Why now? Why thirty years later?
This book got going, suddenly one afternoon in 2014, in the course of a chat with my friend and colleague Sagarika Ghose. ‘Why haven’t you written a book on 1984 yet?’ she asked. I didn’t have an answer as good as the question.
We spoke when 1984 was back in the air. Rahul Gandhi had just given an interview in which he duly denied that his party, or the Congress-I as it was once called (after his grandmother and former prime minister, Indira Gandhi) had a hand in the killings of the Sikhs in Delhi following her assassination in 1984. Rahul also insisted that his father, Rajiv Gandhi and his newly formed government then had done all they could to stop the violence. The usual volley of allegations
and counter-allegations followed.
I thought I had something to contribute to this debate, away from the usual blame game. It would be in the form of a record of what I had seen and reported through 1984, a resurrected diary of sorts.
I had reported on the violence that had erupted in Delhi as a crime reporter with The Indian Express newspaper. Later, I submitted affidavits based on my eyewitness accounts before two inquiry commissions, headed by Justices Ranganath Misra and G.T. Nanavati.
This book brings in all that but seeks to do more than staple the earlier submissions together. It brings three offerings.
One, I include here detailed interviews with critically important police officers who were at the forefront of dealing with the violence in 1984. For this, a delay of thirty years might not have been bad at all. These officers are now retired, and could speak far more freely than they ever could before. What they do say now is telling.
Second, I place my experiences and encounters within the context of the law and required legal procedures as they stood then, and still do. The debate over 1984 has continued far too long without a close enough reference to the law.
Third, I bring into this account my own experience of reporting and witnessing the events of 1984, in Punjab as well as in Delhi. This I could never do before as a reporter tied only to newsy facts. This, now, is an account of the person, such as I am, running into those events, such as they were.
Those scenes are before me like it all happened yesterday, though I am not always able to correlate them to a time, or even date; I offer dates only to the best of my recollection. I could not re-check dates because I kept no clippings, unwisely, and could not find back issues at The Indian Express. They said at the library that the files of that period in 1984 have gone missing. I could not find them at the government’s newspaper library at Teen Murti Bhavan in Delhi either.
The following pages include much that is historical but make no claim to be the history of those days. They arise from what I directly saw and personally understood. I believe that the account is not historical also because it adds up to a case for steps that are still possible to take—just about.Buy 1984: The Anti-Sikh Violence and After here.