Will Tytler get away again?

The re-opening of the case yesterday against Congress leader Jagdish Tytler for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots could prove to be a boon for the party. Just when it has to deal with those pesky Wikileaks revelations about Rajiv Gandhi's middleman role in procuring fighter jets, it can flash the Delhi Court order as serious intent to seek justice.

Tytler, along with Sajjan Kumar and H.K.L.Bhagat, was largely responsible for what happened in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination by her security guards, who happened to be Sikh.

What followed was not only genocide, but complete misuse of power. It has been typical of governments to target innocents when they fail to deal with a group's demands or aspirations. It was no different in the case of Sikhs. It was, anyway, the Centre's misguided attitude that resulted in Operation Bluestar. And even if the then prime minister was killed because of disaffection, it had nothing to do with the community, and most certainly not the way a ruling party uses the system to decimate it's citizens.

If it got its ministers and the police to do its bidding then, it continued having a hold on the Central Bureau of Investigation. Therefore, the mere reopening of the case against Tytler, who was exonerated, ought to raise more questions than to result in jubilation.

The Delhi High Court cannot possibly serve as the final stop. It has directed the CBI, which will have to clear its own mischief (what we politely refer to as error of omission) first. Not only did it claim he had no role once, but twice - in 2007 when its closure report was rejected and in 2009.

Three murders and the absence of key witnesses in court (they had moved to America) does not prove innocence. Yet, the Congress let him contest from New Delhi, the city of his crime. Why was he not answerable? There are many ministers from various parties who have a criminal record, but this somehow becomes public knowledge. In Tytler's case, the knowledge itself is brushed away, clearly revealing a tony old boys' protective ring.

He had even talked about his emotional incarceration: “It is very difficult to explain what I am going through. Nobody understands that. But after 22 years of fighting false charges, I am thankful to god. I knew from the very beginning that the affidavit was full of lies. Why else would somebody file an affidavit 22 years after the incident happened. I was not even in Delhi on the day of the first incident and was in a TV studio on the second day. But the media hyped that conspiracy to such a level that it dragged on for so long.”

The CBI had said he was not in the gurdwara, where the three men were killed, but in Teen Murti Bhavan, which happens to be in Delhi. And what was he doing in a TV studio the next day? Why was he not helping to quell the mobs?

There are many images that have stayed, whether in the media or through stories related. Of people being beaten up. Of local bullies being paid to kill. Of people fleeing. Of men throwing off their turbans and cutting their hair. Or women and children that remained in camps. Waiting. Justice became a matter of survival. Food. Clothes. Shelter.

I still cannot get over the fact that despite this horrendous black mark, Rajiv Gandhi - the one who explained the murderous rampage as “when a big tree falls the earth shakes" - took over as prime minister in what has been called a ‘sympathy wave'. No sympathy for the hundreds dead.

The police seemed to follow political instructions, but there was this photograph of Kiran Bedi, lathi in hand, fighting a mob. Was she the lone rebel?

In later years, as Director General of Police, K.P.S.Gill took charge of dealing with terrorism in Punjab. I still remember a senior media person writing after Gill's infamous bottom-patting of a woman IAS officer that this should not result in any serious punishment as the ‘supercop' was a national asset.

One must also realise that no group is above political expediency. The 2004 photograph of Tytler is one such example. As Union Minister of State he was honoured with a 'siropa' by Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee President Prahlad Singh Chandok at a function.

It only shows that those holding positions of authority can forget and be co-opted easily with the promise of a few sops. The ordinary people need to raise their voices. Closure must not wipe out history.

(c) Farzana Versey


  1. FV,

    Out of habit, I searched this post for instant-hit catchwords like 'mass murderer', 'Stockhoim syndrome', 'communalist venom', 'heil fuhrer', 'shameless' 'authoritarian', 'remorse', 'secularism' and so on and so forth.

    (Note: This post talks about a guy who is accused of actually being at the site of a mass murder - probably with a sword in hand).

    Having failed to find such heartfelt, peaceful descriptions anywhere, I realized that I had ignored two facts:

    1. This gentleman belonged (still does) to a sekulaar party.
    2. The mass-murdered barely made a piggy bank of votes! Their community is just 2% of India's population.
    3. Their community has made the unforgivable mistake of taking the monstrous carnage in the stride and moving ahead on the path of integration and prosperity.

    QUOTE: "Closure must not wipe out history. ."

    Is that why some people talk of rebuilding Babri Masjid, brick by brick?

  2. F&F:

    It is rather unfortunate that your concern for justice is limited to looking for catchwords. I really don't need to remind you again that the dynamics of every riot are different, including those against Muslims (I am saying it because that is what you are getting at). 

