ASSESSMENT OF EVENTS
Though there are several incidents of police passivity and indifference, the role of the police in Kanpur is not as bad as that of Delhi. There have been several events where the police rendered assistance when asked for. In the written submissions on behalf of the State reference has been made to 35 incidents wher in FIRs help by the police has been admitted and the role of the police has been applauded. Not much of importance can be given to the unsigned FIRs. But even if no credit is given to these FIR sstatements, in some of the affidavits and the victims in cross-examination have accepted the position that the police did generally render help. Though the death of 127 Sikhs is accepted, only 57 bodies were sent for postmortem, 70 bodies were said to have not been traced and the explanation for it is that human bodies whether dead or alive were being burnt. The State Government has pleaded that on 31st October, 24 arrests had been made while on 1st November, 913 persons were taken into custody and on 2ns November, 1379 people were arrested. It is said that even subsequently after the investigation followed further arrests were made. It is, however, a fact that most of these accused persons were released onnbail. In view of the statement made on behalf of the State of U. P. that the bail matters would be looked into by the Committee, it is unnecessary to say anything more about it. For convenient appreciation, police station-wise maps have been prepared and have been kept on record. Three samples thereof are given in Vol. II Appendix 8 at p. 35 - 37.
Shri Niazi for the riot victims in course of his oral submissions fixed the focal point of attack upon the then District Magistrate, Shri Brijendra, a member of the Indian Administratoive Service. It is not out of place to take note of the fact that at the relevant time Shri B.S. Bedi, an IPS officer belonging to the Sikh community was the Deputy Inspector General of Police posted at Kanpur. He appears to have extended help through the police to some of the riot victims and had given protection to a number of people who had come over to his place. In these circumstance the Commission has not proposed to examine the role of the police further and would leave this aspect of the matter by recording a finding that better police behaviour was expected and if the police had acted as a professional protector of society, the situation would not have been as bad as it turned out to be.
Reference at this stage may be made to two affidavits, one of Shri Vinod Kumar Sondhi (No. 628) a resident of Pandu Nagar area, and the other of Shri Surjit Singh (no. 566) an engineer. Sondhi is an engineer by profession and was employed in a local Factory, IEL Ltd. Panki, According to him , around 11.15 a.m. on 1-11-84 as he was walking back to his house, he found that theloters had already entered into the ground flor of his house in which his landlord was residing and they had started looting the peoperty. He alleged that a contingent of police with City Magistrate Gupta has been standing right in fornt of the house and had made no attempt to keep the looters out of the house. It was further alleged that Major Suresh Nair with his contingent of armed personnel of the Maratha Regiment also appeared on the scene. Sondhi stated thast he first requested the City Magistrate and then Maj. Nair for help in throwing the looters out of the house. The City Magistarareis said to have refused to extend any help and instead he had told himthat Sondhi should feel happy that his life had not been taken away. Maj. Nair is said to have informed him that he was only on a flag march and in the absence of orders he was not in a position to dismount from the vehicle. He further alleged that thereupon he himself entered into the hous shouting that the police had come and everyone should run away for life. He states :
"This produced a magical effect and I was able to persuade them to vacate the house. At this stage they had looted all the rooms on the ground , first and second floors and only one bed room was left intact. A few of them were also in the process of burning the house and kerosene oil had also been sprinkled near the wooden doors."
The allegations of Shri Sondhi were got investigated by the Commission's Investigating Agency. The Investigating Agency examined several persons and ultimately came to the conclusionn that the allegations against Shri Gupta as also against Maj. Suresh Nair were not justified. The Comission independently issued notice to Shri Gupta and examined him. He has denied his presence in the area.at the time he was alleged to be there and pleaded that he was busy elsewhere to control and regulate the meeting held to mourn the death of Smt.Gandhi that mornig.He was directed by the District Magistrate to pass through the area whr Shri Sondhi's house is located with a vew to creating a sense of confidence in the people of that area. It is a fact that Shri Sondhi has asked him for guards to be posted at his place and Shri Gupta had told him that such a request could not be entertained in view of the prevailing situation in the city.Shri Gupta further explained that the area in question not being within his charge, he had no authority to extend Army help for gurading the house of Shri Sondhi. Sondhi claimed a loss of Rs.3 lakhs but started that he had been compoensated to the tune of Rs.2,000. this is a matter which will looked into if and when the State Government sets up Committee in terms of recommendation of the Commission to assess the damages. The Commission is of the view that the allegations against Shri Gupta were without foundation though basically demand for guards and refusal by the City Magistrate are facts.
