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1984 India's Sikh Genocide

1984 Delhi Sikh Genocide

Indian Evil

In 1984, India exposed its true nature and feelings towards Sikhs by carrying out Sikh genocide.

Since then, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have been slaughtered. Every day, Sikh injustice continues.

Phase 1 of State Terrorism began in June 1984 with the Genocide of Punjab and Sri Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar, Sikhi's most visited and holy site (also known as The Golden Temple).

Phase 2 began on 31st October when the government used the hindu masses to slaughter Sikhs in cold blood.

Since 1984, the Indian state has continued to carry out extra judicial killings, deny Sikh's justice, undermine Sikh institutions, subvert the Sikh youth and back anti-Sikh organisations.

Since 1947 there has been an ongoing struggle between the Indian State and the Sikh community over Punjabi autonomy and minority safeguards, promised at independence but never delivered.

In June 1984 the Indian government, in an attempt to crush the growing Sikh uprising movement, ordered a ferocious army attack on the Golden Temple in which 8 - 10,000 innocent pilgrims were brutally killed..

Five months later, when the Sikh bodyguards delivered justice personally to Prime Minister Mrs Gandhi, Sikh genocide against innocent Sikhs was renewed. This led to mass violence against the Sikh population in Delhi and all over India.

These events greatly increased the conflict between the Sikh community and the Indian state and marked the beginning of a decade of extreme repression, during which Indian state forces violated the rights of thousands of ordinary citizens in an attempt to destroy an uprising movement.The Sikh Genocide that began in Nov 1984 was not just limited to Delhi. The Genocide was a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by the anti-Sikh government and mobs.

There were more than 8,000 deaths, including 3-4,000 in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigating agency, was of the opinion that the acts of violence were organized with the support from the then Delhi police officials and the central government headed by Indira Gandhi's son, Rajiv Gandhi.

Sikh Genocide

Sikh property was systematically identified and destroyed

Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother's death and, when asked about the genocide, said "when a big tree falls, the earth shakes". This was seen as an attempt to legitimize Sikh killings from the very top.

During the Indian Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government were imprisoned.

In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any Sikhs.

Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were initiated to clear Sikhs from the countryside of Punjab state.

The violence in Delhi was triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India's prime minister, on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards in response to her actions authorising the military operation. The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos.

In the aftermath of the riots, the Indian government reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the People's Union for Civil Liberties reported "at least" 100,000 displaced persons.

The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi. Human rights organisations and newspapers across India believe the massacre was organised. The collusion of political officials in the massacres and the Judiciary's failure to penalise the killers alienated normal Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement. The Akal Takht, the governing religious body of Sikhism, considers the killings to be a genocide.

In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported the Government of India had "yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings". The 2011 WikiLeaks revealed that the United States was convinced about the complicity of the Indian government ruled by the Indian National Congress in the riots, and termed it as "opportunism" and "hatred" of the Congress government against Sikhs.

The United States has denied to recognize the riots as genocide, but do acknowledge that "grave human rights violations" did take place. Also in 2011, a new set of mass graves were discovered in Haryana, and Human Rights Watch reported that "Widespread anti-Sikh attacks in Haryana were part of broader revenge attacks" in India.


In 1973 Akali Dal and other Sikh groups introduced the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, which set out Sikh ethics in Punjab. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, security in Punjab started deteriorating due to State level and religious politics, leading to the sacking of the Punjab government in 1983.

Sikhs wanted the right to self-determination as set out by the UN. The racist hindu led right wing government adopted a policy of genocide against the Sikhs.

By 1983, the Congress(I)-led Central Government dismissed its own Punjab government, declaring a state of emergency, and imposed the President's Rule in the state. During the five months preceding Operation Blue Star, from 1 January 1984 to 3 June 1984, thousands of people had been killed in various violent incidents across Punjab.

Sikh Genocide

Sikhs were burnt with tires around their necks, who supplied the hindu's?

Characteristics of Genocide

After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984 a state backed genocide of Sikhs erupted on 1 November 1984, and continued in some areas for days. Due to the large span of area the actual number of those dead is unknown, official figures of those who died are over 4000 and 60,000 were rendered homeless in Delhi alone, these figures to not incorporate those 'missing'. Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected.

Mobs carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material, including kerosene and Petrol. The mobs swarmed into Sikh neighbourhoods, arbitrarily killing any Sikh men or women they could find. Their shops and houses were ransacked and burned.

Sikh Genocide

Sikhs most holy scripture was desecrated

In other incidents, armed mobs stopped buses and trains, in and around Delhi, pulling out Sikh passengers to be lynched or doused with kerosene and burnt alive. Others were dragged out from their homes and hacked to death with bladed weapons.