    I have not used the words mass murderer and fuhrer even for others. Many of the phrases need not apply, and most certainly not in this post that merely talked about the reopening of the case and its possible intent.  

    Nothing stops you from having your say, but don't mess with my way of looking at it, and implying motives. 

    You may be obsessed with secularism as farce, because of the way you choose to spell it; I am not. 

    It's pretty sick that your interest in justice for Sikhs is limited to numbers and therefore a smaller vote bank. Strange, because it is said that we have a Sikh PM only to assuage the community. (I don't believe so.)

    You probably have not been to any refugee camp of those who were displaced. You probably have not read or heard their views. You probably don't understand that 29 years later the wounds are still raw and they are fighting for justice. They, unlike you, do not feel the need to beat other communities about moving on. They understand that trauma very well. 

    Perhaps you have not heard about Sikh areas like Sion-Koliwada and a few others. They too feel the need to stick to groups. Everyone who can does try to survive. The mainstream is this and the Indian Constitution. 

    {QUOTE: "Closure must not wipe out history. ."

    Is that why some people talk of rebuilding Babri Masjid, brick by brick?}

    I think you forget that in democratic India, a bunch of Hindutva goons, with much planning and monogrammed bricks, demolished the Babri Masjid. There were orchestrated riots. They are talking of rebuilding a Ram Mandir there. They use this as a bait for - guess who? - the majority vote bank. 

    It is typical of certain people to reduce arguments to basics. History is not monuments, and justice is not rebuilding those destroyed, but about human lives. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure it. 

    PS: Your comment had nothing to say about the anti-Sikh riots, because it is clear as daylight what you were trying to prove and who you are trying to protect for not being on the scene. And then you say you are not rightwing. 

    I really don't care. But what you have written is opportunistic. Don't bother to respond to this because I won't even read it. 

  3. They should definitely punish this Tytler guy, the sooner the better!

    I am very fond of sirdarjis. In fact, one of their finest (and most admirable) characteristics is they know how to move on with life -- therefore, one hardly finds too many sirdarjis crying today about the events (injustices) of 1984, in spite of how (obviously) enormous its impact was on them.

    Everyone knows the Indian judicial system is all screwed up, as are the Indian Investigative agencies. In fact, I am convinced that the term "Indian" can be safely used as an interchangeable adjective meaning "screwed-up". (For obvious reasons, I would leave out Indian writers, of course.)

    You ought to consider drawing attention to problems of that nature (judiciary, etc.) in order to help bring about positive changes to the Indian society. It is a long-term process.

  4. Anon:

    You sound like someone I know, and you know that I am very good at figuring that out!

    Such things aside, I am sure that you know many Sikhs, but although they are small in number you cannot possibly have met as large a sum as to conclude they are not “crying about it". I see traces of another comment, but let me assure you that the justice that you want is deaf. And like the legal system, so a people. Therefore, we don't hear the cries, unless we wish to beat people for it. You know, the whiners.

    Guess what? Human rights organisations have to depend on them to get evidence. Hope this helps.

    I am touched that you left out writers from your understanding of Indians as screwed up, but they too need to be excluded. After all, we can't have different definitions and standards, can we?

  5. F, it is entirely possible that expatriate Sikhs may not be sharing their innermost feelings with other Indians (read expatriate Hindus) on issues surrounding the 1984 riots and in that sense, it may not be possible to gauge whether they are still lamenting about it or if they have indeed moved on. But actions usually speak louder than words and to me, in all aspects, their actions indicate they have been able to overcome the setbacks of 1984. In any case, it is one thing to carry a private grief (which nobody can begrudge them, especially for those whose loved ones were directly impacted) and quite another to keep harping on that one issue and blaming it for whatever is politically expedient or fashionable to blame at a given moment. To my best understanding, no Sikhs have done that in the USA (except those very few who have always been explicitly aligned with or have been in support of the Khalistan movement anyway) – certainly not the folks who it has been my privilege to know. Maybe your experience is different. That is all I have to say on this topic.

  6. An interesting piece. From the extract, I do not agree with the last statement, though:

    {While the horrific visuals of the 2002 Gujarat massacre remain vivid for the public, the victims of '84 have struggled to stay in national consciousness. "When a journalist threw a shoe at home minister P Chidambaram in 2009, people woke up to the plight of victims," Phoolka says, arguing that it is in everyone's interest to bury the anti-Sikh riots. "The Gujarat riots of 2002 happened because we did not punish the guilty in 1984," he warns. "This will happen again if we don't act soon."}



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