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Remembering the 1984 Anti-sikh riots

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    President Giani Zail Singh (left) with Rajiv Gandhi paying homage to slain prime minister Indira Gandhi

    On the morning of October 31, 1984, two Sikh bodyguards shot down Indira Gandhi, prime minister at that time, at point blank range at her residence in New Delhi.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    An anxious crowd waiting for news on the health of Indira Gandhi

    News had spread quickly that the two bodyguards who shot her belonged to the Sikh community and in no time anger started to grow. Before she was officially pronounced dead around 5 pm,attacks had begun on the Sikh community in many parts of the country.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    Members of the Gandhi family, including Rajiv, Priyanka and Sonia, beside the funeral pyre at Shakti Sthal

    Rajiv Gandhi at the time was said to be too distraught to take any control of the law and order situation and Indira Gandhi’s close aide, R K Dhawan is said to have taken most of the decisions with the consent of many senior congress leaders.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    Army columns deployed close to Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, New Delhi

    Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission was appointed on April 26, 1985 and submitted a report on August 22, 1986 which said that the police was indifferent and, in some cases, had connived with rioters. It also blamed the police commissioner and Lt. Governor for the delay in calling the army when 5,000 men were available.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    A taxi charred by rioters in Delhi

    Delhi was clearly the worst affected with an official figure of 2733 deaths, which many claim is grossly undervalued. Other parts in the country like Kanpur, Bokaro and some parts of Punjab saw as many as 586 officially recorded deaths.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    A view of the vandalised shops in Connaught Place in Delhi, following the riots

    Justice Thakkar Commission was the first of the many commissions appointed soon after the death of Gandhi to probe the security lapses. It submitted a report on Feb 27,1986. The report pointed to a “needle of suspicion” at Gandhi’s close aide, R K Dhawan.However, Rajiv Gandhi dismissed the charges,reinducting him in the government. Later, he was made member of the Rajya Sabha.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    Thousands line up on Delhi’s streets to pay their homage to the deceased prime minister

    Nanavati Commission's report submitted on Feb 2, 2005 concluded that after Gandhi’s assassination, systematic attacks were carried out against Sikhs, without fear of the police. Mobs came on DTC buses and were taken to particular locations. There was no evidence suggesting Rajiv Gandhi or other high-ranked Congress leaders had suggested organised attacks on Sikhs. But it did not rule out the role of influential and powerful people.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    Rioting crowds in the wake of the assasination in the national capital

    Systematic attacks were launched and Delhi’s Trilokpuri, which has been the scene of communal violence in the past few days, faced the brunt of it. At least 2,733 people died during the violence, which lasted for five days.

  • Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi, Zail Singh, Delhi, 1984,
    Some of those affected by the rioting in Delhi

    Over the years several commissions and investigations have been set up with Nanavati commission clearly stating that rioters were instigated and planned the attacks. However big names like Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar have walked away scott free due to lack of evidence.

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