Did Delhi Cops Help Hindu Mobs Kill 3,000 Sikhs?

Apr 23, 2014 at 3:23 PM ET

Three decades after Hindu mobs murdered 3,000 Sikhs during days of bloody rioting in Delhi, Cobrapost, an investigative news outlet, claims it secretly recorded the city’s police officers admitting what many have long suspected—that the cops were complicit in the mass killings. 

Anirudha Bahal, head of Cobrapost, says one of his reporters used a hidden camera and posed as a documentary researcher to record conversations with eight police officers who said, among other things, that the police encouraged and abetted the mobs; that senior officers ignored repeated warnings about possible violence; and that the police changed their logbooks to hide inaction by senior officers.

The riots erupted on Nov. 1, 1984, after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. For three days, Hindu mobs in Delhi and elsewhere across the country dragged Sikhs by their turbans out of their homes, beating them to death or lighting them on fire, according to witnesses.

The news struck a chord in India, where public outrage over the riots still simmers because no leaders of the Congress Party, which ruled India at the time, have been convicted of inciting the violence. Some have enjoyed successful political careers, while Delhi’s top cops have faded into comfortable retirement.

Among them: S.C. Tandon, Delhi’s chief of police in 1984, who Cobrapost claims grossly mismanaged the force’s response. Their evidence is based on a conversation with one of the police officers they interviewed who said: “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.”

Tandon quickly refuted this claim. “I did my best to control [the] riots,” he told the Asian New International, a Delhi-based news agency.

Rashid Alvi, one of the current leaders of the Congress Party, told local media that Cobrapost’s claims should be “properly investigated.”

“Whoever is responsible whether it is politicians or police officers they should be punished,” he said.

After 30 years of inaction, it’s hard to predict whether the news will lead to any real action or accountability. But many Sikhs hope that justice will prevail, the perpetrators will be punished and the ghosts of the riots will finally be laid to rest.

As Naresh Gujral, a Sikh politician, put it in an interview with Indian media: The next government “will nail the culprit.”