24 December 2007
1984 riots: Sikh groups in US rally for justice
STANDING FOR JUSTICE: Sikh groups in India and the US also want Tytler to hand to the CBI, the Doordarshan CDs.
New York: After CNN-IBN broadcast testimonies of key witnesses of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984, Sikh groups across the world are pushing for justice.
Sikhs For Justice, a movement set up by 15 Sikh organizations in the United States, met recently at the Baba Makhan Shah Gurudwara in New York. Their objective is to ensure that those allegedly involved in killings during the 1984 anti-Sikhs riots are punished.
“We have two witnesses who will be present when the opportunity arises,” says Sukhwant Singh, Sikhs for Justice.
Sikhs For Justice is doing the groundwork to enable witnesses to testify against Congress leaders like Jagdish Tytler, Kamal Nath and Sajjan Kumar. But the resolution passed on Sunday goes further than dropping names. They demand a Judicial enquiry into the 84 riots, headed by a sitting judge of the Supreme Court, that will look at the carnage not just in Delhi but also 9 other states. They also asked that the Akal Takht Jathedar and the SGPC appeal for witnesses to testify, offering them full protection.
“On behalf of Sikhs for Justice, in the coming two weeks, appeals will be made before the Supreme Court to take suo moto cognizance (of the cases). If the Supreme Court does not hear our pleas, then we will appeal to Sikhs at an international level, that they unite and go before the United Nations under the auspices of the Genocide Treaty, so Sikhs get justice,” says Balbir Kaur, Sikhs for Justice.
Sikh groups in India and the US also want Tytler to hand to the CBI, the Doordarshan CDs that he says show him near Indira Gandhi's body on 1st November 1984.
23 years since the riots, Sikh groups in America feel energized to form a front and start naming Indian politicians they believe were involved in the violence and to seek direct legal action in India. However, in Delhi, Sikh groups gathered at Majnu Ka Tilla gurudwara assuring support to Surinder Singh, whose chilling eyewitness account was broadcast on CNN IBN.
“It is not only Jasbir Singh or Surinder Singh who are a witness against Jagdish Tytler. There are many such people who are ready to give their account in the court,” says Karnail Singh, President, All India Sikh Student Federation.
Another Witness Against Jagdish Tytler Steps Forward - there are also videos available at this link
New Delhi: On October 31, 1984, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by two of her Sikh security guards. Within hours, India witnessed its worst-ever communal riots.
Nearly 3,000 Sikh men, women and children were killed across the country.
The worst-hit was the national Capital where 2,733 Sikhs were killed. . (That is a truly bizarre and exact figure. I wonder if it includes my two little girls?)
Twenty-three years, 10 investigative commissions, 13 convictions and an apology from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh haven't done much to heal the wounds.
Nearly a fortnight ago, CNN-IBN tracked down Jasbir Singh, one of the key witnesses in the case, Jasbir Singh, to United States of America. This, after CBI said it couldn't trace him and therefore couldn't consider him a witness in the case.
Witnesses turning hostile was one of the biggest problems the prosecution faced in the case and the investigative agencies had to shut cases registered against various accused like senior Congress leader and former minister Jagdish Tytler.
But a CNN-IBN Special Investigation reveals the testimony of a never-before-known key eyewitness in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. The investigation has on tape, for the first time, the eyewitness account of Surinder Singh who claims he saw three men being burnt to death in the presence of Tytler.
Surinder Singh was reportedly the priest at the Pulbangash Gurdwara in north Delhi when the riots broke out. Given below is his testimony.
CNN-IBN: Te Tytler ne laayi aag onu? (Was Tytler the instigator?)
Surinder Singh: Jedi maheem di zimmedaari si o ose di si. Ek waari te main keh chukeyan o taan mere kolon likhwa ke le chuke hain asb kuch. Theek hai na. O jedi masjid hai na saamne, o masjid wale paase siga te lalkaare maar reha si oddaron lokaan nu ki.
