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Crime and cover-up

Former top cop Ved Marwah on why his probe in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case was scuttled.

delhi Updated: May 02, 2013 00:15 IST
Hindustan Times

Former top cop Ved Marwah on why his probe was scuttled:

Soon after the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, I was brought back to Delhi Police, asked to inquire into the role of police officers and submit my report in three months. I worked day and night to complete the inquiry and examined a number of persons, both in the police as well as outside.

I also seized all records of the police stations in whose jurisdiction the killings had taken place. That alarmed people because they realised the scope of the inquiry.

The records could not have been challenged. It was obvious that the men in uniform had vanished from their police stations when Delhi was burning and Sikhs were being killed. According to police rules, all movements of police officers are recorded by the minute in the thana daily diary but I found that the diaries were totally blank. I also looked at the call recordings and realised that the police had not responded to calls for help.

The other disturbing fact that came to light was that the so-called mob comprised a small number of people: Groups of 20 to 30. The police could have intervened and stopped them from setting Sikhs ablaze. This is something that bothered them. Then some Delhi Police officers, whose names figured prominently, filed a writ against the inquiry in the high court.

The court refused to stall the inquiry. Then they used political clout. I had completed my inquiry and only had to write the report when I received an order to stop my inquiry. The then commissioner of police sent me a written order asking me to stop my probe. When I asked him why, he just smiled. But others told me that the ostensible reason was that the government had decided to appoint another commission, headed by Ranganath Mishra.

I should have been allowed to complete my inquiry but the police officers didn’t want it to go any further. It was extraordinary that close to 3,000 Sikhs were massacred in the Capital and the police did not respond to their desperate pleas for help.

Ironically, while little or no action has been taken against the police for dereliction of duty, I have been hounded for the last 29 years. A number of cases have been filed against me on flimsy grounds. Summons came to me even when I was the Governor of Manipur. In fact, the summons was pasted in front of my flat. This is how a former commissioner of police and governor is treated. So much litigation requires money. The police officers are obviously funded.

Powerful people were obviously against the inquiry. I can’t talk about any other riot, but in 1984, it would have been easy to get additional manpower. From the complete police control room records I seized, I remember clearly that odd cases had begun taking place on the night of October 31, soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. There were plenty of warnings that an attempt will be made to settle scores with the Sikhs.

Even then nothing was done. The Army should have been called in but wasn’t. I can’t say why but what I can say is that the scope of the inquiry alarmed not only Delhi Police officers, but also some other people.

Some police officers were promoted. If this sort of thing happens in the Capital, it sends a very wrong signal. That is why I have been strongly pressing for police reforms, particularly with regard to recruitment, promotions and transfers.

Imagine, for three to four days, mobs took over the streets of Delhi and killed people. They believed, quite clearly, that they had the immunity, or they wouldn’t have dared. If the victims’ families are protesting today, it is because of a huge sense of injustice.

(as told to Harinder Baweja)

First Published: May 02, 2013 00:13 IST