1984 riots. Whose mistake??What was the origin? What was the catalyst?

May 2013
1,442
India
Okay, now there is not a single shred of evidence from any source which can be considered reliable. Many are quite exaggerated in their claims.

Even though I belong to this region, the information you gather is totally tainted by emotion...hence one cannot say whether the information given to you by the other person is right or not.

For newbies, 84 riots happened in Punjab, between Hindus and Sikhs. Thousands died(the number varies from 5000-7000 for the sikhs, Indians will understand better, which the centre says, while the people here say it was above 10,000...see the difference). The riots had far reaching consequences on almost every level of governance in India.
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,398
India
Okay, now there is not a single shred of evidence from any source which can be considered reliable. Many are quite exaggerated in their claims.

Even though I belong to this region, the information you gather is totally tainted by emotion...hence one cannot say whether the information given to you by the other person is right or not.

For newbies, 84 riots happened in Punjab, between Hindus and Sikhs. Thousands died(the number varies from 5000-7000 for the sikhs, Indians will understand better, which the centre says, while the people here say it was above 10,000...see the difference). The riots had far reaching consequences on almost every level of governance in India.
Given the high amounts of emotion involved, i suspect there are few unbiased records. Most journalists and media sources, which would otherwise have been decent sources, were also highly divided. Plus we should remember that that extremely shameful (though successful) cover up by the successive government as well as subsequent intimidation campaign run against Witnesses and Journalists has likely resulted in further destruction of unbiased evidence. Think about if any unbiased evidence sources existed, they would have been a threat to the politicians in charge... So it was natural that the sources were either destroyed or discredited.

Regarding death toll - I am willing to believe that the numbers could reach upto 10,000, particularly since the Government of the time tried to not only downplay the deaths, but also ignored many subsequent casualties (such as those who died in hospitals outside delhi). However a number larger than 10,000 seems implausible to me - though my data is interpolated from a relative's experience who was a resident at AIIMS during the riots. He (and other doctors) once told me that while the number was very likely much more than the official number, it probably was not above 10-12,000 and 12,000 was considered quite improbable as well.

Subsequent politicization of the event (such as 2002 apologists citing the riots as a defense) have not helped in lowering emotions enough for people to approach the issue with a clinical eye. Maybe in a few decades, once emotions have subsided, and the last of the involved parties have been convicted (or died of natural causes), will historians be able to provide more accurate information, though given the draconian nature of our legal system which penalizes academics for controversial theories, i have grave doubts
 

tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,398
India
Regarding the catalyst - The riots IMO, were a result of pent-up frustration against the success of the Punjabi Sikh community in Delhi, particularly by the Jats. A friend once remarked to me, that before 84 one saw only Sikh Cabbies, and after the riots, only Jat Drivers. Although an exaggeration, what he was trying to demonstrate was that the Riot was a tool used by certain sections of the society to retaliate against what they perceived to be the alien takeover of their jobs and wealth. The resentment against the Sikh community had been due to the attempt to consolidate the Non-Sikh communities into vote-banks by politicians such as Jagdish Tytler. This is similar to the Anti-South Indian and Anti-Bihari Violence in Mumbai. Delhi was considered Haryanvi and Jat territory and the Sikhs were seen as interlopers by those who instigated and perpetrated the violence. This view was one that was carefully crafted by the politicians, and was successful because they happened to belong to the Ruling Party. At the end of the day, the blame can squarely rest on the leaders of the Congress Party and Indira Gandhi in particular, who allowed a complete breakdown of law and order across North India, and did nothing to implement or enforce the laws.

To my mind, the Judiciary with its chronic incapacity to deliver timely justice also contributed to the breakdown of law and order, which in turn is what emboldened the Rioters to riot in the first place. When people start believing that they can get away with violence, and are then proved right... Well things usually go to **** soon after
 

BenSt

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
4,565
Canada, originally Clwyd, N.Wales
I've often wondered about this as an outsider... especially given all of the events of 1984.

A professor of mine was lecturing on this topic and said that part of the problem was the perceived covert stereotype of Punjabis by other Indians (and this is generalizing ofcourse) that they are very masculine, macho, thuggish, big, sometimes brutish, just overall more muscle than brains. Which ofcourse is ridiculous and not true, all stereotypes are not true...but I do wonder how much stereotyping played in these events, and continue to play in relations?

Tornada that was quite informative.