Cobrapost Investigation: Revisiting 1984, Cobrapost unfolds on camera for the first time the inaction Delhi Police officers who failed to protect Sikhs from frenzied mobs after then prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh guards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh in New Delhi on October 31, 1984.
Her killing was vendetta for her ordering Operation Bluestar, a military operation in June the same year to take control of the Harminder Sahib complex in Amritsar and remover Sikh leader Jarnail Singh Bhrindanwale and his 600 armed followers from the sacred Golden Temple.
Bhrindanwale was accused of amassing weapons and ammunition in the complex to launch an armed uprising. The military offensive, backed by tanks, cannons and helicopters, left 492 civilians and 136 soldiers dead and 220 wounded.
Following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, angry mobs went on a rampage against innocent Sikhs in Delhi. The murder and mayhem, rapes of Sikh women and girls, arson and looting of shops owned by Sikhs continued for three days in Delhi from October 31, resulting in more than 3,000 deaths in the national capital.
In an undercover investigation, Cobrapost interviews eight officers of Delhi Police. While most of them candidly admit to their failure as a force, some of them confess that the top brass of the police force colluded with the Congress government of the day to teach Sikhs “a lesson”.
These include Shoorveer Singh Tyagi, Station House Office (SHO) Kalyanpuri; Rohtas Singh, SHO Delhi Cantonment; S. N. Bhaskar, SHO Krishna Nagar; O. P. Yadav, SHO Srinivaspuri; and Jaipal Singh, SHO Mehrauli. S.C. Tandon, then police chief, conveniently parried all questions and Gautam Kaul, then additional commissioner of police, straightaway rejected the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting. Amrik Singh Bhullar, then the SHO of Patel Nagar – who the Cobrapost reporter also met – had named some local leaders in his affidavit, accusing them instigating and even leading the frenzied mobs.
As the interviews these officials had with Cobrapost Special Correspondent Asit Dixit reveal, the operational dysfunction was so obvious through the rank and file of Delhi Police that the Kusum Mittal Committee, formed upon the recommendation of Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission, had identified 72 police officers for their connivance in the riots and arson or gross negligence in discharging their duty. Of these officers, the committee had sought the dismissal of 30.
However, such recommendations fell through for obvious reasons.
Their confessions for the first time before the camera highlight the following facts about the police inaction and apathy in those three days that shook the entire nation:
• The police force had succumbed to anti-Sikh sentiments, thus abetting rioting and arson, even encouraging rioters
• Repeated warnings about the simmering communal sentiments against Sikhs in their areas went unheard by senior officers
• While news of arson and rioting bombarded the police control rooms, only two per cent of the messages were recorded
• Police logbooks were conveniently changed to eliminate evidence of inaction on the part of senior officers
• Some officers did not act for fear of punishment being transferred
• Some police officers dumped bodies of victims somewhere else to minimize riot-related crimes in their areas
• The police did not allow the riot victims to file FIRs or when they filed FIRs, they clubbed disparate, unconnected cases of murder and arson in one FIR
• Messages were broadcast directing police to not take action against rioters who were shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’
• The government of the day did not allow the police to act while creating an impression that the police were not performing their duty
• Senior officers like did not allow their subordinates to open fire on rioters
• Police officers did not act even when some press reporters informed him of killing and arson by rioters all around Delhi
• Even the Fire Brigade refused to move to areas where cases of arson had been reported by police.
Some of these revelations are not new as they have already found mention in the reports of various commissions that investigated the 1984 riots. The Cobrapost investigation attempts to fill some missing links.
One of the police officers who had the blood of innocent Sikhs on his hands is Shoorveer Singh Tyagi. The then Station House Officer of Kalyanpuri is alleged to have disarmed Sikhs and forced them out of a Gurudwara in Trilokpuri where they had taken shelter. After making them all vulnerable to the fury of the frenzied mobs baying for their blood, Tyagi did a disappearing act. The mayhem and the murder that followed took a toll of 500 lives.
Indicting him severely for his “criminal misconduct”, the Justice Dalip Kusum Mittal Committee called him a “living shame for any police organization”. However, Tyagi was allowed to walk free by the trial court as the Union Home Ministry did not allow him to be chargesheeted.
