OCTOBER 31, 1984
09.40 a.m. The killing of Mrs. Indira Gandhi
10.0 a.m. All top level officials informed, there is apprehension of violence.
10.30 a.m. Meeting at the prime minister’s residence to discuss the security aspects, including a proposal for calling the army. Among the participants were Lt. Governor of Delhi PG Gavai Police Commissioner, S C Tondon associate of Mrs. Gandhi’s.
11.00 a.m. All India Radio (AIR, the official broadcasting media) announces assassination attempt on Mrs. Gandhi.
12.0 a.m. AIR announces that Mrs. Gandhi has been hospitalised.
01.30 p.m. Mrs. Gandhi is declared dead.
02.0 p.m. The spot items outside various newspapers buildings announce that assassins of Mrs. Gandhi were two Sikhs and a Mona or cut Sikh.
04.0 p.m. Violence outside All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where Mrs. Gandhi has been hospitalised. Armed police watch mutely as Sikhs passing through the area are attacked and their turbans are burnt.
06.0 p.m. AIR announces Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination. A little while later Rajiv Gandhi is sworn in as prime minister alongwith three cabinet ministers.
10.0 p.m. Reports of arson and killings from various parts of Delhi.
11.0 p.m. A prominent member of parliament informs the Home Minister about the violence but is assured that the "situation is under control."
Midnight A meeting of the PMO and Home Ministry officials to take stock of the law and order situation in Delhi.
2.00a.m. The army is alerted
NOVEMBER 1, 1984
The streets of Delhi are filled with people throughout the day, with hundreds of them involved in burning, looting and killing and, numerous others trooping to Teen Murti House, the place where Mrs. Gandhi’s body was kept.
Eminent citizens and MPs approach Union Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao, Minister of State for Home, P Shiv Shankar, Lt. Governor, P.G. Gavai and President Giani Zail Singh, seeking the army’s intervention to control the violence. Mr. Rao dithers over the suggestion of calling in the army and talks about the need to set up a Joint Control Room (JCR) of the police and army personnel. Meanwhile, violence in full-swing at many places in the capital.
02.0 p.m. The army is called
02.30 p.m. Mr. Shiv Shankar and Mr.Gavai discuss the situation and the latter says that the imposition of curfew is under consideration 4.00p.m. Former primer minister Charan Singh meets the president, apprises him of the seriousness of the situation and seeks the army’s intervention.
6.00p.m. Indefinite curfew declared in the city.
6.30 p.m. An MP contacts the Home Minister and informs him about the absence of the army.
8.0 p.m. The Prime Minister tells the leaders of the opposition that, not enough army personnel are available in the Capital. Mass killings of Sikhs continue, the army is nowhere to be seen or, when seen, not in action. Delhi’s air is thick with rumours that the city’s water has been poisoned. Some police stations are involved in spreading such rumours.
NOVEMBER 2, 1984
Mrs. Gandhi’s body still at Teen Murti. Shoot-at-sigh orders in Delhi and violence all around. Incoming trains to Delhi cancelled. People continue to flock Teen Murti.
8.00a.m. An MP informs the home minister over the phone about the security threat the Sikh train travellers and requests for armed Railway Police in trains.
Note: No protection was provided to Sikh passengers and 43 of them are reported to have been murdered (November 3, 1984, Time of India).
1.30 p.m. An MP contacts Mr. Shiv Shankar, who, in turn, tries to contact the Home Minister and Lt. Governor Gavai but to no avail.
Early afternoon, Sultanpuri and Mongolpuri report massive violence. Peace marches in the city by voluntary human rights groups. Mobs prowl the streets armed with iron rods, sticks and improvised weapons of assault right under the nose of the army.
Late afternoon a the Prime Minister appeals for peace with a statement that he would not allow violence to go on.
The violence continues through the night as survivors begin to gather in various police stations. The army fails to take any step to control the situation.
NOVEMBER 3, 1984
Curfew relaxation from 9.00 a.m. to 8.00 a.m. Sporadic violence in the city. In the morning, a group of people meet the ruling Congress party and opposition leaders.
The funeral procession of Mrs. Gandhi’s begins from Teen Murti at 12.30 p.m. while Sikh survivors begin to gather in Gurudwaras and police stations.
4.0 p.m. Mrs. Gandhi’s cremation.
11.30 p.m. Lt. Governor P.G. Gavai proceeds on leave and the announcement of a new Lt. Governor in his place.
NOVEMBER 4, 1984
Curfew in the city. Super Bazaar is looted in West Patel Nagar while reports of violence, including, stabbing of people come in from Shahadra, Badarpur and Anand Parvat. The Union Cabinet is expanded.
50,000 Sikhs in relief camps, most of them set up by voluntary groups.
NOVEMBER 5, 1984
Curfew relaxed from 5.00 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. Shooting incidents in Pusa Mandi and two Sikhs (burnt alive)killed in Nathu Chowk. Utter confusion in most of the relief camps.
NOVEMBER 6, 1984
No curfew from 5.00 a.m. to 11.00 p.m. joint relief camp, with representatives of government and voluntary bodies, are set up. Their control is handed over from the army to the civil administration. Relief schemes are announced but no formal orders to this effect. Voluntary groups print application forms.