Translation: (He was leading the charge. I have said it, I have given written statements. He was standing near the Masjid and egging on the mob, "Kill them! They have killed our mother.)
CNN-IBN: Tussi apni akkaan naal vekhya si? (Did you see this with your own eyes ?)
Surinder Singh: Mian apni akkhaan naal vekhyea teeno katal mere saamne hi hoye si. Badal Singh swere keertan karke 8 baje chala gaya. Te Azad market ch onu lokaan ne gher leya. a 1 tareek di gall hai, 1 st Nov di, Azad market ch public odey magar pai gai. O pajj ke amarsingh singh texla TV wale ne, road te hi onaa di dukaan si,onaa de ghar chhup gaya. Te o onu lab lub ke chale gaye te o mileya na, Ghantek baad ona nun fer pata lag gaya te fer o gharch hi wadd gaye. Te chat si odda ghar doosri manjil te. Oney apni kirpan kaddi hoyegi kise nu maaran layi par onu o kirpan kaddan hi nahi ditti,te duje bande ne pichheyon fadd leya te odi kirpan naal hi odaa tidd ( stomach) faad ditta. Utton assi dekh rahe haan sab kuchh. Assi te chuthi chat te haan te o te dooji chat te hai, te jadon taan odaa tidd faadta, tidd faadan naal banda marda nahi hai ik dam,marr da jaadon saans katti jaaye.
Translation: (With my own eyes I saw three murders. Badal Singh left after keertan at 8 am. The mob surrounded him at Azad market, I'm talking about November 1. He ran into the house of one Amarjeet Singh, and hid there. For an hour the mob could not find him. He came out an hour later. They spotted him. He ran to the terrace of the house. He brought out his kripan to defend himself. Someone grabbed it and stabbed him in the stomach with the kripan. We saw it all from our roof. After the stabbing Badal didn't die immediately.)
Surinder Singh: Te onnu thhalle suteya fer onane. Te thhalle sutt ke o redi hundi hai na koode wali,ode te onnu ladd ke leyaye hai, Gurudware de saamne,assi utton dekh rahe haan sab kuch, te naal hi nachde tapde log aa rahe hai, poore bhangre paunde,jiddaan vyaah shaadiyan da mahaul Honda hai na is tarah hi. Te saamne leya ke gurudware de, te onnu gurudware de saamne leya ke odde gale ch tire paaye hai, tire pehlaan hi otthe aa chukke sann. O jeda Badal singh si na onu jadon leyaye o tadap reha si banda ronda hai na jiddaan. Onaane odey Galey ch tire paaye, te odey uttey thoda jeya mitti ta tel chidkeya te onun aag laa deti, jeenda sadeya oh!
Translation: (They threw his body down from the second floor. Then they loaded it onto a garbage barrow. We were watching from the top. There they started dancing as if it was a wedding. They then brought him in front of the Gurudwara. There they put a tire around his neck, they had tires with them. Badal Singh was screaming and crying in pain but they put the tire around him, sprinkled kerosene and lit the fire. The man was burnt alive .)
Surinder Singh: Otton pehlan swere jadon attack hoya si, swere attack hoya 8 baje subah, ye mere naal inspector Thakur Singh si, o oddon Delhi committee de wich service karda si te sarkaar wallon retire ho chukeya si, police de vichchon. Te o raat da aaya hoya si Gurudware 31 tareek nu raat nu, 31 tareek nu hi lokaan na caran saad ditiyan si.. 8 -9 baje main katha kar reha haan te jedey sun rahe si unaadiyan caaran.. O police wala sadde otthe rehnda hi si kyunki odde behen -bhai jedey upar rehnde sann, swere jaddon onane sadde te hamla kitta te o mainu kehen lageya Gyani ji tussi bahar na jao mainu lokaan naal vartan da pata hai, main police vich rehaan te tussi pichhe rehna. Te o agge ho gaye main odey pichhe ho gaya. Uttey khalo ke kehen lageya eethe school khuleya hai Guru Teg Bahadur de naam te, bachchiyan da school hai 12 tak. Kehen lageya ki ethey 1,400 ladkiyan vichchon 1,200 ladki hindu hai, te 200 musalaman ladki hai. Te 60 teacheraan vichchon 50 teacheraan hindu ne te 10 teacheraan sikh dharma diyan ne. O samjha reha si lokaan nu par otthe samajhna kaun chanda si?
