1984 riots: The original ‘maut ke saudagars’ set the tone for future

jagdish_tytler_20080114Vivek Kaul
Having grown up on a staple of bad Hindi cinema of the seventies and the eighties, I have always associated people with ‘French’ beards as being villanious. Indeed, this is a stereotype of the worst kind, which I have been unable to get rid off.
But now comes the news that a Delhi court has set aside the closure report of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Jagdish Tytler, in connection with the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 and ordered that the case against him be reopened. For those who don’t know, Tytler has had a rather impressive French beard, over the years.
Tytler along with many fellow Congressmen took an active part in inciting the anti-Sikh riots that happened in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of the country, being assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on the morning of October 31, 1984.
As Tavleen Singh writes in
Durbar “Mrs Gandhi (Indira) had set out of her house at about 9 a.m. And was walking through her garden towards her office, in a bungalow that adjoined her house, when her Sikh bodyguard, Beant Singh, greeted her with his hands joined together. Then he shot her with his pistol. Another bodyguard, Satwant Singh, opened fire with his automatic weapon.”
Gandhi was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) by her daughter in law Sonia, where she was declared dead.
Indira’s son Rajiv was sworn in as the Prime Minister in the evening of the same day. As Singh writes “We watched him on television. In a calm, emotionless voice, he said India had lost a great leader. Someone who was not just his mother but the mother of the country, or words to that effect. Then he stopped and stared sadly at the camera while Doordarshan showed shots of H.K.L. Bhagat (another Congress leader) and his supporters beating their breasts and shouting, ‘
Khoon ka badlka khoon se lenge.’ Blood will be avenged with blood.”
In the environment that evovled the entire community of Sikhs were held responsible for the murder of Indira Gandhi. By the evening of October 31, the violence started. As Ramachandra Guha writes
India After Gandhi – The History of World’s Largest Democracy “Everywhere it was Sikhs and Sikhs alone who were the target…In Delhi alone more than a thousand Sikhs perished in the violence…They were murdered by a variety of methods, and often in front of their own mothers and wives. Bonfires were made of the bodies; in one case, a little child was burnt with his father, the perpetrator saying, ‘Ye saap ka bachcha hai, isse bhi khatam karo’ (This offspring of a snake must be finished too).”
And this was not a spontaneous outflow of grief as it would be made out to be. It was mob-violence that was directed at the Sikh community in a cold and calculated way. “The mobs were composed of Hindus who lived in and around Delhi…Often they were led and directed by Congress politicians: metropolitan councillors, members of Parliament, even Union ministers. The Congress leaders promised money and liquor to those willing to do the job; this in addition to whatever goods they could loot. The police looked on, or actively aided the looting and murder.”
Jagdish Tytler was seen inciting one such mob around Gurdwara Pul Bangash near the Azad market in Delhi. Surinder Singh, the Head Granthi of the Gurdwara testified against Tytler on sworn affidavits. “
On 1st November 1984 in the morning at 9am a big mob which was carrying sticks, iron rods and kerosene oil attacked the Gurdwara. The crowd was being led by our area Member Parliament of Congress (I) Jagdish Tytler. He incited the crowd to set the Gurdwara on fire and to kill the Sikhs…Five to six policemen were also with the crowd. On incitement by Jagdish Tytler, they attacked the gurdwara and set it on fire.” (Source: Tehelka).
And while Delhi burnt on those first few days of November 1984, Rajiv Gandhi and his ministers, sat on their bums watching the whole show unfold. Senior leaders approached the government to call out the army on the streets. But nothing happened. As Singh writes “But the new Prime Minister did nothing. Not even when senior political leaders like Chandrashekar and (Mahatma) Gandhiji’s grandson, Rajmohan Gandhi, went to the home minister(P V Narsimha Rao) personally to urge him to call out the army for help was anything done in those first three days of November to stop the violence.”
This is something that Guha also writes in
India After Gandhi. “There is a large cantonment in Delhi itself, and several infantry divisions within a radius of fifty miles of the capital. The army was put on standby, despite repeated appeals to the prime minister and his home minster P.V.Narsimha Rao, they were not asked to move into action. A show of military strength in the city on the 1st and 2nd would have quelled the riots – yet the order never came.” Doordarshan, the only television channel in the country at that point of time, added fuel to fire by constantly showing crowds baying for the blood of the Sikhs.