"Such wide-scale violence cannot take place without police help. Delhi Police, whose paramount duty was to upkeep law and order situation and protect innocent lives, gave full help to rioters who were in fact working under able guidance of sycophant leaders like Jagdish Tytler and H K L Bhagat.

It is a known fact that many jails, sub-jails and lock-ups were opened for three days and prisoners, for the most part hardened criminals, were provided fullest provisions, means and instruction to "teach the Sikhs a lesson".

It would be wrong to say that Delhi Police did nothing, for they took full and keen action against Sikhs who tried to defend themselves. The Sikhs who opened fire to save their lives and property had to spend months dragging heels in courts afterwards."

- Jagmohan Singh Khurmi, The Tribune

Meetings and Distribution of Weapons

On 31 October, the crowd around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, began shouting for vengeance with slogans such as "Blood for blood!" and turned into an unruly mob. At 17:20, President Zail Singh arrived at the hospital and the mob outside stoned his car. The mob began assaulting Sikhs by stopping cars and buses to pull Sikhs out of them and burn their turbans. The violence on 31 October was restricted to the area around the AIIMS and did result in many Sikh deaths. People in other parts of Delhi reported their neighbourhoods were peaceful.

Sikh Genocide

A Sikh bus driver was murdered by rampaging hindu's

Throughout the night of 31 October and morning of 1 November, Congress leaders met with local supporters to distribute money and weapons. Congress party MP Sajjan Kumar and Trade Union leader Lalit Maken handed out 100 rupee notes and bottles of liquor to assailants.

On the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar was seen holding rallies in, at least, the following Delhi neighbourhoods; in Palam Colony from 06:30 to 07:00, in Kiran Gardens from 08:00 to 08:30, and in Sultanpuri from around 08:30 to 09:00.

In Kiran Gardens at 8:00 AM, Sajjan Kumar was seen distributing iron rods from a parked truck to a group of 120 people and instructing them to "attack Sikhs, kill them, and loot and burn their properties".

At an undefined time in the morning of 1 November, Sajjan Kumar led a mob of people along the Palam Railway main road to the Mangolpuri neighbourhood where the crowd answered his calls with chants of "Kill the Sardars" and "Indira Gandhi is our mother and these people have killed her".

Sikh Genocide

Sikh were murdered inside their Gurdwara's
(places of worship)

In Sultanpuri, Moti Singh, a Sikh who had served in the Congress party for 20 years heard Sajjan Kumar give the following speech:

"Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them. Whoever kills Roshan Singh and Bagh Singh will get 5,000 rupees each and 1,000 rupees each for killing any other Sikhs. You can collect these prizes on November 3 from my personal assistant Jai Chand Jamadar."

The CBI recently told the court that during the riot Sajjan Kumar had said that "not a single Sikh should survive". It also said that Delhi police kept its "eyes closed" during the riot as it was pre-planned.

In the neighbourhood of Shakarpur, Congress (I) leader Shyam Tyagi's home was used as a meeting place for an undefined number of people. H. K. L. Bhagat, the Minister of Information and Broadcasting distributed money to Boop Tyagi, Shyam Tyagi's brother, and ordered him to "Keep these two thousand rupees for liquor and do as I have told you.... You need not worry at all. I will look after everything."

During the night of 31 October, Balwan Khokhar, a local Congress (I) party leader who was later implicated in the ensuing massacre, held a meeting at the Ration Shop of Pandit Harkesh in the Palam Colony.

At 08:30 on 1 November, Shankar Lal Sharma, an active Congress party supporter, held a meeting at his shop where he formed a mob and had the people swear to kill Sikhs.

Sikh Genocide

The chief weapon used by the mobs, kerosene was supplied by a group of Congress Party leaders who owned filling stations.

In Sultanpuri, Brahmanand Gupta, the president of the A-4 block Congress Party distributed oil while Congress Party MP Sajjan Kumar "instructed the crowd to kill Sikhs, and to loot and burn their properties" as he had in other meetings throughout New Delhi.

In much the same way, meetings were held in places like Cooperative Colony in Bokaro where P.K. Tripathi, president of the local Congress Party and owner of a gas station in Nara More, provided kerosene to mobs.

Aseem Shrivastava, a Masters student at the Delhi School of Economics described the organised nature of the mobs in an affidavit submitted to the Misra Commission:

The attack on Sikhs and their property in our locality appeared to be an extremely organized affair...There were also some young men on motorcycles, who were instructing the mobs and supplying them with kerosene oil from time to time. On more than a few occasions we saw auto-rickshaw arriving with several tins of kerosene oil and other inflammable material such as jute-sacks.

A senior official at the Ministry of Home Affairs informed journalist Ivan Fera, that an arson investigation of several businesses burned in the riots had uncovered an unnamed combustible chemical "whose provision required large-scale coordination". Eyewitness reports confirmed the use of a combustible chemical besides kerosene. The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee later identified 70 affidavits which cited the use of a highly flammable chemical in its written arguments before the Misra Commission.