Translation: (In the morning, before the attack, at 8 am, Inspector Thakur Singh was with me. He was in our Gurudwara committee since her had retired from the police. He had come to the Gurudwara on the 31st. That night the mobs were already burning cars. In the morning when the attacks started, he (Thakur Singh) said Gyaniji don't go out. I've been in the police, stay behind me. He tried talking to the mob, told them there was a school nearby with Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims in it. But nobody was ready to listen to him.)
Surinder Singh: Police wale ne keha. SHO nahi si, SHO te thane ch band si, SHO sardar si Amarjeet singh, onu band kitta hoya si kyunki assi baad wich gaye hai na te saanu taan pata lageya. Othhe jidey aam police wale hunde ne o si.
Translation: (The policemen said the SHO was not with them. They said they had locked him up at the thana. Because the local SHO was a Sikh named Amarjeet Singh. He (Tytler) was there with the police.)
Surinder Singh also described the killing of another man that morning. A man who worked at a local television store, a revelation being made for the first time.
Surinder Singh: Badal jaddon geya na Amarjeet de ghar te Amarjeet da naukar mil geya te o vi sardar si te onu vi unaane maar ditta. Te odi laash vi Gurudware de stamen leja ke saadi. Teen matlab katal hue, Badal singh raagi da,police inspector Thankur Singh da te Amarjeet jo hai texla TV wala unaade naukar da.
Translation: (After Badal Singh hid in the TV shopowner Amarjeet's house. The mob found Amarjeet's servant. They killed him as well. The burnt him in front of the Gurudwara as well. So there were three killings, Badal Singh, Police Inspector Thakur Singh and Amarjeet's servant.)
Just days after the riots, Singh claims Tytler came to meet him at the Gurudwara.
Surinder Singh: On November 10, Jagdish Tytler came to the Gurudwara and asked me to sign on two sheets of paper, which I refused to sign.
Singh claimed that in his first deposition before the Nanavati Commission he had openly declared that if he faced pressure and death threats from Congress, he would turn hostile.
Surinder Singh: Nanavati naal meri gal baat hoyi te Nanavati ne mainu bulaya. Main saareyan saamne keha ki ye ye bande si par main onaanu keha main twaanu vi keh raha hun ki aaj sarkar dooji hai te main bayaan de ditta, kal nu sarkaar badal gayi main fer mukar jaana kyunki main marna nahi hai, seedhi jayi gal hai. Ye maine kaha Nanavati ko, sarakar ab fir badal gayi fir unka raaj hai.
Translation: (Judge Nanavati questioned me why didn't you speak up before, why have you spoken out after so many years. I told him that earlier it was the rule of the Congress Party how could've I said anything against them?)
CNN-IBN: Did they threaten you?
Surinder Singh: It did not happen once, it has happened so many times. Had I not done that things would've got over then itself because I am his sole witness, Jasbir Singh is nobody. He's come out of I don't know where. All this happened in front of me.
New Delhi: Minutes after CNN-IBN telecast the statements of Surinder Singh, a Sikh priest who claims to have witnessed Congress leader Jagdish Tytler inciting a mob during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, Tytler rubbished the statements.
In an exclusive chat with CNN-IBN Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, Tytler said he had proof to negate Surinder Singh's statements.
Tytler claimed he was in possession of Doordarshan CDs that reportedly showed him near Indira Gandhi's dead body through the hours riots took place.