A few week’s later in a public speech Rajiv Gandhi justified the pogrom(basically an organised massacre of a particular ethnic group) against Sikhs when he said “When a big tree falls, the earth trembles!”. Years later Sher Singh Sher, a Chandigarh based Sikh made the quip “
Were there only Sikhs sitting under that tree?” (Source: The Tribune) Gandhi in several speeches in the months to come even alleged that the same extremist elements who had killed his mother had also engineered the riots.
Rajiv Gandhi like his mother was assassinated seven years later in 1991. Since then the Congress party has moved on and is now in the hands of his widow Sonia and their son Rahul. In December 2007, Sonia Gandhi, called Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat “
maut ka saudagar”.
The irony behind Sonia’s statement was that the Congress party had many
maut ke saudagars who had gone unpunished for instigating the riots of 1984. It was a situation of the pot calling the kettle black. But that doesn’t mean that nothing happened in Gujarat.
Sonia’s statement was made in the context of the riots that happened in Gujarat in 2002, where more than 2000 Muslims were killed. The riots happened after bogey number S6 of the Sabarmati Express caught fire on February 27,2002, on the outskirts of the Godhra railway station. Fifty eight people died in the fire. The bogey had
kar sevaks returning from a yagna in Ayodhya.
As Guha points out “On their way back home by train , these
kar sevaks got into a fight with Muslim vendors at the Godhra railway station…Words of the altercation spread; young men from the Muslim neighbourhood outside the station joined in. The kar sevaks clambered back into the train, which started moving as stones were being thrown. However, the train stopped on the outskirts of the station, when a fire broke out in one of its coaches. Fifty eight people perished in the conflagration…Word that a group of kar sevaks had been burnt to death at Godhra quickly spread through Gujarat. A wave of retributory violence followed.”
In fact the behaviour of Modi in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots was very similar to that of Rajiv Gandhi. He justified the violence, like Rajiv Gandhi had, as a spontaneous reaction. He said that the burning of the railway coach at Godhra had led to a ‘chain of action and reaction’.
(The original statement of Modi was in Hindi and was made to Zee News:
Kriya pratikriya ki chain chal rahi hai. Hum chahte hain ki na kriya ho aur na pratikriya…Godhra main jo parson hua, jahan par chalees mahilaon aur bacchon ko zinda jala diya, issey desh main aur videsh main sadma pahunchna swabhavik tha. Godhra ke is ilake ke logon ki criminal tendencies rahi hain. In logon ne pehle mahila tachers ka khoon kiya. Aur ab yeh jaghanya apraadh kiya hai jiski pratikriya ho rahi hai. (A chain of action and reaction is being witnessed now.We feel that there should be no action nor reaction. Day before yesterday in Godhra, the incident in which forty women and children were burnt alive had to naturally evoke a shocking response in the country and abroad. The people in this locality of Godhra have had criminal tendencies. They first killed the women teachers and now this horrifying crime the reaction to which is being witnessed). Source: Narendra Modi – The Man. The Times by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay).
Guha finds man similarities between the two pogroms, the one against the Sikhs of Delhi in 1984, and the one against the Muslims of Gujarat in 2002. Both the cases started with stray acts of violence for which a generalised revenge was taken. “The Sikhs who were butchered were in no way connected to the Sikhs who killed Mrs Gandhi. The Muslims who were killed by the Hindu mobs were completely innocent of the Godhra crime,” writes Guha.
In both the cases there was a clear breakdown of law and order. More than that graceless statements justifying the riots, were made, one by a serving Prime Minister and another by a serving Chief Minister. And in both the cases, serving ministers, aided the rioters.
But its the final similarity between the two different sets of events that is the most telling, feels Guha. “Both parties, and leaders, reaped electoral rewards from the violence that they had legitimised and overseen. Rajiv Gandhi’s party won the 1984 general election by a large margin, and in December 2002, Narendra Modi was re-elected as the chief minister of Gujarat after his party won a two-thirds majority in the assembly polls,” Guha points out. Modi, the first RSS pracharak to become a chief minister, has won two more polls since then.
To conclude, if justice had been quickly delivered in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the Congress leaders who instigated the violence had been jailed, chances are the 1993 Mumbai riots and 2002 Gujarat riots would never have happened. And if they had, they would have happened on a much smaller scale. The original maut ke saudagars of 1984 set the tone for much of what followed. 
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on April 11, 2003.
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)

Will Vadragate turn out to be Sonia’s Bofors?