The other affidavit is of Shri Surjit Singh (no 566) He maintained that hs was an Engineering Graduate having passed B. Tech (Hons.) in Mechanical Engineering from I.E. Kharagpur in 1955 and claimed that he had obtained advanced training in engineering under Indo-German Technical Co-operation Agreement. He referred in his affidavit, without any justifiication, to episodes of Ramayan and Mahabharat and to the people when Maharaja Ranjit Singh was ruling over his kingdom . According to him, the Government headed by Shri Rajiv Gandhi organised the riots all over India and all the Military and Police were ordered to become non-violent spectators. The police were ordered to help the rioters. In Kanpur the police went to jhuggi-jhopris dwellers and distributyed kerosene oil, petrol and other inflammable materils and encouraged the public to kill the Sikhs., lopot their properties and put the same on fire. The then District Msagistrate of Kanpur was extraordinarly zealous to encourage the riots. He is mainly responsible for the Kanpur riots. The propaganda on the Radio and Television as organised by the Government was expremely against the Sikhs so as to encourage the riots.. thia appears to be the solitary affiodavit filed before the Commission where an allegation implicating the Government, the Prime Minister and the military alongwith other instrumentalities including the police has been made. Reference to this affidavit has been made to indicate these special allegations. The riot victims at Delhi have made no allegations against the Army. On the other hand, in clear trms their action has been praised and they have been given the role of protectors. So far as Kanpur is concerned , non-sikhs alleged that some of the Sikh soldiers had assaulted a few of the rural residents. This fgact was subjected to an administrative inquiry by the Army authorities and as Brig. Kohli has stated, was found not tl be true. It is thus clear that at Kanpu too the Army di excellent service as at other places where the Army had been deployed during the riots. There is also evidence and Brig. Kohli has produced photographs of the functions where the Sikh residens of kamnpur including Shri Bhalla had honoured the militarypersonnel after the riots were over and nromalcy had been restored and Saropa was presented to Brg.Kohli as the head of the unit of the local Army pesonnel. In this view of t he matter the assertion that the miliatary had failed to protect and became non-violent spectators is not correct. There is clear material also on record that the Army had exercised effective control in areas where necessary and had even resorted to firing as a result of which some rioters had been killed.
So far as the implication of the Government headed by Shri Rajiv Gandhi is concerned, it many be pointed out here that CJC has taken the stand that the violence at Delhi was premeditated and there was central direction, guidance and control over the riots. In October 1984 the Congress (1) Party was in power and Smt. Gandhi as the leader of the Congress (I) group in Parliament was the Prime Minister. With her death Shri Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister and headed the Central Government, Several people had made allegations implicating the Congress (1) leaders as perpetrators of the riots. The Commission has separately dealt with that aspect. This affidavit alleges that the Government headed by Shri Raja Gandhi has organised the riots. There is indeed no evidence at all of Govenment implication as such. The Government headed by the Prime Minister is different from the Congress (1) Party and even if there were some lapses on the part of some members of the Congress (1), the Government cannot be said to be a dlinquent. The Commission, therefore records a finding that the Government of India had no hand in organizing the riots. So far as the Congress (1) Party is concerned, the Commission is of the view that its findings on this aspect relating to Delhi riots squarely apply.
