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Anti-Sikh riots: Eyewitness testimonies named Kamal Nath, Nanavati panel said not possible to indict him

In his affidavit, Kamal Nath stated that on the afternoon of November 1, 1984 he received information about "some violence" around the gurudwara, and as a "senior and responsible leader" of the Congress he decided to go there.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: December 18, 2018 7:30:21 am
Anti-Sikh riots: Eyewitness testimonies named Kamal Nath, Nanavati panel said not possible to indict him The alleged role of Kamal Nath was based on the testimony of Witness No. 2 Mukhtiar Singh, who lived in a staff quarter of the gurudwara, and Witness No. 17 Monish Sanjay Suri, then a staff reporter with The Indian Express.

The reply filed by Kamal Nath was “vague”; evidence “discloses” that he was “seen in the mob” and he had “not clearly stated” at what time he went there and how long he remained there.

These were the key observations made by the Nanavati Commission, constituted to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, while investigating the attack on Gurudwara Rakab Ganj, near Parliament House. Two eyewitnesses there had deposed against the senior Congress leader, and now Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister.

The commission concluded that in the “absence of better evidence it is not possible” to say that Nath had, in any manner, instigated the mob, or that he was involved in the attack on the gurudwara.

The alleged role of Kamal Nath was based on the testimony of Witness No. 2 Mukhtiar Singh, who lived in a staff quarter of the gurudwara, and Witness No. 17 Monish Sanjay Suri, then a staff reporter with The Indian Express.

Singh had deposed that the attack on Gurudwara Rakab Ganj on November 1, 1984 had “continued for about half an hour”, and although “some policemen” were present “they did not” take any action. He had deposed that an “old age Sikh gentlemen” and his son were set on fire by the mob when he was persuading them against attacking the gurudwara.

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“After the mob was able to enter the Gurudwara it tried to break the main door…but could not succeed. Therefore, it set it on fire,” the commission noted, referring to Singh’s deposition. “He (Mukhtiar Singh), along with other devotees and staff members, extinguished the fire and again pushed the mob out…by throwing stones and bursting crackers. The mob, believing bursting of crackers as gunshots, ran out…”

When the mob again attempted to get inside the Gurudwara, one person who was inside the Gurudwara and had a licensed gun fired some shots in air so as to frighten the mob,”

Singh told the commission that the “mob became bigger” after it was forced to retreat the first time, and at that time Congress leaders Kamal Nath and Vasant Sathe “were seen in the mob”.

Also read: Anti-Sikh riots: Abject failure of police — rules Delhi High Court

The report states: “…on the instructions of the Congress leaders, the police fired several rounds at the Gurudwara. After some time, the Manager of the Gurudwara, Gurdial Singh, requested those Congress leaders to stop the mob from attacking the Gurudwara and tell it to go away. Because of their request the mob retreated but after some time it again gathered near the Gurudwara.”

Suri had told the commission that he went to Gurudwara Rakab Ganj around 4 pm and “saw a big crowd of about 4000” led by Congress leader Kamal Nath. “The mob was making attempts to enter the Gurudwara. But the Congress Member of Parliament and other leaders of the Congress were able to keep them under control,” the report quotes him.

Suri also deposed that Kamal Nath “did not make any attempt to control the situation near the Gurudwara.”

The report states, referring to Suri’s testimony, “…he (Suri) stated that Kamal Nath tried to control the crowd and the crowd was looking at him for directions. He did not hear Kamal Nath giving any direction to the mob. He merely saw him speaking to different persons who were in the mob. He reiterated before the Commission that Kamal Nath did not make any attempt to control the situation near the Gurudwara,”

In his affidavit, Nath stated that on the afternoon of November 1, 1984 he received information about “some violence” around the gurudwara, and as a “senior and responsible leader” of the Congress he decided to go there.

The report states, referring to Kamal Nath’s reply, “When he reached there…paramilitary personnel were also present. He tried to find out from various persons in the mob why they had gathered there and why they were agitated. He was told that some Hindu men and women were kept inside the Gurudwara forcibly and that was the main reason why they were agitated.

“By that time the Commissioner of Police came there. He felt satisfied that police would be able to control the situation, so he left.”

“He has further stated that while he was near the Gurudwara he had tried to persuade the crowd to disperse and not to take law into their hands….He has denied that he gave instructions to any one to resort to firing. He has also denied that he had either led that mob or had any control over the mob,” the report says.

Referring to Nath’s testimony, the commission concluded :

* Reply filed by Kamal Nath is vague.

* He did not clearly state at what time he went, and how long he remained there.

* The situation at the gurudwara had become very grave around 11.30 am, and remained grave until around 3.30 pm. Evidence says Nath was seen with the mob around 2 pm.

* He did not state whether he went to the gurudwara alone or with other people, and how he went there.

* The Police Commissioner had reached that place at about 3.30 pm; Kamal Nath left after the police chief’s arrival there.

* It appears a little “strange” that Nath left the place abruptly without contacting the police officers assembled there.

* At the same time it is also required to be considered that Kamal Nath was called upon to give an explanation after about 20 years and probably for that reason he was not able to give more details on when and how he went there, and his actions at the spot.

* Suri has said that Kamal Nath had tried to persuade the mob to disperse and the mob had retreated for some time Therefore, it would not be proper to come to the conclusion that Kamal Nath had in any manner instigated the mob.

* Singh was quite far away from the place where Kamal Nath stood amongst the mob and they could not have heard anything that Kamal Nath told to the persons in the mob.

* What Singh stated about Kamal Nath did is by way of an inference drawn by them from the gestures that were made by Kamal Nath while talking to the persons in the mob. In absence of better evidence it is not possible for the Commission to say that he had in any manner instigated the mob or that he was involved in the attack on the Gurudwara.

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