Vivek Kaul
Roti tawa par, janta party hawa main” was one of the slogans going around in the Lok Sabha elections that happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Riding on the honest image of Rajiv Gandhi (Indira’s son and a former Indian Airlines pilot) and a sympathy wave due to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, the Congress party won more than 400 seats in the lower house of Indian parliament.
This was an unprecedented majority for the Congress party, something it had not managed to achieve even under the leadership of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Rajiv’s grandfather and India’s first Prime Minister. Neither had it managed such a huge mandate from the people of India under the leadership of Indira Gandhi.
But Rajiv would soon squander away these gains. As Aarthi Ramachandran writes in Decoding Rahul Gandhi “The Rajiv Gandhi government was bogged down by allegations of kickbacks to the tune of Rs 64 crore paid to middlemen in the purchase of Swedish Bofors guns. The government’s ‘stonewalling’ of demands to bring guilty to book in the Bofors case and other corruption scandals destroyed Rajiv’s image as Mr Clean. Ramchandra Guha in India After Gandhi says the ‘stonewalling prompted speculation that the middlemen were somehow linked to the prime minister himself’.”
The impact of this on the Congress party was huge. It lost the 1989 election to an alliance of Janata Dal and the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP). Rajiv Gandhi had to become the leader of the opposition. A party which had more than three fourths of the seats in the Lok Sabha was thrown out of power.
It is often said that ‘perception is reality’. Rajiv Gandhi losing the 1989 Lok Sabha election because people ‘thought’ he was involved in the Bofors scandal and may have received a part of the kickbacks. And this perception was formed after his government stonewalled all attempts of bringing the guilty to book.
A similar situation seems to be now brewing up in the Robert Vadra-DLF case. A string of lawyer ministers from the Congress have jumped into the ring in order to defend Robert Vadra and would like the world at large to believe that there is no truth in accusations being hurled at Vadra (and indirectly Sonia Gandhi) by Arvind Kejriwal and his associates.
Let us sample some of the statements that have been made by these lawyer ministers. Kapil Sibal, one the country’s top practicing lawyers before he became a full time politician and currently the Minister of Human Resource Development and Minister of Communications and Information Technology recently came to the defence of Vadra. “Allegations are happening 24×7. It is a daily phenomena just like 24×7 television news channels,” he said.
On television Vadra has been defended by Jayanthi Natrajan who other than being the Union Minister for Environment and Forests also happens to be a lawyer having got her law degree from the Madras Law College. Vadra has also been defended by Manish Tewari, a Congress spokesperson, and a lawyer. Tewari felt that prima facie the charges made by Kejriwal and company were found to be ‘untruth, innuendos and lies’.
HR Bhardwaj, currently the governor of Karnataka, and a former law minister also came to the indirect defence of Robert Vadra. “Many allegations were levelled against the Gandhi family even in the past. Indira Gandhi was also attacked. But she had a towering personality and fought back. Morarji Bhai (late Prime Minister Morarji Desai) made so many cases against her but they fell like nine pins,” he told reporters,” he recently told the media. And I thought governors were meant to be above politics and political parties.
Rashid Alvi, one of the spokespersons of the Congress Party on one occasion brushed aside the accusations hurdled at Vadra by Arvind Kejriwal and company as a “part of a well-planned conspiracy not against an individual but against the Congress and its leadership.”
On another occasion on live television he dubbed Kejriwal’s accusation as a publicity stunt and questioned the veracity of the documents put out by Kejriwal by saying “who will decide that the documents shown by Kejriwal are genuine or fake.”The website of the Parliament of India lists his profession as an advocate in the Supreme Court.
P Chidambaram, the Union Finance Minister who also happens to be a lawyer said “All I can say is at this moment these allegations pertain to transactions between two private persons or entities…. The individual (Vadra, son-in-law of Sonia Gandhi) has disclosed all these transactions in his income tax and other returns, and perhaps in the returns of the company.”
Veerapa Moily, another Lawyer and who is  the Union Minister for Corporate Affairs as well as Power, jumped to Vadra’s defence by saying “ I have already verified these allegations and no wrongdoings have been found in any of the six Robert Vadra-owned companies.”
What is surprising is that so many Congress lawyers have jumped to the defence of a “supposedly” private individual, Robert Vadra, and ruled out any wrong doing on the part of Sonia Gandhi’s son in law. The only thing that this ‘stonewalling’ has done is that it has built the perception among people that something must be wrong otherwise why are so many lawyer ministers and Congressmen jumping to Vadra’s defence.
