‘Police used political clout to stop my probe’

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Photo: Shailendra Pandey

You headed the first committee set up to investigate the role of the police. What were your findings?
I was brought back to Delhi Police after the 1984 anti- Sikh riots and asked to inquire into the role of police officers and give my report in three months. I spent night and day to complete the inquiry. I examined a number of persons, both in the police as well as outside. But I did something more. I seized all records of the police stations [in whose jurisdiction] the killings had taken place, and that alarmed people because they realised the trend 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 the massacre happened]. According to police rules, all movements of police officers are recorded minute by minute into the thana daily diary. [But] the diaries were totally blank and they had obviously disappeared. The other thing that I found was that the so-called mob comprised a small number of people: groups of 20 to 30. So the police could have intervened and stopped the groups 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 completed my inquiry and only had to write the report when I received, out of nowhere, an order to stop my inquiry.
From whom?
From the Commissioner of Police, because it was he who had ordered the inquiry. It was a written order.

Did you ask him why?
He only smiled. The ostensible reason was that the government had decided to appoint another commission, headed by [former Chief Justice of India] Ranganath Mishra.

Wasn’t that just an excuse?
I should have been allowed to complete my inquiry but the police officers concerned didn’t want it to go any further. Ironically, I have been hounded for 25 years. A number of cases have been filed against me on flimsy grounds. They do it even today. Summons came to me even when I was the Governor of Manipur. The last summons were 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.

Who is funding them?
Obviously, powerful people who were against the inquiry.

The records I seized showed the police officers vanished when the massacre happened. Their daily diaries were blank. They could have stopped the mobs if they wanted

Can’t the police stop a riot, if they choose to, in five-tosix hours?
I can’t talk about any other riot, but in this case it was certainly possible because Delhi is a city where you can get additional manpower. Again, [from] the complete police control room record I seized, I remember clearly that odd cases had started taking place in the night [of October 31] itself. There was plenty of warning that an attempt will be made to settle scores with the Sikhs. Even then nothing was done. For two-to-three days, even normalcy wasn’t restored. The Sikh community was accused of killing the PM. They should have called the army. And it wasn’t done. Why, I can’t say. So the trend of the inquiry alarmed not only Delhi Police officers but also some other people.

You mean the politicians?
Well, the politicians, the senior bureaucrats. Their role came under question.

Is it not appalling that not a single police officer has been punished?
Some of them were promoted. This is the saddest part. 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, [and] particularly [on] the role of the ruling party, which decides which case is registered and which will be investigated.

So the absence of the police from their duty obviously encouraged the mobs and added to the death toll?
In a place like Delhi it is unthinkable that a small mob can hold a territory and kill people. Obviously, they had believed, rightly or wrongly, that they had impunity. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have dared. And look at the consequences. Both the 1984 riots and the 2002 Gujarat [anti- Muslim] riots have had a huge fallout on the country’s security. The 1984 riots gave birth to people like Surjit Singh Penta and Jinda. I met Jinda in hospital after his encounter. The man was bandaged and we thought he would not survive. He said, “Sir, I can’t get up but I want to tell you that I have great regard for you.” I reminded him that he had sent me a threatening letter. He said it was because I was with the Delhi Police.

So why did he hold you in high regard?
He was referring to the fact that I treated the Sikh officers in Delhi Police on an equal basis, because an order had somehow gone that the Sikh officers should be withdrawn from key positions in Delhi after the riots. As Police Commissioner, I rescinded the order in 1985. You know, [one should] look at an officer not as a Hindu or a Sikh but whether he is fit for the job or not. The point is that the police must be a composite force and above the prejudices of a communal divide.