Even after three decades, Tyagi has a vivid memory to recall what happened in those three days. According to Tyagi, the then Commissioner of Delhi Police, S.C. Tandon, became a willing partner in this mayhem by abdicating his responsibility as upholder of law and order: “Toh jaane anjane mein wo government ke influence mein rahe hain ki unhone mismangage kiya shuru mein aur do din jab asal mein baat jab haath se nikal gayi (So, knowingly or unknowingly, he was under the influence of the government. He mismanaged in the beginning and in the first two days the situation went out of control).” Asking why all the laid down procedures documented in the Police Headquarters to contain riots in the city were not followed, Tyagi draws his own conclusion: “Yehi conclusion hai ki bhai upar se government ki intention thi ke bhai kuch nuksan Sikhon ko pahunchna chahiye … aur isiliye issi impression mein jaane anjane mein upar walon ne force nahi bheji samjhe (This is the conclusion that the people higher up in the government wanted to harm the Sikhs … and under this impression, they did not dispatched forces to contain riots).”
“Agar pehle din se wo force dete sufficient toh logon pe dabav rehta ek ye impression unhon create kiya ki bhai police jo hai wo inactive hai (Had they provided us with sufficient force on the very first day, people would have felt its pressure … they created this impression that the police are inactive),” Tyagi says and then asks: “… pehle din Giani Zail Singh ki gaadi pe attack hua koi arrest hui? (Was any arrest made after Giani Zail Singh’s car was attacked on the very first day?).”
According to Tyagi, the government should have dispatched armed mobile forces, which were at its disposal in good numbers, to sensitive areas with sizable Sikh population immediately, but it did not: “Pehle do din toh government silent padi rahi aur forces bheji nahi usmein jo hona tha wo ho gaya … aur baad mein they gave an impression ki police ya jo bhi hai wo inactive hai … aur wo kaam nahi kar rahi ya tumhare favour mein hai agar logon ko ye impression milega toh kya karenge … toh yahi yahi intention yahan tak toh government ka guilt hai (the first two days the government remained silent and did not send the forces … what was to happen in that situation happened …. With this they gave an impression that the police is inactive … it is not functioning … it is in your favour. When you create such an impression, then what the people will do … this was the intention. The government’s guilt is clear here).”
Although S. C. Tandon was indicted by the Nanavati Commission, Tyagi is not satisfied. He says all the top officials of Delhi Police should have been brought to justice but instead officers like him were made scapegoats: “Wahi keh raha hoon of course ye hai ki murga banane ke kiye easy target hai jo baat ho jaaye aur ban jaye (That is what I am telling you. Of course, they are easy target for making scapegoats. So, their purpose is well served).”
Nothing sums up the government’s motive behind inquiry commissions after such horrendous mass murders take place under the patronage of the government of the day, when Tyagi drubs them as frauds: “Matlab ye toh wahi keh raha hoon fraud saare government ne ek cheez bana di wo apna kar dega wo matlab pastime ki bhai logon ki attention divert ho gaya … aur kuch nahi hai uska (I mean, all these commissions are simply fraud. The government institutes them for pastime, to divert attention of people … there is nothing more to them).”
Another officer who did not take the call of his duty as the rampaging mobs went about killing Sikhs in his area is then SHO of Delhi Cantonment Rohtas Singh. Recommending punitive action against him for dereliction of duty, the Kusum Mittal Committee said “he is hardly fit to head a police station”. Rohtash Singh retired from service in 2003. The Nanavati Commission also recommended action against them.
Like Tyagi, Rohtas Singh also has some startling revelations to make. He sent messages to the Police Control Room but they were not recorded. Look at what he claims: “Agar wo record ho gayi hoti toh main kaafi kuch sabit kar sakta tha not even two per cent were recorded control room mein jo log book thi (If those message had been recorded, I could have proved many things but not even two per cent were recorded in the log book of the Control Room).”