The Kanpur Riots Inquiry Co-ordination Committee has made pointed allegations against the conduct of Shri Brijendra, the then District Magistrate and the State in its written submissions has referred at great length to Shri Brijendra's activities during that period to deny the allegations. Apart from examining Brig. Kohli the Commission has, inter alia, examined two more persons in regard to the inquiry at Kanpur, one of them is Shri Brijendra and the other Capt. Bareth of the Maratha Light Infantry who had come as a part of the Army into the city during that period. The allegations of the Committee against Shri Brijendra are that he had a bias against the Sikhs and wanted to give expression to his bias by mis-managing the position so as to help the riots to spread. The Commission has already found that the assessment of the situation as made buy Shri Brijendra was not correct. He had gone wrong in forming the the opinion that the disturbances had abated by the night of 31st October and he also did not conduct himself properly as the custodian of 1.5 lakhs of Sikhs living within his charge.Representing the State machinery and for effectuating the guarantee in Art. 21 of the Constitution which has been dealt with separately by the Commission, he had an obligation of secure the life and property of the Sikhs residing within the city. Smt. Gandhi was great leader of international repute and stature and was the Prime Minister of India. She was loved and regarded as their protector by the people belonging to the working class and the economically backward people. She belonged to Allahabad within the State of Uttar Pradesh and everyone in the State looked upon her with reverence and had a sense of special attachment for her. When with the circulation of the information that she had succumbed to her injuries a definite change took place in the manner of expression of anguish against the Sikh community, the District Magistrate should have taken note of this change. He should have apprehended danger and knowing that the police at his disposal was not adequate as pleaded by the State, he should have immediately looked for augmenting the force. In case such augmenting was not possible otherwise than by calling in the Army, in view of the fact that the Army had been alerted and was available within the Cantonment inside the city and he had the authority to requisition the Army to work in aid of the civil administration, the same should not have been delayed. Whatever police force as available, if the same had been properly deployed from the very beginning the situation would have been contained before the people had picked up the mob spirit. The presence of one or two policemen in the streets would have possibly kept the people away and no formation of rioting mobs would have been possible. It is well known that many people as individual are not prepared to commit a crime but when they form part of a big mob out to do rioting, they do not mind such participation and activity. One hundred individuals gathering at a place not as a part of a mob are just an assembly of 100 men, nothing more. But when mob spirit is aroused they are not just a collection of 100 people, the mob itself is a newly generated force -- something much in excess of a totality of those 100 people. It was the obligation of the police and was the duty of the Distt. Magistrate too to act at the right point of time to ensure the presence of the police in every nook and corner where trouble was likely to generate and make the presence of the police felt. The commission has several instances in the affidavits including that of Shri Sondhi just referred to above that presence of the police or even a shout that the police are coming worked like magic. If police had show their red turbans, raised their little finger and put up a questioning face at the appropriate time, the situation would have taken a different colour. It was the obligation of the District Magistrate as the had of the District Administration to have led the police that way and to have come to provide guidance at the relevant time.
Shri Brijendra posed to be am experienced civilian officer when he was examined by the Commission. He told the Commission that around 5 p.m. on 31st October he apprehended that there would be trouble. He also knew that the police force had been depleted. The fact that three Circle officers from the outlying areas were away at Allahabad should have led him to immediately make alternate arrangement in providing three competent officers in those areas. It may be pointed out that these were some of the worst affected areas during the riots. His claim that by 6 p.m. on 1st November normalcy had been restored in Kanpur is clearly wrong. Big. Kohli has, on the basis of records shown to the Commission, said that firing was necessary at about midnight on 1st November to repel riotous mobs from criminal activity. It is at that point of time that two poeple from the riotous mobs were killed. That being the position Shri Brijendra 's assertion that ' normalcy was restored by 6 p.m. of 1-11-84. But for such strong coordinated activity the situtiaion may ave gone worse," is not a correct one. Shri Brijendra has told the Commission that the attack on Sikhs as community had never happened before, and, therefore, the police and the administration could not comprehend its nature and volume and had not been prepared to meet the situation. It is perhaps on the basis of this statement of Shri Brijendera to the Commission ( copy not supplied to Government ) that the Uttar Pradesh Administration in its written submissions has adopted an argument on this line. The Commission finds no particular force in such a stand. So far as broad features are concerned, a riot whether it is directed against Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs would have a common pattern on many aspects. And the way in which such a riot has to be met would not very much depend upon which community it is addressed against. The District Magistrate was, therefore, wrong in saying that this was for the first time that such a riot was noticed and the administration had difficulties in rising up to the demands of such an occasion. The statement of the Distt. Magistrate before the Commission further accepts the position that there was lack of communication and the exact situation prevailing in the outlying areas had never been reported in time to him. The Commission has found it difficult to accept the assertion of the District Magistrate that " the Army could not have controlled the situation even if it had come earlier. As a fact it took about 9 hours to control the situation after the Army was called. The Army moves on the main