In some cases the defence has looked very shaky. Let’s look at Alvi’s insinuation that the documents might be fake. And this comes from a man whose profession is listed as a Supreme Court lawyer. It is very easy to download balance sheets of even unlisted companies these days. This writer spent the whole of last week doing that by logging on to www.mca.gov.in and paying a Rs 50 charge for every Vadra company for which details were needed. So all one needs to know is the name of the company and it’s possible to get the details of that company. And in Vadra’s case it was pretty well known that he operated through Sky Light Hospitality Private Ltd a company in which he owned 99.8%.
Also Alvi should remember that Kejriwal is being advised by Shanti and Prashant Bhushan, two of the best lawyers in the country. Shanti Bhushan was even the law minister of the country at a certain point of time. Other than this Kejriwal himself must understand a thing or two about balance sheets having been an Indian Revenue Service officer till a few years back. He is also an IIT Kharagpur passout from the pre coaching schools era and that definitely means he is smart. And more than anything else why would anyone who is raising a serious banner of revolt against the incumbent government choose to do so on “fake” documents?
P Chidambaram wanted us to believe that the dealings were between a private company and a private individual. If that is the case why are so many lawyer ministers coming to the defence of Vadra?
Veerapa Moily jumped to Vadra’s defence by saying that there was nothing wrong in any of Vadra’s six companies. If he had read through the memorandum of association of Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality carefully enough he would have realised that the company claims that it will carry out business as hotels, restaurants, lodges, ice-cream merchants, sweet meat merchants, milk manufactures, bakers, wine and spirit merchants etc.
But instead of doing all that Sky Light Hospitality primarily seems to be in the business of real estate having accumulated a slew of properties on the basis of a so called Rs 50 crore advance it got from a plot of land from DLF. As has been repeatedly pointed out Firstpost and other places in the media the dealings between DLF and Vadra appear murky. (You can read about it completely here, here and here). Sky Light Hospitality owns a 50% stake in Saket Courtyard Hospitality Ltd through which it runs one hotel in Saket, New Delhi, in parternship with DLF.
Vadra’s Sky Light Hospitality bought 3.5acres of land sometime in 2008-2009 (period between April 1, 2008 and March 31, 2009) at Rs 15.38 crore. In the same period DLF bought this land from Vadra for Rs 58 crore. The question is how did the value of the land go up nearly 3.7 times in such a short period of time?
Against this sale DLF gave Vadra an advance of Rs 50 crore. An advance is typically given for the short term and needs to be returned within a year. But this advance was sitting on Vadra’s balance sheet even as on March 31, 2011. So the advance given by DLF to Vadra was with Vadra for a period of greater than two years. This doesn’t sound like an advance at all. It seems more like an interest free loan being passed off as an advance.
DLF also said in its 6 October statement that “we wish to categorically state that DLF has given no unsecured loans to Mr Vadra or any of his companies.” The balance-sheet (dated 31 March 2010) of Real Earth Estates Pvt Ltd, another company owned by Vadra, shows a clear entry of Rs 5 crore as a loan from DLF.
Vadra used all these loans from Vadra to go on a property buying spree. Estimates made now suggest that the value of this property now runs into hundreds of crores. He also benefitted from parking this largely interest free money in fixed deposits and earning an interest from them.
Congress Party’s over defence of Vadra has not helped it at all. It has built the perception among people that there must be some hanky panky involved in the entire business. That being the case no other response could have been expected from a party that doesn’t really stand for anything except the Nehru-Gandhi family. Kejriwal has hit the Congress party where it hurts the most.
As Ramachandran writes “the Nehru-Gandhi family remained relevant within the Congress. In fact, it became more powerful as it was only the centre around which the entire Congress edifice could hold together. It was now an amalgam of pressure groups which were interested in power, and their one-way ticket to it was through proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.”
And it’s in times like these Congress leaders have to go through their agni parkiskha and show their loyalty to the Nehru Gandhi family. That’s precisely what they are doing. Their reactions are a clear case of Catch 22. They are dammed if they try to come to the defence of Vadra and they are dammed if they don’t. However, in the process Vadragate may turn out to be Sonia Gandhi’s Bofors.
The article originally appeared on www.firstpost.com on October 16, 2012. http://www.firstpost.com/india/will-vadragate-turn-out-to-be-sonias-bofors-492019.html
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He can be reached at viv[email protected])