Neither did his superior allow him to open fire: “Na unhone mujhe ye keh diya ki matlab likh ke bhi diya hai ye bhi keh diya yaar wo toh goli chalne se toh Indira Gandhi wala kaand itna bada ban pada hai tum kyon naya kaand khada karte ho (No, he told me, and gave me in writing, that Indira Gandhi’s murder is big enough an event. Why should I make it even bigger by opening fire?).” The officer concerned was Chandra Prakash, who was Deputy Commissioner of Police at that time. Naming Chandra Prakash, Rohtas Singh reiterates what the officer had advised him: “Kehta yaar goli jab chali wahan Indira Gandhi bhavan wo ghar pe toh dekh lo kya ho raha hai aur kyon naya bakhera khada karte ho (He said ‘Look what is happening after Indira Gandhi was shot at her residence, and now why you want to create another problem?).”
Although the Nanavati Commission had sought action against Prakash, he had already retired long back.
Coming back to his messages, Rohtas Singh says that in such disturbing situations, the Police Control Room is bombarded by messages. He claims: “Toh wireless log book ke ki bata raha hoon … usmein kuch aise message the jo usko le baithte (I am telling about wireless log book … there were some such messages in it which could have been damaging.”
This is what Rohtas Singh claims his superior had told him: “Aap ye batao main jab unse keh raha hoon ki mujhe force chahiye force nahi ayegi toh main kuch nahi kar pa raha hoon wo kehta hai jo aapke paas hai ussi mein guzara kijiye koi force nahi milegi (You tell me, when I asked him I need more forces, without forces I won’t be able to do anything. He says you will not get any force. Make do with whatever force you have).” So, he changed the logbook, claims Rohtas Singh: “Haan, jahan jahan usko suit nahi kar rahi thi wo saba change kara diya … actually wo jab usne mujhe kaha force nahi milegi he was patrolling this area (Yes, he got the logbook changed at places which did not suit him … actually, when he told me I will not get any force, he was patrolling this area).”
Like other police officers interviewed by Cobrapost, Rohtas Singh too admits to the communal sentiments rampant among the rank and file of Delhi Police: “Ismein mujhe koi sankoch nahi hai kehne mein humare policemen bhi yahin local men the wo bhi communal-minded ho gaye the (I have no hesitation saying that our policemen who were drawn from the local men too had become communal minded).”
When a force charged with protecting citizens becomes biased, the result can be anybody’s guess. No wonder if the rioters took full advantage in those three days as they found the law and order machinery on their side. No wonder if Rohtas Singh and his other brothers in uniform were indicted by various commissions.
As the Cobrapost reporter pursued the case further, he came across another Delhi Police officer,
Amrik Singh Bhullar. Then the SHO of Patel Nagar makes many shocking revelations about the attitude of certain police officials who failed their duty, how several disparate cases of loot, arson and murder were clubbed together in one FIR, how multiple messages sent by him were ignored for reasons best known to the officials concerned and how rioting mobs were let loose on the streets. Naming his immediate superior then ACP Rama Murthy, Bhullar explains why Murthy did not act: “Soft thi kuch ek jaise humare ek ACP the Ram Murthy ACP the … he was very close to Nehru … jab Nehru the toh wo unki security mein the … ab he was ACP he was in charge of three police stations, Rajendra Nagar, Patel Nagar, Karol Bagh ab wo ab he was wo apne aap hi aise gham mein the ki wo gaadi leke khade the and he was not taking any action (The police was soft (towards the rioters) like there was this ACP Ram Murthy … he was very close to (Jawaharlal) Nehru … he had served in the security detail of Nehru … he was in charge of three police stations, Rajendra Nagar, Patel Nagar and Karol Bagh … now he was drowned in his own sorrow so much so that he was standing besides his vehicle and he was not taking any action).”
Bhullar explains further how Delhi Police personnel clubbed cases of rioting, arson, loot and murder in one FIR, and even burnt bodies of riot victims, to minimize riot-related crimes in their respective areas. What Bhullar claims is enough to throw you out of your wits: “Wo accused iss tareh the ki unhone apne ilake mein minimize crime ko karne ki koshish ki thi kaise ... jaise aadmi mare the Delhi Cantt mein ye bilkul proved hai ... Delhi Cantt mein aadmi mare toh unhone Rajendra Nagar dead body fenk di lake jungle mein ... police walon ne (They were accused in the sense that they tried to minimize crimes in their areas … for instance, people got killed in Delhi Cant … this is proved … the policemen brought the dead bodies to Rajendra Nagar and dumped them in the jungle there).”
