Where were the Delhi police during the 1984 riots? Did they allow the hundreds of killings to take place? Why was the violence more pronounced in some parts of Delhi than in others? These were the questions that Ved Marwah was asked to answer. But three months in, his investigation was stopped.
IPS officer Marwah, then additional commissioner to the CID, was asked to conduct the first inquiry after the riots. He said he worked day and night, gathering documents from individual police stations, the police control room and the commissioner’s control room, and interviewing witnesses.
“One thing had become clear. In the records, in a number of places there was no entry about the movement of police officers. As per police rules, every time an officer is sent to a place, a record is made into the daily diary. I seized these records and it became obvious that the police had a lot to answer for.”
But as his inquiries apparently threatened to put under the scanner the role played by the police, some officers who he said figured in his investigation filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court against the inquiry. “Officers began hounding me. When the court refused to stop the inquiry, I was asked to do so by the then commissioner of police. It was written order. But I was never offered an explanation,” he said.
He had by then collected evidence that, he says, pointed to the absence of officers in key positions in south and east Delhi. “It seemed that the police had simply absented themselves from the riots in certain areas. No record of movements existed,” he said.
Marwah would become the commissioner of police in 1985. He sensed among many in the police force a distrust of Sikh officers, he said. “There was this general perception that was slowly becoming institutionalised that Sikh officers couldn’t be trusted with key assignments. I attempted to change this and posted a Sikh officer at the Parliament Street police station — which was considered a very important posting.”
Marwah stressed the need for the police to take adequate action during communal violence. “The scars of the ’84 riots can still be seen. It is up to the police in situations like this to contain the violence. At the time, I remember we used to have a directive from the MHA stressing the need for a strong hand to be used whenever there was a sign of communal violence,” he said.
But as Marwah’s inquiry was brought to a close, he felt he had become the victim of constant hounding from a number of people — including officers that he was investigating. “One case after another was filed against me. First there was the writ petition, then there was a case filed at a fast track court in Delhi. Now there’s a civil case of defamation on extremely flimsy grounds.”