The Group Of Five
In the 1980s HKL Bhagat was termed the “uncrowned king of Delhi politics”. He was a dominating strongman in the Congress. His was the ubiquitous name that figured in most of the testimonies in the various committees. He was indicted in the Nanavati Commission report but allegations against him were not investigated because he was suffering from an advanced state of dementia.
Bhagat had led a group of 15 people and told crowds of his supporters to kill Sikhs. One witness Balbir Kaur saw Bhagat inciting a crowd of 5,000 people.
Other witnesses have recorded how Bhagat sought to force witnesses not to name him in the days following the massacre. He died in October 2005.
In a 31-page booklet titled Who are the Guilty?, the People’s Union of Civil Liberties listed 227 people who led the mobs which killed up to 3,000 Sikhs over three days. Lalit Maken’s name was third on the list with a brief description: “Lalit Maken, Congress(I) trade union leader and metropolitan councilor. Reportedly paid the mobsters Rs.100 each plus a bottle of liquor. A white Ambassador car reportedly belonging to him came four times to the GT Road area near Azadpur. Instructions to mobs indulging in arson were given from inside the car.”
Lalit Maken was shot dead by Harjinder Singh Jinda, Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Ranjit Singh Gill of the Khalistan Commando Force on the 31st July 1985, near his house in Kirti Nagar. The three assailants continued firing even as Maken ran towards his house for cover. Maken’s wife Geetanjali and a visitor, Balkishan too were killed. The assailants escaped on their scooters. Sukhdev Singh was arrested in 1986 and Harjinder Singh in 1987. Both of them were later sentenced to death for the murder of Indian army general A. S. Vaidya, the architect of Operation Blue Star, and on October 9, 1992; they were hanged in Pune Jail. Gill was arrested by Interpol in New Jersey, USA on May 14, 1987 and was deported to India in February 2000. His life sentenced was later commuted on May 20, 2009. Maken’s daughter Avantika had pleaded for the release of Ranjit Singh Gill.
During the riots he carried voters list with him at Prakash Nagar for identification of Sikhs. In August 1993, Jain-Aggarwal Committee recommended registering the case against Dharamdas Shastri for his involvement in leading mob that killed Sikhs. The committee records that on the 5th November 1984, Shastri, some Municipal Councilors and a mob of 3,000 people went to the Karol Bagh police station to get some looters released. Based on eyewitness accounts, corroborated by the testimony of a senior IPS officer, Amod Kanth, the committee records that Shastri had gone to the police station along with a mob for release of persons arrested for looting or being in possession of looted goods. It records further that Shastri condemned the police for arresting rioters, and threatened them with dire consequences if they took any action against them for possession of looted property. He died in 2005.
The police filed the first case in 1984, accusing Kumar and 10 accomplices of instigating riots in the Sultanpuri area of Delhi, killing 49 people. In 1987, the Jain-Bannerjee Committee recommended filing a case against Sajjan Kumar, however, it was not registered. The CBI filed the second case in 1990, acting on a complaint by a Sikh widow called Anwar Kaur. She accused Kumar of leading the mob that killed her husband in Sultanpuri on November 1, 1984. In August 1990, Potti-Rosha Committee issued recommendations for filing cases based on affidavits submitted by victims of the violence. There was one 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 in their designs on their leader.
The Nanavati Commission claimed evidence against Congressmen Kumar for instigating the mobs to violence. He was charge-sheeted in five different cases but was acquitted in one case on the 30th April by the Karkardoma Court on the basis of “benefit of doubt” because complainant Jagdish Kaur’s testimony was not corroborated by any independent witness. Kumar faces trial in other cases of rioting one which ended in the murder of six people in Sultanpuri area of Delhi, and another in the Nangloi area of the capital.
The US-based Sikh rights group Sikhs for Justice has announced a million-dollar reward for those individuals whose testimony and evidence may result in the conviction of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar. The reward will be given to those individuals who will come forward with tips, evidence and testimony leading to the reversal of a Delhi
On 6th November 1984, at 5 p.m. he barged into a press conference that the Police Commissioner S. C. Tandon was holding. A journalist reports that he told the Police Commissioner that “by holding my men you are hampering the relief work”.
Tytler’s alleged role in the case relating to killing of three persons, Badal Singh, Thakur Singh and Gurcharan Singh near the Gurudwara Pulbangash was re-investigated by the CBI after a court had refused to accept its closure report in December 2007. Lakhvinder Kaur in her plea had claimed that there are four other persons, Resham Singh, Chanchal Singh, Alam Singh and Santosh Singh, who too are the eyewitnesses of the incident.
The CBI had given a clean chit to Tytler in April 2009, claiming lack of evidence against him. However, a decision by a Delhi court rejecting CBI’s closure report against Congress leader Jagdish Tytler in April 2013 could well mark the end of political career. Tytler could never wipe the stain of his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh killings in the capital.
By Anil Dhir