Use Of voter lists by the Congress Party

On 31 October, Congress party officials provided assailants with voter lists, school registration forms, and ration lists. The lists were used to find the location of Sikh homes and business, an otherwise impossible task because they were located in unmarked and diverse neighbourhoods.

Sikh Genocide

On the night of 31 October, the night before the massacres began, assailants used the lists to mark the houses of Sikhs with letter "S".

In addition, because most of the mobs were illiterate, Congress Party officials provided help in reading the lists and leading the mobs to Sikh homes and businesses in the other neighbourhoods.

By using the lists the mobs were able to pinpoint the locations of Sikhs they otherwise would have missed.

Sikh men not in their homes were easily identified by their distinctive turban and beard while Sikh women were identified by their dress. In some cases, the mobs returned to locations where they knew Sikhs were hiding after consulting their lists. One man, Amar Singh, escaped the initial attack on his house by having a Hindu neighbour drag him into his neighbour's house and declare him dead.

However, a group of 18 assailants later came looking for his body, and when his neighbour replied that others had already taken away the body an assailant showed him a list and replied, "Look, Amar Singh's name has not been struck off from the list so his dead body has not been taken away."

Timeline of events

First day (31 October)

Sikh Genocide

09:20: Indira Gandhi is shot by two of her Sikh security guards at her residence, No. 1 Safdarjung Road, and rushed to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).
10:50: Indira Gandhi dies.
11:00: All India Radio listeners learn that the two security guards who shot Indira Gandhi were Sikhs.
16:00: Rajiv Gandhi returns from West Bengal and reaches AIIMS. Stray incidents of attacks in and around that area.
17:30: The motorcade of President Zail Singh, who is returning from a foreign visit, is stoned as it approaches AIIMS.

Evening and night:

Organized and well equipped gangs of ruffians set out in different directions from AIIMS. The violence, including violence towards Sikhs and destruction of Sikh properties, spreads. Rajiv Gandhi is sworn in as the Prime Minister.

Senior advocate and BJP leader Ram Jethmalani, meets Home Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and urges him to take immediate steps to protect Sikhs from further attacks. Delhi's Lt. Governor, P.G. Gavai and Police Commissioner, S.C. Tandon, visits some of the affected areas.

Second day (1 November)

The first killing of a Sikh occurs in East Delhi.

09:00: Armed mobs take over the streets of Delhi and launch a massacre.

Among the first targets were Gurdwaras, the holy temples of Sikhs

The worst affected areas are low income colonies like Trilokpuri, Shahdara, Geeta Colony, Mongolpuri, Sultanpuri and Palam Colony. The few areas where the local police stations take prompt measures against mobs see hardly any killings or major violence. Farsh Bazar and Karol Bagh are two such examples.

Sikh Genocide

Third day (2 November)

Curfew is announced throughout Delhi, but is not enforced.

The Army deployed throughout Delhi too but ineffective because the police did not co-operate with soldiers (who are not allowed to open fire without the consent of senior police officers and executive magistrates).

Mobs continue to rampage.

Fourth day (3 November)

Violence continues. By late evening, the national Army and local police units work together to subdue the violence. After law enforcement intervention, violence is comparatively mild and sporadic.

In Delhi the dead bodies of the victims of riots were taken to All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi and Civil Hospital Mortuary Tis hazari, Delhi.

Over the course of 3 days in November 1984 in India, Sikhs were identified and killed, in the thousands.

Each flag marks the address of a documented victim (many more remain unrecorded).

Map locations are approximate.


The Delhi High Court, while pronouncing its verdict on a riots-related case in 2009, stated:

"Though we boast of being the world's largest democracy and the Delhi being its national capital, the sheer mention of the incidents of 1984 anti-Sikh riots in general and the role played by Delhi Police and state machinery in particular makes our heads hang in shame in the eyes of the world polity."

There are allegations that the government destroyed evidence and shielded the guilty. Asian Age, an Indian daily newspaper, ran a front-page story calling the government actions "the mother of all cover-ups."

Sikh Genocide

From 31 October 1984 to 10 November 1984, human rights groups People's Union for Democratic Rights and the People's Union for Civil Liberties conducted an inquiry into the riots by interviewing victims, police officers, neighbours of the victims, army personnel and political leaders. In their joint report, entitled Who Are The Guilty?, they concluded:

The attacks on members of the Sikh Community in Delhi and its suburbs during the period, far from being a spontaneous expression of "madness" and of popular "grief and anger" at Mrs. Gandhi's assassination as made out to be by the authorities, were the outcome of a well organised plan marked by acts of both deliberate commissions and omissions by important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration.