Police also did not register cases. “Logon ne case register nahi kiye dabane ki koshish ki tere ilake mein hua ke itne lambe chaure riots hue unko koshish ki kum se kum karne ki apni naukri bachane ke liye aur utha ke body wahan fenk di Sultan Puri (The police did not register the cases. Instead, they tried to suppress the cases. They knew there were huge riots in their areas, so they tried to minimize, even they picked up the dead bodies and dumped them in Sultan Puri, to save their jobs).”
Police even clubbed several cases of murder, arson and loot in one FIR, a fact that was established by various inquiry commissions. Recounts Bhullar: “Ek hi ek hi case darz kiya ab case toh kai ho gaye … ab aadmi bhi teen mar gaye teen jageh par fir bhi ek case darz kiya ussi mein usko likh diya … tried to minimize jo ki baad mein prove ho gaya ki galat kiya hai aapne … ek toh Anand Parvat mein aadmi mara ek, ek loha mandi mein mara toh ye dono ikkathe kaise ho gaye (There were many cases but they registered only one case … now, three people had died but only one case was registered … they tried to minimize this was and later on it was proved that what they did was wrong … when one person died at Anand Parvat and the other fellow died at Loha Mandi, how did these two cases became one?).”
Then there were officers like Additional Commissioner of Police Hukam Chand Jatav who refused to budge an inch to take the call of duty. Bhullar sheds light on Jatav’s role: “Hukam Chand Jatav ye yahan ke hi the Karol Bagh ke hi IPS the toh uss time the DIG ab wo Control Room mein baithe huye the aur reporter wahan unko pooch rahe hain aur wo keh rahe hain everything is all right unhone kaha wahan toh bande mar gaye hain aapki itni duniya lut gayi hai ja ke dekho toh sahi nahi nahi main yahan Control Room mein hoon and he knew everything lekin wahan se move hi nahi kiya (Hukam Chand Jatav. Karol Bagh fell under him. He was an IPS and was a DIG at that time. He was sitting in the control room and press reporters called him and told him of murders and arson taking place all around, asking him to go out there to intervene. He said, ‘everything is all right … no, no, I am here in the Control Room’ … and he knew everything but did not make any move).”
The reason why such officials did not act: reprisal from the Congress government. Says Bhullar: “Kuch ek aye unhone kaha ki kal ko hum action lenge Congressiyon ki hai inhi ki sarkar hai toh humein kahin Andman Nicobar na bhej diya jaye (Some police officers came forward … they said if they took action, the Congress government might transfer them to Andaman Nicobar).”
The Kusum Mittal Committee found “the role of H.C. Jatav during the riots has been questionable, partisan, and inexcusable”. Yet no action was taken against Jatav. Citing lack of leadership in the police force, Bhullar gives the reason why action was not taken: “Political involvement ki wajeh se logon ne action nahi liya kayion ne SHO se hi wo lagwaye huye hote hain (Due to political involvement, many officers did not take action and then there were SHOs who had been favoured for these postings).”
Trashing the various commissions set up by various governments to inquire into the worst carnage in the history of Independent India, Bhullar quips: “Commission bhai commission toh baithte rahe kai commission baithe … toh aisa hai ki ye jiss aag jiss cheez ko thanda karna ho usko thande baste mein daal do toh wo commission baith jaate hain (Many commissions were set up … the thing is that if you want to throw cold water on some burning issue, you set up a commission).”
It all happened because it was politically motivated. Says Bhullar: “Iske peeche toh political tha ki just to teach a lesson ki matlab inhone kyonki immediately pata lag gaya tha na ki ye Sikh toh guard hi the aur Sikhon ne aisa kiya hai toh teach them a lesson. Congress power mein thi toh Congress ne kaha ki teach them a lesson (There were political elements behind it who wanted to just teach a lesson. It was immediately known that they (Indira Gandhi’s assassins) were Sikh guards. It was done by Sikhs, so teach them a lesson. Congress was in power, so the Congress gave a call to teach them a lesson).”