roads only . When they move there is an apprehension that they might fire. As a fact they do not as they require a Magistrate to give them a direction." As soon as the Army was called or even before the requisition had been sent, arrangements should have been made to deploy sufficient number of police people as also magistrates. To meet an emergent situation the officers should have risen to the demands of the occasion and behaved with circumspection and leadership. If magistrates could be provided a little later that also could have been done before the Army movel into the different parts of the city and magistrates could have been detailed to move along with the Army units. At one stage the Commission had thought of issuing a notice under S. 8B of the Act to Shri Brijendra but later, on an appraisal of the entire evidence, the Commission thought of considering an inquiry in the hands of the State Government against this officer more appropriate as mere naming under S. 8B of the Act does not bring about punishment. The evidence given by Capt. Bareth of the 16th Maratha Light Infantry has led the Commission to take the view that an administrative inquiry should be made against this officer and his conduct as Distt. Magistrate in respect of October / November 1984 riots should be inquired into . Capt. Bareth has told the Commission :
" Around 10.30 a.m. on 1-11-84, I was called by my Adjutant to report to Kotwali Police Station where a joint police and Army Control Room had been set up. My officiating CO Major P. N. Pandit told me there to accompany a lady Magistrate, Mrs. Tomar, and act according to her directions. I had an ad hoc column of a platoon formed under me when I moved out. Accompanying the Magistrate, we moved to Kidwai Nagar area. Enroute we met the District Magistrate of Kanpur, Shri Brijendra. He said that he would come with us. Between 11 and 11.30 a. m. We reached a place in Kidwai Nagar, the exact locality I am not in a position to recall, where we saw a big crowd already gathered. When we saw the crowd the Distt. Magistrate asked us to stop and get down from our vehicles. We deployed the column which took its position and covered the area. By then we had left the main road and come into an approach road which appeared to lead to an open ground with a house located at its centre which was very prominent. A little away from this house and after the open space scattered constructions appeared on all sides. This being my first visit into the city of Kanpur. I was not acquainted with the locality. Seeing the Army personnel a servant from the prominent house referred to above came up to us and told us that the big mob had gheraoed the residents of the house and wanted our assistance in rescuming them. I estimated the crowd to be at least 5,000 strong and they appeared to be in a violent temper. When the question of rescuing was discussed and the District Magistrate was trying to take my opinion whether we should enter into the house and do the rescue operation, I suggested that the crowd which had gheraoed the house from all sides should first be cleared out. I indicated to him that since curfew was already in force, by enforcing it strictly the collected crowd could be asked to disperse or at least recede to a distance of 500 yards from the house to facilitate rescue. I did not want to endanger the safety of my own men or myself by entering into the house in the face of the crowd. Leaving the discussion with us that point, the Distt. Magistrate started talking to a few of the people from the crowd. What he talked I do not know since we were away from him at that point . He asked the police who were around to fire a few shots, the number of which I cannot indicate. I cannot say whether they were all blank fires but it is a fact that the crowd did not budge. When the crowd did not leave and no sign of improvement in the situation was visible, I had filled up the requisition form IAFD 908 which authorises on the requisition of Magistrate, use of force including firing, depending on the situation."
Shri Brijendra, according to Capt. Bareth, did not sign the requisition and asked the lady Magistrate accompanying Capt. Bareth not to sign and told them that they could go elsewhere and he could meet the situation. A little later the house was attacked by the mob. Killing took place, all the members of two families excepting a single widow were done to death and the property was looted and the house was set on fire. This matter has been investigated into by the Commission's Agency and the facts spoken to by Capt. Bareth appear to be generally true. The report of investigation is in Vol. II Appendix II at pages 48 - 49. This incident has given the clear impression to the Commission that the conduct of Shri Brijendra requires to be looked into. The Commission, therefore, recommends that the State Government should get the conduct of Shri Brijendra examined either by a retired Judge of the High Court or a senior civilian who without embarrassment can examine the allegations against him.
The Commission got 22 incidents examined through the investigating Agency and conclusions of the Investigating agency were duly supplied to parties. They appear in Vol. II Appendix 12 of the Report at pages 50-56.
When affidavits were called for by the Commission's Notification and later when the evidence was being recorded there were reported allegations of police interference. It was also alleged that some of the police officers had a link with the goonda element in the locality and , therefore, the bad characters were also harassing the witnesses with a view to keeping them away from the Commission so that their nefarious activities during the riots may not be brought to light and be exposed. On several occasions the Commission had to make orders for affording police protection to witnesses. To ease out the situation the Commission suggested to the Uttar Pradesh Government as also to the police establishment of the District that the SHOs of every police station during the riots in case they are still in those areas may be shifted within the city so that a changed atmosphere can come to prevail and the victims may have no continuing apprehensions. In deference to the suggestion made by the Commission during hearing of oral arguments, the shifting of police officers in the manner suggested has been done. Similarly, intimation has been received by the Commission from the Home Secretary of the Government of Uttar Pradesh on 30th May 1986 that in deference to the opinion of the Commission and the undertaking given by Government counsel during oral hearing at Kanpur , a Committee has been set up and appropriate Government Notifications have been issued.
