The on-going Post Mortem of ’84-Riots!
By Maxwell Pereira
mfjpkamath@gmail.com

There were reactions galore, that erupted and exploded when the ATR (Action Taken Report) of the Government on the Nanavati Commission Report, was tabled in Parliament. Many violent and volatile, giving rise to debates and discussions in the written and the visual media, and some raising passions on a scale perhaps unexpected by the powers that be. Leading to resignations of Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar – literally writing their political obituary; and an apology to the Sikh Community and the Nation by a gentleman Prime Minister.

The turmoil and the tide show little signs of letting the dust settle – I frankly believe it never will. Even as the papers keep popping occasional opinions and counter-opinions, my own thoughts go back to November ’84. To that day when I almost strangled the first journalist – I believe it was Pratap Chakravarty then of Patriot – who strayed into Delhi’s north district and into my path, just five days after the carnage had commenced.

“Where were you guys all these days?” was the question I yelled at him. “Where were you when I opened fire, killed people, before people started killing Sikhs!?”

I have held my silence in all these twenty-one years on this issue, the only statement ever given by me being before the Ved Marwah in-house police department fact-finding enquiry – then directed by SS Jog, who replaced Subash Tandon as police Commissioner soon after the riots. The main reason for my silence thereafter being the inhibition expected of any decent being to be reticent about blowing his own trumpet.

Despite the fact that I deposed before no Government appointed Commission, nor was I considered worthy to be summoned by any that enquired into the Sikh riots down the period, tids and bits did appear in the media – about some of us having done our duty as expected. That when Delhi Police was in the dock facing Parliamentary castigation for the carnage, it was the name of yours truly that headed the list weakly presented to the powers that be, to help bolster up an undefendable Delhi Police case in Parliament. This, in an attempt to tell that Delhi police did act, that officers did show initiative without waiting for orders from superiors!

One is told there is proof to this effect in the record of Parliamentary debates in the immediate aftermath of the ‘riots’, and in Reports of some of the earlier Commissions, now also available on the internet.

The journalist’s answer to my yellings was a candid “well, nothing happened in the North – at least not in the scale as things occurred elsewhere in Delhi”. The perception to an extent correct, though factually and substantially wrong! Things happened in North Delhi, but were controlled to a great extent, by a handful of committed police officers and men who acted with tremendous grit and a bit of courage, to justify the uniform they wore. None of these who controlled the riots and saved lives of Sikhs got any recognition for it though, nor were they rewarded – as were perhaps some of our colleagues elsewhere; some even with gallantry medals for what was perceived later through allegations and accusations, as killing scared and paranoid Sikhs who opened fire on the police in self defence.

One of my bold quotes to journalists who then did follow up stories, was “I did not see a person die, unless I killed him!” For I firmly believed that no person (...read this as ‘no Sikh’) had reason to die at any aggressor’s hand in my presence. I was duty bound, invariably be required to intervene, and would, to save the victim. Even if it meant killing the aggressor by opening fire.

It is another matter that strange things did happen! Just one here, to sample: On 1st Nov morning, an unruly mob which had already set fire to some Sikh establishments in Chandni Chowk was advancing menacingly to set ablaze the holiest of Sikh shrines – the Sis Ganj Gurudwara. I was constrained to open fire. The bullets found their mark and I reported on wireless that I had opened fire and killed! The silence that greeted my message was thunderous! Not a soul or superior prepared to acknowledge the content of my message, not even the control room ready to confirm receiving it. No prize for guessing why! This boggling, reverberating and ricocheting wireless ‘silence’ has remained forever etched indelibly on my mind.

Any succeeding Commission enquiring into a matter previously looked into, is expected to go through the earlier reports and findings! So I suppose was the Nanavati Commission expected to do so. And yet, Justice Nanavati did not deem it necessary to summon the likes of me whose names did feature in the earlier Reports. Why? Though in a different context, isn’t this the very argument now being slapped in his face by Jagdish Tytler? That it was basic for Nanavati to summon him to hear his side too, before indicting him?

There is also some comment about police looking for an ‘ishara’ from the top, waiting for clear cut orders from a totally confused and shell-shocked government and police leadership – and paralysed into inaction or looking the other way when atrocities took place before their eyes. I firmly believe that no policeman needs orders from above to act correctly, timely, and as warranted, in times of such need. Wherever the concerned policeman has dithered and procrastinated, I believe he was guilty of dereliction of duty, if not of actively conniving with the perpetrators.

900 words: 05.09.2005: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23, Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http:// www.maxwellperira.com and maxpk@vsnl.com

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