The happenings in Trilokpuri, a trans-Jamuna resettlement colony in the east of Delhi, between October 31 and November 2 were gruesome picture of the intensity of the butchery. Within just 48 hours, at least 400 Sikhs, mainly young men were burnt alive, with the connivance of the local police machinery and active’ participation of an organized group of miscreants led by a Congress (l) Councilor.

As in other areas, here also the carnage was preceded by the usual floating of the familiar rumor that Sikhs had distributed sweets to ‘celebrate’ Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination on October 81. The other version which was heard when we visited Trilokpuri three days later was that a Hindu mob had come to attack the Gurudwara on October 81, and the Sikhs resisted by waving their swords. When the mob attacked the ‘Gurudwara’ stones were hurled from the top of the temple, and the rampage began. In the course of our investigation however we could not find any single person who could claim that he had personally seen the Sikhs distributing sweets. Some people however corroborated the report about the Sikhs waving swords from the Gurudwara when the Hindu mob came to attack it.

From accounts related to us by the survivors, by the Hindu neighbors and by some reporters who visited the spot soon after the incident on November 2, we could reconstruct the grisly sequence of events.

The beginning of the tragedy could be traced to the night of October 31 when reportedly the Congress (I) Councilor Ashok Kumar, a doctor who runs a clinic in Kalyanpuri, one kilometer from Trilokpuri, held a meeting at the latter place. The violence that broke out immediately following the meeting reached its climax the next morning, when Gujar farmers from the neighboring village of Chill a landed at Trilokpuri, and accompanied by a group of local inhabitants (described by the residents as Scheduled Caste people) raided Block 28, 32, 88 and 34 and systemically attacked Sikh houses, dragged out the young men, killed and burnt them and set the houses on fire. In some cases, the assailants hit the victims with iron rods on their heads before pouring kerosene on them.

Between Blocks 32 and 31 there are large open spaces where over 50 Sikh families were living in jhuggies and jhopries. ‘These hut-men’s were burnt down, and the menfolk were killed.

A study of the list of those who were alleged to have taken part in the loot and killings reveals that a large number of them were notorious antisocial elements well known in the area. One of them, Somnath of House 90, Block 32, was responsible for the murder of several Sikhs including Hoshiyar Singh, son of Milap Singh and three other young men whom he locked up in a house and later killed them with the help of others.

(A detailed list of the alleged criminals and the nature of their crimes of Trilokpuri during the period under survey is given in Annexure I).

Some of the participants were shop keepers who supplied kerosene to the arsonists. Some others among the neighbors of the victims were petty traders like milkmen, mechanics or dealers in cement, the majority of the victims were poor Sikh-mechanics. Artisans and daily wage laborers

The role of the police was on the same lines as found elsewhere in Delhi during the period. ‘The sanctioned strength of the police in the Kalyanpuri police station, under which Trolkpuri falls is 113, including one Inspector (who is the Station House Officer) and around 90 constables among others. The SHO reached Trilokpuri at about 2:30 p.m. on November 1 when the plunder and killings were taking place. The first think he did was to remove the head constable and another constable from the spot, allowing the criminals to escape whatever little detection there was possible. It was a continuous spree of arson, rape and murders after that. Later enquiries conducted by a senior police official revealed that at least four women, their ages ranging from 14 to 50 were gang raped. Later seven cases of rape from ‘Trilokpuri were officially reported by the J.P. Narayan Hospital, Delhi

During the height of the killings however, there was little effort on the part of the police either to stop the orgy or to check figures of casualties. On November 2, at around 5:30 p.m. Nikhil Kumar, ACP of the Police received information that “Block 32 mei mar kat ho rahi hai” (Murders are taking place in Block 82) ‘The police control room curiously enough recorded that only three people had been injured. And this was at a time when already entire rows of houses in several block of Trilokpuri were burning and their inmates killed.

A Reporter of Delhi based newspaper who reached Trilokpuri at about 2 p.m. on November 2 was greeted by a belligerent mob in Block 28 which threatened him and stoned his car. When he went back to the Kalyanpuri police station, the SHO Survir Singh told him that ‘total peace’ was reigning in the area. He however spotted a truck outside the police station with four bodies inside, one of them still alive. When the reporter, out of despair, turned back to contact the police headquarters, on his way he came across about 70 Sikh women and children walking along the road under Nizamuddin bridge. They told him that all their men had been killed in Trilokpuri, and that they were fleeing for their lives. The reporter’s attempts to seek help from several army personnel on the road elicited little response, since most of the latter had either lost touch with their respective headquarters, or had no specific orders. Finally, after reaching the police headquarters at ITO, he met the ACP, Nikhil Kumar, who told him that he could not do anything and could pass his message to the control room. He described his role as that of ‘a ‘guest artist.’

The reporter revisited Triolkpuri in the evening of the same and found remains of the carnage-burnt houses, dead bodies and the SHO with two constables walking around. The SHO told him that he did not have any knowledge of what had happened. When later in the evening the reporter visited the police headquarters, he was told by another ACP that according to the latter’s information there was ‘peace’ in Trilokpuri. The reporter pointed out that at least 300 people had been burnt and that the police were only counting dead bodies that were still recognizable ignoring those which had been reduced to cinders.

It was only around 7 p.m. on November 2 that senior police officials reached Trilopuri. Personnel of the Central Reserve police force were deployed then, and the survivors were rescued from the affected blocks.

When members of our team reached Trilokpuri at about 7 a.m. on November 3 we found the survivors old men, women and children, some of them with severe burns, huddling together in the open on the main road. Weeping women narrated to us how their menfolk were slaughtered and alleged that in some cases the police directed the attacks. Many among the survivors told us that Dr. Ashok Kumar the local Congress (l) Councilor had instigated the mob. The entire Sikh community in the area, they said, was left at the mercy of the mob for two full days till the arrival of the CRP.

As soon as we entered Block 32, we were greeted by a strong stench of burnt bodies which were still rotting inside some of the houses. The entire lane was littered with burnt pieces of furniture, papers, scooters and piles of ash in the shape of human bodies the unmistakable signs of burnt human beings. Dogs were on the prowl. Rats were nibbling at the still recognizable remains of a few bodies.

As we watched the scene, we remembered what we had just read in the morning newspapers that day. Describing the situation in Delhi on the previous day November 2, when the carnage was continuing at Trilokpuri the Lt. Governor Mr. Gavai had said that the situation in the capital was ‘under control.’ From what we witnessed at Trilokpuri, it was evident that the situation there on November 2 was indeed ‘under control’, but the ‘control’ was wielded by a powerful group of influential persons who could mobilize the local police to help them in the may hem and immobilize the entire administration for more than 48 hours to enable them to carry out meticulously their plans of murder and destruction.

The first relief to be given to the Trilokpuri victims was not by the authorities but by a voluntary group of over two dozen who brought them food, medical care and concern, Even though a woman had two dozen who brought them food, medical care and concern. Even though a woman had given birth to a child among the victim, the authorities had not even arranged for medical care for her or the other persons seriously injured more than a day earlier. Members of this voluntary team rescued Sikh families who were hiding in Hindu homes as late as 7:30 in the evening. These rescues were made in the presence of the District Commissioner who had to be cajoled into helping. The authorities assured the victims that they will be given all help and things like blankets though they had none on hand. In fact the authorities have been using the Farash Bazaar Camp (where Trilokpuri victims were sent) to show their efficiency whereas a great deal of the work there has been done by voluntary agencies.

Article extracted from this publication >> November 11, 1988