Another officer who rejects the institution of inquiry commissions is then SHO of Krishna Nagar S. N. Bhaskar: “Ye jitni commission baithti hain ye political hoti hain inko jo government in power hoti hai wo face saving ke liye baithati hai and main nahi keh raha it is notorious fact ye saare media bhi aapko sab taraf chapa hua milega even jab Ranganath Mishra baitha tha toh roz akhbar wale chhapte the ki ye Congress ne baitha rakha hai ye ye unke netaon ko absolve kare (All these commissions are political. These are set up by the government in power for face saving. I am not saying this. It is [a] notorious fact. You will find it published everywhere in the media. Even when the Ranganath Mishra Commission was set up, the newspapers would say that this has been set up only to absolve its leaders).” Police officers were just the puppets: “Aur police officer jitney the jo inhone banaye the ye bali ke bakre the simple si baat hai (And all the police officers who have been made accused are scapegoats. It is as simple as that).”
Many witnesses have stated that Bhaskar, among others, was encouraging the mobs as they went about attacking Sikhs. However, Bhaskar is a changed man now as he has taken on the government, maybe a result of a sense of injustice and damage to his reputation.
Condemning the shoddy approach of the authorities in the aftermath of the riots, Bhaskar says that instead of singling out one petty police officer here and one petty police officer there, heads of those at the top in the hierarchy should have rolled. He does not shy away from naming the official. It is none other than S. Tandon, the Commissioner of Delhi Police. Look at what Bhaskar proclaims: “Itni badi dilli mein ek chhote se ilake mein se ek afsar nikal diya bali ka bakra bana ke … ab riot ke baare mein aap pehle ye cheez apology completely ke hua galat number do jo police ka head tha his head should roll (From a city as big as Delhi you single out an officer, making him a scapegoat … first there should have been an apology completely saying what happened during the riots was wrong. Number two, the person who was police head his head should [have] rolled).” He continues with a straight face, when asked who was the police head: “Mr. Tandon the wo baad mein uska bhi naam ata tha commission of inquiries se (It was Mr. Tandon. Later on his name also appeared in commission of inquiries).”
Bhaskar claims to have sent messages to the Police Control Room informing them of the prevailing sentiments against the Sikh community: “Ab maine chaar baje message diya hai ki maine gasht di hai ilake mein aur ye jo sentiments ye mere direct words hain sentiments … toh maine kaha sentiments against Sikh community noticeable ye mera word likha huwa log book pe meri log book pe nahin inki Control Room wali sab pe hai (Now, I sent them a message at 4 p.m. saying that I have patrolled the area and the sentiments against Sikh community are noticeable, these are my words, and these are written in the logbook of the Control Room).”
He was refused reinforcements. He even told them how President Giani Zail Singh’s car was stoned at AIIMS where he had gone to see Indira Gandhi after she had been shot: “Keh diya ki All India Institute pe Gyani Zail Singh ji President of India the wo jab gaye the Indira Gandhi ke wahan par toh wahan unke upar pathraw ho gaya that is the first incident jab President of India pe pathraw ho jaye tumhein tab bhi hosh nahi aati (I told them that when President of India Gyani Zail Singh visited the All India Institute [of Medical Sciences] to see the condition of Indira Gandhi, he was stoned there ... that is the first incident … shouldn’t you take cognizance of the gravity of situation when the president of India has been stoned?).”
Categorically castigating Tandon, the then Commissioner of Police, Bhaskar says that it was wrong to implicate some lower ranking officers as the riots were not confined to their areas only. In fact, the whole of Delhi was engulfed in the riots. Therefore, officers including ACPs, DCPs and the police commissioner himself should have brought to justice. “Lekin jab poori dilli mein hua toh kaun jimmedar hua … toh fir aise mein neeche wala toh doshi ho hi nahi sakta (The riots happened all over Delhi … then who should be held responsible … so in such situation the lower rung officers cannot be held guilty),” he says.