On a CNN-IBN special show conducted by Suhasini Haidar, Tytler also faced questions from H S Phoolka, the counsel for the '84 riot victims. The Congress leader said the timing of the appearance of the two witnesses reeks of a conspiracy against him.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You saw the statement Surinder Singh made on camera. I repeat what he said, "Tytler was instigating the mob saying 'Don't leave them, they have killed our mother.' What's your response?
Jagdish Tytler: He has also given an affidavit in Nanavati Commission saying he saw me at 9 o clock in morning. If you see the records when the session court trial took place, everybody said everything went wrong till 2 pm at that place.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you saying that what Surinder Singh has told us on camera is a lie? That he is changing his mind and that there's no question of you being there at the time uttering those words?
Jagdish Tytler: I just want to say that I have never been to that place and I have got the seven CDs of Doordarshan where I am with Indira Gandhi's body from 7 am to 3 pm. Everyone saw me.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Surinder Singh submitted his first eyewitness testimony before Nanavati Commission on January 12, 2002. At the end when commission finished it's hearing, it said there was credible evidence against Jagdish Tytler that needed to be investigated. So obviously Surinder Singh was being taken seriously. You are saying he is a liar?
Jagdish Tytler: I am not saying that. I am saying I have a proof that I was not there. I can give you the films just now. They are official DD films.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You claim you were there with Indira Gandhi's body?
Jagdish Tytler: I don't claim. I was there from 7 am.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But the bottomline is why should Surinder Singh say something like this?
Jagdish Tytler: After 21 years, this fellow comes and says all this. I don't understand this. There's someone behind this.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Who is behind it? Are you saying there are rivals within your party doing this? Are you saying these witnesses are only surfacing after you were given a clean chit by CBI last week?
Jagdish Tytler: I only want to know why this man did not go the sessions court trial in 1994. He did not go to any commission, he did not got to CBI when he was questioned.
Rajdeep Sardesai: He says he was frightened.
Jagdish Tytler: Frightened of whom?
Rajdeep Sardesai: Frightened of threats and pressures he was under. He says his life was under threat and he did not get the backing of the Delhi Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee. Therefore he turned a hostile witness.
Jagdish Tytler: It's all nonsense. He's talking rubbish. Can he name one or more Sikhs from the Gurudwara who can corroborate his statements? There must be other people too.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So you are saying that the granthi, who is on a hidden camera, is not speaking the truth. At no stage did you make that statement.
Jagdish Tytler: I was not there.
Rajdeep Sardesai: And despite that the Nanavati Commission said there was credible evidence? So you say the Commission is also lying?
Jagdish Tytler: Nanavati Commission only commented on his statement.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Surinder Singh says he turned hostile due to pressures. He claims he was abducted thrice, that police was hand-in-glove with powerful people.
Jagdish Tytler: I have a tape that shows I am not there. So the whole thing becomes a lie.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Why did you not submit the tape to CBI?
Jagdish Tytler: I did submit to CBI and the man himself has gone and said he did not see me. He got papers in his hand, legally.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So are you saying there was no question of pressure or threats?
Jagdish Tytler: The question does not arise. Inquiry must be done and I think there's a conspiracy. After 21 years the man comes and makes a statement like, 'Doosri sarkar aayegi main fir badal jaaoonga (I will change again when Government changes)' What kind of a witness is he?
Phoolka reacted to Tytler's claims. "He was given dates to testify but he did not produce the tapes. Had he produced the tapes in front of Nanavati Commission, it would have considered it. If he is right, that would have been the end of it. He chose not to produce it."
Tytler responded by saying the clippings were part of a Doordarshan show recorded in 1984 and that he couldn't have produced it immediately.
Phoolka, however, maintained Tytler could have asked the court to summon DD on the tapes. "But Mr Tytler did not do this. I think there is something wrong there," he said.
