Although the massacre of Sikhs in Delhi dates back to 1984, most of the material on it – spread over 1,
000 official files – came to light incrementally from 2001 to 2004, that is, in the course of a second
judicial inquiry into the carnage.
When the inquiry report of the Justice GT Nanavati Commission was made public in 2005,
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in the Lok Sabha: ‘Twenty-one year have passed… and yet the
feeling persists that somehow the truth has not come out.’
An extraordinary admission, considering that the tacit purpose of appointing the second
judicial inquiry in 2000, in an unprecedented development, and with a consensus among the political
parties, was to undo the whitewash by the first, the Justice Ranganath Misra Commission, which had
conducted all its proceedings under a veil of secrecy in 1985-86.
Furthermore, since the Nanavati Commission reiterated the Misra Commission’s clean chit
to his political party’s government in 1984, Manmohan Singh could not have possibly had any vested
interest in voicing the widespread felling in 2005 that the truth had still not been revealed.
This book seeks to bring out the truth, redressing the failure of the two judicial inquiries
conducted by Supreme Court judges. The material available for setting the record straight is abundant.
Though its report turned out to be deficient, the proceedings of the Nanavati Commission were
themselves a model of transparency, as the body representing the victims, the Carnage Justice
Committee, was allowed to photocopy almost all the documents submitted by the government.
Thus, besides the reports of the two judicial inquiries published by the government, this book
is based on the plethora of records disclosed during the Nanavati probe. Those include the reports of
three administrative probes conducted on the recommendation of the Misra Commission:
The Kusum Lata Mittal Committee report on the delinquencies of police personnel during the
The Jain-Aggarwal Committee report on the deficiencies in the registration, investigation,
and prosecution of cases related to the carnage.
The RK Ahooja Committee report on the death toll of the carnage.
Evidence collected by the abortive Ved Marwah Committee appointed by Delhi Police.
Reports by police officers, from station house officers to the commissioner, on what each of
them did during the fateful period.
Log books of police stations and officers.
Log books of fire stations.
Affidavits filed before the Misra Commission, and statements recorded by it, except those of
the persons who had dealt with the carnage in various official capacities.
Affidavits and statements from the records of the Nanavati Commission, including the replies
filed by political leaders and public servants to specific notices about allegations of their
The challenge of making sense of such elaborate and complex evidence, and locating places
where the reports by Justices Misra and Nanavati had suppressed the truth demanded, sure enough, not
only legal acumen but also intimate knowledge of the carnage and its aftermath.
The authors of this book meet both criteria. While senior advocate, HS Phoolka, spearheaded
the struggle for justice for carnage victims right from the beginning, legal journalist Manoj Mitta served
as a catalyst to the cause by exposing cover-ups at critical stages. Their coming together for this book
is, in fact, an extension of their collaboration stretching over two decades.
Phoolka was the convenor of the Citizens Justice Committee, which was the main
representative of the victims before the Misra Commission. He also led the legal team of the successor
body, the Carnage Justice Committee, in all the proceedings before the Nanavati Commission. Much as
he is an interested party and, indeed, the face of the whole fight for justice, this book is by no means a
summary of Phoolka’s arguments before the Nanavati Commission. Mitta’s involvement in the book has
imparted a necessary detachment to it. While following up the carnage issue in a succession of national
publications (The Times of India, India Today, and The Indian Express), Mitta has interacted closely with
an array of persons engaged in cover-ups: political leaders, police and military officers, bureaucrats,
judges, government lawyers, and defence counsel. Having conceived its structure, Mitta has taken pains
to ensure that the book is based mainly on the wealth of evidence that emerged in the course of the
The book is divided into two parts. The first is a journalistic reconstruction of the carnage by
Mitta, with inputs from Phoolka. The second is a first-person account of Phoolka’s struggle for justice,
as told to Mitta. There is also an annexure providing excerpts from testimonies before the judicial
inquiries by prominent citizens and a victim. Enhancing the value of the book is a selection of
contemporaneous photographs from different sources. The authors assume collective responsibility for
the veracity of the entire book.
Given the passion they share for human rights and the rule of law, the authors hope that this
book will serve as a reality check on some of the most touted institutions of the Indian democracy.
Back of the Book
“Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very
angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only
natural that the earth around it does shake a little.”
“I have no hesitation in apologizing not only to the Sikh community but the whole Indian
nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood, as enshrines in our
Constitution. On behalf of our government, on behalf of the entire people of this country, I bow my head
in shame that such a thing took place.”
It stands out even in a country inured to mass violence – 3,000 members of a minority
community slaughtered over three days in 1984, right in India’s capital. Twenty-three years on, neither
the organizers of the massacre nor the state players who facilitated it have been punished, despite
prolonged inquiries and trials. This massacre of Sikhs in the wake of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s
assassination has turned out to be a reality check on India’s much touted institutions of the rule of
The book seeks to uncover the truth on the basis of the evidence that came to light during the
proceedings of the latest judicial inquiry conducted by the Nanavati Commission. Authors Manoj Mitta
and H.S. Phoolka, perhaps the most knowledgeable voices on the subject, present an unsparing account,
abounding with insights and revelations, on the 1984 carnage and its aftermath.
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