“Main toh apne level se ye keh sakta hoon ki jab maine chaar baje message bheje aapse force mang raha hoon toh aapne mujhe kyon nahi di (I can tell you at my level that when I had messaged them at 4 p.m. asking for force, then why did not they send it to me?),” Bhaskar raises a pertinent question about the intent of the higher authorities of Delhi Police. Instead, claims Bhaskar, they were told to not take any action against the mobs: “Wo bhi message hain inke sab ke wo toh hain aur yahan tak hain ki jo ye log Indira Gandhi ka rosh mana rahe hain aur jo ye India Gandhi zindabad ke naare laga rahe hain unko kuch na karein wo toh jo patthar maar raha tha wo Indira Gandhi zindabad keh ke hi toh mar raha tha aur kya kar raha tha … ye bhi hain messages bade messages hain (There were all such messages. Even there were messages that those who are mourning Indira Gandhi and shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad’ should not be stopped. The fellow who was pelting stones was shouting slogans of ‘Indira Gandhi zindabad.’ What else was he doing? … There are such messages).”
Another high-ranking official who was witness to the killing of Sikhs but failed to intervene was Gautam Kaul, then additional commissioner of police, New Delhi Range. Called to scrutiny by four inquiries, headed by Ved Marwah, Justice Rangnath Mishra, Justice Dalip Kapur and Kusum Mittal, and Justice G. T. Nanavati, eye witnesses swore on affidavit that Gautam Kaul was there when Gurudwara Raqab Ganj on Pant Road, close to Parliament House, was attacked by a rioting mob but he did not act to disperse the mob. He rather made good his escape. Kaul gives a chilling account of how a Sikh had been burnt to death on Pant Road when he went out to patrol the area around Teen Murti, of which he had been put in charge. What he says is self-evident: “Maine socha ki main zara dekh loon itni khabrein sun raha hoon ho kya raha hai Delhi Police kahan kahna faili huyi hai main nikal gaya aur maine dekha bahar ye jo Pant Road hai uss road pe ek bechara Sikh tha uss pe logon ne tyre daal diya tha maar ke tyre daal diya tha uss pe toh wo jal raha tha ab wo itna jal chuka tha ki usko koi madad nahi mil sakti thi (When I heard about what was happening, I thought I would go out for half-an-hour and see how Delhi Police was spread out … on Pant Road rioters had killed a poor Sikh and had thrown a burning tyre on his body. He had been burned to the extent that it was of no use to help him).” So Kaul did not help. Then, “wahan humko kariban 20 ladke mil gaye the wo jhuggi jhopadiyon ke the … wo unhone humko dekha aur ekdum se hi hi karne lage toh fir maine socha ke hum toh akele hain aur ye bees hain bekar emin inke saath muthbhed karna hoga (There I saw about 20 boys from slums … as soon as they saw me they began to shout ‘down down’. So, I thought it was not advisable to confront them as I was alone),” says Kaul.
Guess what he did! He did a disappearing act. “Maine gaadi ghumai aur mein Teen Murti House fir laut ke aa gaya (I turned my vehicle and drove back to Teen Murti House).”
Accused of negligence of duty during anti-Sikh riots in Srinivaspuri where he was SHO, O.P. Yadav was absolved by a departmental inquiry. The Nanavati Commission too exonerated him. In his interview with the Cobrapost reporter, Yadav -- like other officers -- too cites lack of leadership and the force being ill-equipped among the reasons why Delhi Police could not contain the riots. For instance, there was shortage of manpower and vehicles and there was no effective communication, so much so that even firefighters refused to take a call without security cover from the police. Listen to what the Fire Department told Yadav when he called them up: “Maine dus message diye honge Fire Brigade ke wahan pe Fire Brigade bhijwaiye toh Fire Brigade wale kehte hain ki humein jo hai na humein mob jo ha na wo pakadke humein peetegi maaregi isliye humein security chahiye ab agar har ek usko security dein toh yahan toh pehle hi kami hai manpower ki toh insko kahan se dein toh Fire Brigade jo hai na kahin move hi nahi kar rahi thi (I sent at least 10 messages to the Fire Brigade to go to a certain place but instead they asked for security telling us that the rioting mobs would bash them up. Now, how could we provide them security when we didn’t have manpower? So the Fire Brigade did not move).”