Rajdeep Sardesai: But why did Surinder Singh change his statement in affidavit, denying he had seen Tytler. Now he has come on CNN-IBN making these dramatic statements. How do you explain the changing testimony of a key witness?
Phoolka: Surinder Singh has explained it himself. There's nothing for me to say. Let me tell you. Surinder Singh was a witness but police never produced him in the court. The sequence is very clear. I want to thank CNN-IBN for exposing it. It's great.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Mr Tytler respond to this. Mr Phoolka says the Delhi Police did not react because they were working under your instruction. Ironically today, we have a Sikh Prime Minister from the same regime.
Jagdish Tytler: My point is that in that Gurudwara, Surinder Singh was not the only person. There were hundreds of others, too. Can he bring another couple of witnesses to say I was there?
Phoolka: Not everybody would have seen it. They were all running to save their lives.
Jagdish Tytler: Let me tell you there is no mosque near the Gurudwara. There's one 100 metre away from it. I was never on the street.
Rajdeep Sardesai: So you are denying what Justice Nanavati says, that there's credible evidence against you?
Jagdish Tytler: Completely. I was not there. I am telling you again and again. I cannot be at two places at the same time.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Why did you not produce the tapes earlier?
Jagdish Tytler: I am telling you I gave them to CBI. Probably he went to CBI and told the agency in the affidavit that he hadn't seen me.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Why would Justice Nanavati say there was credible evidence against him?
Jagdish Tytler: That was because of Surinder Singh's affidavit.
Suhasini Haidar: Mr Tytler, 3,000 people were killed in Delhi in those riots. Very few of them came out to speak. Is that not a testimony enough of the fear?
Jagdish Tytler: Let it be Surinder Singh's words against my tapes proving I was present somewhere else. Let the court decide what the truth is.
Ved Marwah who headed the first enquiry into the riots joined in the debate.
Suhasini Haidar: Does anything that Surinder Singh says surprise you?
Ved Marwah: It's very unfortunate that the proceedings have gone on for 23 years and if the witnesses are now changing their testimony, it's because the whole thing has dragged on for so many years. When I was called to Delhi Police – after the riots were over – I was given three months. But before I could complete it, I was asked to stop. Naturally, I couldn't proceed with it despite doing a lot of work. Commenting on Surinder Singh's or Tytler's statement is something that the investigative agencies must do.
Suhasini Haidar: But investigative agencies have failed and witnesses have retracted. Even Surinder Singh says he saw six policemen with the mob. How is the ordinary person expected to face up to such power?
Ved Marwah: That's true. If people can be burnt alive on Delhi roads, it doesn't speak too well of Delhi Police. That's what I was going to do if I was allowed to proceed with my inquiry. I had collected all records that did not put the police in very good light.
Suhasini Haidar: Mr Phoolka, is there any evidence you have that can nail Mr Tytler?
Phoolka: Full opportunity was given to Tytler. But he did not produce the CDs. So it proves he wasn't there (at Indira Gandhi's funeral). If he was, he would have placed it on record before Nanavati Commission.
Jagdish Tytler: I want to ask Mr Phoolka one question: there were 200 affidavits filed over that incident. Do any of them mention my name? Why me?
Suhasini Haidar: It's interesting you should say that. Surinder's testimony comes in the same week as Jasbir Singh's.
Jagdish Tytler: That's not his testimony. Jasbir's is a different case.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you suggesting, Mr Tytler, that it's all a conspiracy?
Jagdish Tytler: It's all a conspiracy.
Rajdeep Sardesai: By a section of Congress leadership?
Jagdish Tytler: I would not say that.
Rajdeep Sardesai: By your political rivals?
Jagdish Tytler: Anyone.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Is it people who wouldn't want you to come back to power?
Jagdish Tytler: That's for police to find out. CBI must find out.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Are you ready for a situation that Surinder Singh goes to CBI with the statement he has made to CNN-IBN?
