiv told me you’re a heart patient, take rest” (response by then-Lt. Gov. PG Gavai)


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