What events? The 1984 killing of Sikhs: by my reckoning, the worst crimes, the greatest terrorism, in our independent history.
The first inquiry was by police officer Ved Marwah, who headed a committee to investigate the role of the police in the massacre. Six months after the killings, Rajiv Gandhi's government appointed Justice Ranganath Mishra to investigate "allegations in regard to the incidents of organised violence." Justice Mishra submitted his report in August 1986. In February 1987, the government tabled his report in Parliament and, on Justice Mishra's recommendation, promptly ... appointed three more commissions.
Yes, three more.
The Jain-Bannerjee commission would look into cases that were not registered or not adequately investigated. The Kapur-Mital commission would identify guilty police officers. The Ahooja commission would determine exactly how many were slaughtered. (Six months later, Ahooja had the figure: 2733).
Jain-Bannerjee's first recommendation was to register a case of murder against the Delhi Congress politician Sajjan Kumar. One of Kumar's accomplices, Brahmanand Gupta, went to court to shut down Jain-Bannerjee on legal technicalities. Two years later, he succeeded. In March 1990, the VP Singh government appointed the Poti-Rosha commission, correcting the legal problems Jain-Bannerjee had faced.
In August 1990, Poti-Rosha recommended filing various cases based on affidavits from victims.
One was against Sajjan Kumar. A CBI team went to Kumar's home to file the charges; his supporters locked them up and threatened them harm if they persisted. As a result, when Poti-Rosha's term expired in September 1990, Poti and Rosha disbanded their inquiry.
Within two months, the Delhi administration appointed the Jain-Aggarwal commission to resume Poti-Rosha's work. Over the next three years, Jain-Aggarwal recommended filing several more cases, including against Sajjan Kumar and other Congress leaders like HKL Bhagat.
In 1994, the Delhi Administration appointed the Naroola Advisory Committee to "review the status" of the recommendations made by Poti-Rosha, Kapur-Mital and Jain-Aggarwal. In 2000, the Vajpayee Government appointed the Nanavati Commission: the ninth official inquiry into the massacre. It is the Nanavati report that was just made public.
There were unofficial inquiries too. PUCL produced a searing expose of the slaughter titled "Who Are The Guilty?" The BJP did a survey and concluded that 2700 people had been killed. Citizens for Democracy under Justice VM Tarkunde, and a Citizens' Commission led by Justice SM Sikri, ex-Chief Justice of India, both produced reports by early 1985. And a Citizens' Justice Commission formed to help the Ranganath Mishra Commission collect affidavits and evidence.
A long list of inquiries, right? But it gets even more egregious. Not one inquiry resulted in even one case filed and pursued against anyone, certainly not Kumar or Bhagat.
Yet two cases, no thanks to inquiries, actually brought Kumar to court. The police filed the first in 1984, accusing Kumar and 10 accomplices of instigating riots that killed 49 in Sultanpuri in Delhi. In early 2000, Additional Sessions Judge RC Yaduvanshi dismissed it, citing the police's failure to produce sufficient evidence.
The CBI filed a second case in 1990, acting on a complaint by a widow called Anwar Kaur. She accused Kumar of leading the mob that killed her husband in Sultanpuri. "They were armed with lathis and other weapons," she told the Judge in a 1999 hearing. "They hit my husband with lathis till he died."
"Sajjan Kumar," Anwar Kaur told the Judge, "was standing there and instigating the mob."
On December 23 2002, Additional Sessions Judge Manju Goel acquitted Kumar in Anwar Kaur's case. The CBI, Goel observed, had failed to produce sufficient evidence. (There are always failures to produce sufficient evidence against powerful men).
Outraged? A perversion of justice, you think? Shame that in 20 years, we've produced reports in plenty, but no justice?
Well, fear not. Justice Nanavati's report is out, and we can now wait for the wheels of justice to turn and the law to take its own course.
Wait, in other words, for the next massacre of Indians.
ENSAAF's response to the tabling of the Nanavati report.
My January post on the film "Amu".