Eyewitness accounts obtained by Time magazine state the Delhi Police looked on as "rioters murdered and raped, having gotten access to voter records that allowed them to mark Sikh homes with large Xs, and large mobs being bused in to large Sikh settlements".

Time reported the riots only led to minor arrests and that no major politician or police officer had been convicted and quotes Ensaaf, a human rights organisation, as saying the government worked to destroy evidence of involvement by refusing to record First Information Reports.

A Human Rights Watch report published in 1991 on violence between Sikh separatists and the Government of India traces part of the problem back to the government response to the violence:

Despite numerous credible eye-witness accounts that identified many of those involved in the violence, including police and politicians, in the months following the killings, the government sought no prosecutions or indictments of any persons, including officials, accused in any case of murder, rape or arson.

There are allegations that the violence was led and often perpetrated by Indian National Congress activists and sympathizers during the riot. The government, then led by the Congress, was widely criticised for doing very little at the time, possibly acting as a conspirator. Voting lists were used to identify Sikh families.

A few days following the massacre, many surviving Sikh youth in Delhi had retaliated in either joining or creating Sikh militant groups. This lead to series of more violence in the Punjab, where several assassinations of senior Congress party members took place. The Khalistan Commando Force and Khalistan Liberation Force took responsibility of the targeted hits in retaliation. An underground network had also been established between the victims of the genocide and Sikhs.

Sikh Genocide

On 31 July 1985, Harjinder Singh Jinda, Sukhdev Singh Sukha and Ranjit Singh Gill of Khalistan Commando Force assassinated Lalit Maken (Member – Parliament of India and a leader of Congress (I)) to take revenge for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. In a 31-page booklet titled Who Are The Guilty, the People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) listed 227 people who led the mobs, Lalit Maken's name was third on the list.

Harjinder Singh Jinda and Sukhdev Singh Sukha also assassinated Congress (I) leader Arjan Dass because of his involvement in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Arjan Dass's name appeared in various affidavits submitted by Sikh victims to the Nanavati Commission which was headed by Justice G.T. Nanavati, retired Judge of the Supreme Court of India.


In Delhi, 442 of the rioters were convicted by the courts. 49 of these were sentenced to the life imprisonment, and another three to imprisonment of more than 10 years. 6 Delhi Police officers were punished for lapses during the riots. In April 2013, the Supreme Court of India dismissed the appeal of three convicts who had challenged the High Court's decision to award them life sentence.

In April 2013, the Karkardooma district court in Delhi convicted five people – Balwan Khokkar (former councillor), Mahender Yadav (former MLA), Kishan Khokkar, Girdhari Lal and Captain Bhagmal – for inciting a mob against the Sikhs in the Delhi Cantonment area. It acquitted the Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in the same case, leading to protests.

Impact and Legacy

The attack on the Sikh community in India is remembered annually across the world. The Sikh genocide is the very reason Sikhs want a right to self-determination and support the creation of a Sikh homeland in India, often called Khalistan. Our surveys show over 90% of people are consistently in favour of a seperate Sikh homeland.

Many ordinary Indians of different religious dispositions made significant efforts to hide and help Sikh families during the genocide. On 15 July 2010 the Sikh high clergy (Jathedar) declared the events following the death of Indira Gandhi to be a Sikh "Genocide" replacing the widely used term "anti-Sikh riots" used by the Indian government, media and other writers. The decision came soon after a similar motion was raised in the Canadian Parliament by a Sikh MP.

Role of Amitabh Bachchan

Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan was accused by the Sikh community of instigating attacks. He is alleged to have made polemic remarks saying "Khoon ka Badla Khoon se lenge" ("Blood for Blood"). Amitabh Bachchan was a close friend of the Gandhi family.

Amitabh Bachchan

Forward Sequence Of Events

Forward Sikh Extermination

Forward Yes, It's Genocide

Forward Widow Colony

Forward Sikhs Disarmed

Forward Press Reports

Forward The Disappeared

Forward The Cremation Grounds

Forward India's Violations

Forward Legal Terrorism

Forward Impunity

Forward Responsibility For Genocide?

Forward Hondh-Chillar Massacre

Forward Ambushing Of Witnesses

Forward Should 'Sikhs Want Justice'?

Forward UK Betrayal In 1984

Forward More Important Articles to Read

Forward Official Investigations

Forward - Mishra Commission

Forward - Ahooja Committee

Forward - Kapoor Mittal Committee

Forward - Jain Aggarwal Committee

Forward - Nanavati Commission

Forward Public Records

Forward - Affidavits

Forward - Statements Of Witnesses

Forward - Police Records

Forward - Judgements

Forward - Analysis Of Judgements

Forward - List Of Persons Killed

Forward - Ludhiana Victims

Forward Delhi Genocide Victims Map

Forward Sikh Genocide Photo Gallery

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