Adding grist to the flaring communal cauldron was a lack of will on the part of the top brass of Delhi Police. As a result, nobody came forward to provide leadership to the police force. In the words of Yadav, there were no clear cut instructions to curtail rioting: “Ab guidelines ya jaise wo nahi na clear cut jo hai na unhone koi iss tareh ki jo hai na ki bhai jaise wo leadership failure keh lijiye jo hai na hum jo hai ne agar force wo jaise senior officers ki meeting bula ke DCP ya unko bula ke aur kehte ki jo hai na DCP aake apne district mein kehte ki nahi bilkul chahe jo hai na lathi chalaiye goli chalane ki zaroorat hai toh goli chalaiye lekin jo hai riots nahi hone chahiye (Call it leadership failure, there were no guidelines as such for the force to act on … they should have called a meeting of senior officers like DCPs. The DCPs in turn could have told the rank and file of their districts to resort to lathi charge and if need be open fire, but in no way should rioting take place).”
The blame goes squarely to Tandon, then the police commissioner, according to Yadav: “Ya ye keh lijiye ki Police Commissioner ne koi jo hai na wo wo nahi dikhaya ki jo hai na clear cut … jab jab upar se agar clear cut … toh orders aa gaye hain (You can say that the police commissioner did not have the courage to issue clear cut orders).”
The Army was called in after three days which, as Yadav says, was again a result of dilly-dallying on the part of authorities: “Army jo hai na bahut late aayi thi teen din ke baad jo hai na unhone call kiya … unko ya toh ye tha ki jo hai na waise hi control ho jayenge aadmi toh kya bulana (Even the Army intervened quite late. They called it in after three days … they thought why call in the army when the rioters will be controlled on their own).”
Yadav’s averments find an echo in what his fellow officer Jaipal Singh, then SHO of Mehrauli says. Naming top officials of Delhi Police such as Gautam Kaul and Subhash Chandra, Jai Pal says: “Toh response itna quick nahi raha … jo unka role tha army ko zaldi bulayein extra force kahan se bulayein job hi kuch karein saara jaise raat ko close ho gaye … raat ko koi message ye nahi mila ki bhai kya kiya jaye bas ye tha ki apne ilake mein gasht … (Their response was not that quick. Their role was to call in the Army as quickly as possible, call in extra force from wherever they could … for instance, after the riots closed in the night, we did not get any message like what we were supposed to do, instead we were asked to patrol the area).” A sad commentary on the entire hierarchy of Delhi Police.
Few officers of his rank would get the kind of bashing from his own subordinates as does Tandon, who commanded Delhi Police when the capital city had been held to ransom by murderous mobs, going about unchecked in their killing spree for three days. In their interviews with Cobrapost, at least three officers castigate the then police chief without mincing words. For instance, Tyagi criticizes Tandon for acting under the influence of the government of the day. Similarly, Yadav accuses him of not providing leadership to the force, while Bhaskar says that instead of singling out some SHOs, Tandon’s head should have rolled. Not only that, the Ranganath Mishra Commission too held Tandon responsible for the breakdown of the law and order machinery, so did the Kusum Mittal Committee, which devoted an entire chapter of its report to Tandon’s role. Curiously enough, like other senior officials, Tandon was too allowed to retire with full honours and benefits.
Cobrapost decided to question Tandon about his role in the riots. However hard the reporter tired to cajole him in to speaking, he parried all questions. He rather straightaway rejects the idea that he had any first-hand knowledge of rioting: “I have no first-hand knowledge … if I had firsthand knowledge I could have said something but I have no firsthand knowledge … certain areas in Delhi West Delhi and East Delhi where things have happened and allegations were made against certain ruling party.” There was no pressure from any political quarter, as he says: “Nobody ever asked me, nobody told me ki ye mat kariye wo mat kariye (Nobody ever asked me, nobody told me to do this or do that).” Maybe, SHOs might have been influenced: “Bolna ho toh SHO ko bol dete hain ki aap ye karo wo karo but I am not aware of anything and not fair for me to give us statement based on hearing (Maybe, they could have told SHOs to do this or that but I am not aware of anything and not fair for me to give statement based on hearing).”
While the national capital burned, the city’s police force, including its chief, simply fiddled, letting the massacre continue for three days.