Jagdish Tytler: Oh yes. He should also prove his case by bringing in more people.
Suhasini Haidar: Surinder Singh and Jasbir Singh are not the only people who accuse you. The CDs you speak of were not produced before CBI and they may not be there at all now.
Jagdish Tytler: It's part of government record.
Suhasini Haidar: Do you have those CDs with you?
Jagdish Tytler: I have a copy I got officially. DD still has the record.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Will you submit the CDs?
Jagdish Tytler: If they ask me, 100 per cent I will.
Rajdeep Sardesai: Two days from now are Gujarat elections, Narendra Modi has been accused of many things. In a sense, does Congress have blood on its hands for 1984?
Jagdish Tytler: Not at all. It's for CBI and court to decide.
Rajdeep Sardesai: You don't see any parallels between 1984 and 2002?
Jagdish Tytler: Not at all. I don't want to comment on this. All I want to say is I was not there and it's all a made-up story. Police must investigate this.
Suhasini Haidar: Can we have a look at the CDs?
Jagdish Tytler: Of course, I will give it to Rajdeep Sardesai just now. I will give it to CBI. Get a lie-detector test done on me and on that man too.
Suhasini Haidar: Mr Phoolka, what happens next?
Phoolka: If he has the CDs and if he can prove he was at the cremation during those hours, that's the end of it. But if he was so sure, he should have submitted it before Nanavati Panel.
Jagdish Tytler: Mr Phoolka, will you listen to me? You are a lawyer. Surinder Singh says he saw me at 9 am. But at the sessions court trial, the man whose brother died said the mob came in at 2 pm.
Phoolka: These contradictions are for the court to see.
Suhasini: Gentlemen, hopefully this will come up in court, hopefully it will go through a commission of inquiry that will come through with some concrete answers. Mr Marwah, before we end, what you are seeing here, what you have seen here is the testimony of one man, one man who could not speak in front of commission of inquiry and one Congress leader who was implicated in the riots. But we know that many senior politicians were also implicated in the riots, we know at least 3,000 people were killed. Is this what it has finally has come down to, that 23 years later the entire police force cannot find anyone at the top more guilty?
Ved Marwah: I think it is very tragic that no conclusion has been made about who is guilty and who's not in 23 years. But the sad fact is that I was the inquiry officer and I was given three months to complete and that didn't happen. And for the last 23 years some Delhi police officers have been filing one civil suit after another against me for doing that inquiry. So you see our criminal justice system is in a very bad shape and if things go on as they are people will lose confidence.
Some see things as they are and ask, Why?
I dream things that never were and ask, Why not?
Weekday Lounge Exclusive - Wall Street Journal
Betrayed By The State
Betrayed by the State:
Here is one review from Eastern Book Corporation. This book may be ordered online here.
Main Features »
I apologize not only to the Sikh community but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution . . . we as a united nation can ensure that such a ghastly event is never repeated in India’s future.’ —Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaking in the Indian Parliament, August 2005 (I'm sorry, but every time I hear or read about the Sikh Prime Minister apologising for the 'anti-Sikh riots,' I have my laugh for the day.)
On 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was brutally assassinated by two of her bodyguards. They were Sikhs. Twenty-four hours later the capital of India was up in flames. Sikh men, women and children were hunted; men and boys were ruthlessly massacred; their workplaces burnt, houses razed to the ground and gurudwaras plundered. The carnage continued for three days and at the close of the third day the death toll was close to 4000.
Twenty-three years and nine commissions later, the victims of ’84 still await justice for their dead, for the State to do more than just apologize for what is one of the most heinous massacres in Indian history.
Weaving together ethnicity, religion, class, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and political expediencies, the author explores how a numerically small ethno-religious group of people, who are disproportionately visible in everyday Indian life, became the focus of communal ire. She also illustrates the strength and courage with which the ‘Chaurasiye’ have moved forward, rebuilding their lives against all odds.