There is evidence that some of the trains carrying Sikh passengers to Kanpur were detained at small stations before Kanpur Central Station as the situation at Kanpur Central Railway Station 31st October night was in bad shape. The Tinsukia Mail which was scheduled to reach Kanpur in the early hours was detained at Panki around 2 a. m. The Commission visited the Panki Railway Station and had occasion to talk to the Assistant Station :Master over there. The claim of the State Police that they had helped in the train being stopped and the Sikh passengers being rescued out to places of safety was not supported by the Asstt. Station Master and his men. On the other hand, the Asstt. Station Master indicated that an angry crowd had collected at Panki and was marching towards the Railway Station when these passengers had got down. The Asstt. Station Master took these people into his office room, concealed them under his big table and switched off all the lights. When the angry mob wanted to go that side he kept representing to them that nobody had come to the office room. In these circumstances, the Sikh passengers had been saved.
The riot victims maintained that the police were active and played their normal role when trouble started on the 31st. But later during the day and on the following day their attitude became different and they remained passive and indifferent. No reason has been ascribed on behalf of the riot victims for this change. Questioned about it, no one has answered giving a reasonable explanation for the change of conduct. Except that the Kanpur police might have followed the methodology of the Delhi Police after what was happening in Delhi got reported, no other clue has been found out.
The Commisssion had occasion to look into the reports of the pending cases on the basis of FIR's and investigations that have followed . From 21 police stations total number of 121 cases have come to court and 119 are pending trial while four cases have ended in acquittal. A consolidated statement is in Vol. II Appendix 10 at pages 44-47 showing the position of these cases. Allegations of rape had been made and one Dr.(Mrs.) H.K. Borwankar working at the Guru Nanak Hospital, Kanpur, was said to be aware of this fact. Reference was made to the lady doctor's affidavit (no. 346) where these aspects have been stated. The Investigating Agency immediately contacted Dr. (Mrs.) Borwankar. Though there was reference to 12-13 cases of gang-rape, she gave reference of two incidents and requested the Agency not to make any investigation in view of the fact that one of the ladies concerned had already married away and the other was likely to get settled in life. In view of this position, evidence of rape has not really been made available to the Commission. It is, however, not difficult for the Commission to take notice of the position that gangsters of very low type were involved in the riots and taking advantage of the disturbed situation that prevailed and the fact that male members of the affected families were being done to death and the ladies were finding dificulty in immediately seeking shelter, incidents of molestation would have been quite natural.
A break up of the affidavits filed regarding the Kanpur riots is available in Vol. II, Appendix 9 at pages 38-43.
Representatives of riot victims have met the Commission and have expressed a sense of satisfaction after the inquiry has been completed at Kanpur and the police reshuffle has taken place by saying that a sense of confidence has been restored to the Sikh community and several people who had gone away to Punjab have been returning to pursue then avocations.
The Committee in its written submissions took the stand that the Commission should have called upon the State of Uttar Pradesh and the District Administration of Kanpur to disclose the stand in a written statement and should have directed them to file their affidavits in support of that stand. The Commission does not agree with the stand adopted by the Committee. On the other hand, as stated by the Commission, it was open to the District Administration and the State of U. P. to file their affidavits qua State District Administration or by officers in their individual capacity. The Notification issued by the Commission authorised one and all to disclose facts within their personal knowledge and relevant to the inquiry.
The allegation of conspiracy said to have been hatched by the lawless elements of the town in co-operation with the police and led by the District Magistrate to drown the Sikh community is dealt with thoroughly by the Commission at appropriate place. The Commission has found that the lawless elements in the community took the upper hand during the period of riots. There was no conspiracy as such except that the police force became ineffective or not as effective as it should have been in discharge of its duties. So far as the role of the then District Magistrate it concerned, is has been adequately dealt with. The Commission agrees that it is for the community at large to identify the culprits and ensure that the wrong-doer is adequately penalised in the hands of law. Suitable recommendation in that regard have been separately made.