Mr. Dev Dutt. Journalist : On October 31 to 4.30 p.m. three to four thousand people stood outside AIIMS. Slogans praising Mrs. Gandhi were being raised. Some people were also shouting revenge but there was no tension in the air. The crowd included many Sikhs. Even if some people knew that Mrs. Gandhi’s assassins were Sikhs, there were no signs of fear or panic among the Sikhs in the crowd. I talked to some of them to find out what they felt about the situation but they said they had no reason to suspect or fear Hindus. The Hindu crowd also seemed to have no ill-will towards the Sikhs. In other words it was a normal, mixed gathering.
People were waiting for Mrs. Gandhi’s corpse to be brought out of AIIMS and the flow of traffic around the area also seemed normal.
I was standing at the AIIMS square when I saw a group of 30 to 40 people running towards where I was standing. Then the group ran down the road to INA market. They burnt a scooter. This brought the traffic to a halt outside the INA petrol pump. The crowd then changed direction and moved towards Srojini Nagar. The mob started pulling Sikhs out of buses, misbehaving with them and forcibly removing their turbans. I saw five turbans burning in a row on Ring Road.
There was no police presence in the area, which gave the move full freedom to do what it liked. Twenty minutes later, some cops came and dispersed the mob.
It is difficult to understand why violence started suddenly on the evening of October 31, 1984. The reaction to the sudden killing of Mrs. Gandhi can be one of the reasons for the violence but the moot questions here are where did the rioters come from and, why were the there?
Mr. Deepankar Gupta. Assistant Professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) : I was passing by a Gurudwara close to Priya Cinema has in Vasant Vihar at about 1 p.m. on November 1. I saw a group of about 60 toughies attacking the Gurudwara. There were four armed cops around but they did nothing and sauntered off towards the cinema hall. Earlier that day, at about 9.20 a.m. as I was standing at the JNU gate, I heard some young men spreading rumours that a group of Sikhs, armed with sten-guns, is attacking Hindus and a former student of the University Bharat Singh, even said that he had seen at least three dead bodies in the campus. At this, some students and teachers went to verity Bharat Singh’s report and asked him to lead them to the place where he had seen the corpses. That was the last anyone saw of Bharat Singh.
Later, sometime before 10.30 a.m., I saw a car belonging to the Haryana State Congress (I) Committee come into the campus. I cannot say whether there were only JNU students in the vehicle but the occupants talked to the students who were going around spreading rumours about Sikhs attacking Hindus. At 10.40 a.m. an Ambassador car with a West Bengal number plate came to the campus. The three men, in the age group of 40 to 50, who alighted from the car told the students and teachers, "Sikhs are attacking Hindus with sten-guns, you all better run for your life."
Professor Ashwini Ray. Head of Department, Political Science, JNU : At about 10 a.m. on November 1, I saw a police vehicle with four cops in Bhogal. I came out of my house and saw smoke all around. I heard a big bang (of a tyre burst) first and then I saw the police van coming towards Bhogal. The vehicle moved towards a burning truck. The person who set fire to the truck was sitting at the wheel. Suddenly, he jumped out of the truck which crashed into a road railing about 15 meters from where the police vehicle was standing. The cops, however, seemed unperturbed by what was happening around them and I saw them sipping tea. Surprised, I went over to them and asked them why they were not doing anything to stop the violence. "You mind your own business," they said. The smoke that filled the air was coming from about 80 trucks which had been set afire. After a while, I saw a Texla TV centre go up in flames. The cops were telling the mob to " loot the place fast." Then, I saw an armed mob attacking a group of Sikhs. I tried to contact the police control room but could not. Half an hour later, I saw about 80 Sikhs -old men, women and children, on the second floor of a corner house trying to jump to safety because a row of houses close to theirs had been burnt. A mob, armed with sticks and rods, was waiting downstairs to get the Sikhs.
Mr. Swapan Lahiri, Engineer : On November 1, at 1.30 p.m. I was walking down Raisina Road when I saw a mob of about 50 to 60 people, armed with sticks and rods trying to enter Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s house but could not because of the police security. The mob let out a volley of abuses against Mr. Vajpayee and went towards the taxi stand next to the Press Club of India. The DLY cars standing there were set on fire. When a foreign TV crew tried to take pictures the mob stopped it. I followed the mob and saw it go to the Congress (I) office at Raisina Road, regroup and come out to go towards the Janpath square. The mob smashed the doors and windows of the Communist Party of India (CPI) office on the way. Then, I saw a taxi being stopped by the mob. The driver said he was a Hindu but the mob was not paying attention to him and smashed the vehicle. Just then another vehicle with the Congress (I) party flag stopped at the place and a man got out, gave some instructions to the mob and sped away. The mob then went into the opposite direction and I went my way. The cops I saw on the road just stood around and did nothing to stop the violent mob.
Sudip Muzumdar. Journalist : November 5, 1984, 5 p.m. The police commissioner, Mr. S C Tondon was talking to a group of journalists about the situation in the city. In response to a question from a reporter that Congress (I) MPs and other senior party leaders were trying to pressurise the police to release the gangsters arrested in connection with the anti-Sikh violence, Mr. Tondon firmly denied the allegation. Prodded to give a clear answer, Mr. Tondon stated that no member of the Congress or any other party was putting pressure on the police. He had barely finished saying this when Jagdish Tytler, Congress MP from Delhi’s Sadar seat, walked into the room alongwith three other people. "Tondon saab, kya ho raha hai, aap nee mera kaam abhi tak nahin kiya (Mr. Tondon, that are you upto, why have you not done that I asked you to?)"
The Commissioner was embarrassed. The journalists started laughing.