The 1984 anti-Sikh riots took place after then prime minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards at her official residence on October 31 that year, but cases pertaining to it are still running in the Supreme Court, over 32 years later. The apex court on Monday (March 6) asked the Special Investigation Team (SIT) looking into the case about its progress.
As the investigation trudges on, here are 5 things you need to know about the riots:
1. The Khalistan movement, Operation Blue Star and Indira Gandhi's assassination: There had been demand for a separate Khalistan for quite some time in India, and it crystallised into what we now know as the Khalistan movement. When the Khalistan took refuge in the Golden Temple in Amritsar and started building military strength, Indira Gandhi sent the Army to take them out in what has since become known as Operation Blue Star. The Sikhs did not take kindly to the desecration of the holy precinct in the attack, and it eventually led to her Sikh bodyguards Satwant Singh and Beant Singh assassinating Indira on October 31, 1984.
2. Four days of carnage: The anti-Sikh riots that broke out after Indira's death lasted four days — from October 31 to November 3. The first murder of a Sikh took place on November 1, and the carnage abated only after the police and the Army took to the streets on November 3. Even the then president Zail Singh — also a Sikh — was targetted. His convoy was attacked by irate Congress supporters.
3. Thousands dead with alleged Congress collusion: Though officially the number of Sikhs who died in the riots was pegged at around 2,800 at the time — of which 2,100 were in Delhi alone — unofficial figures showed it as high as 8,000. The riots had started on October 31, but on that day mobs only pulled people out of houses and vehicles and thrashed them. However, Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar was accused of organising mobs from November 1 and egging them on to kill Sikhs.
4. Use of official documents to identify Sikhs: The extent of Congress' collusion in the riots was to such an extent that party leaders allegedly handed over voter lists and ration lists to members of the mob, with which they could identify Sikh dwellings and attack people from the community. It later emerged that many of the rioters visited the houses of Sikhs and wrote and "S" on their doors so that they could be identified during the day. In some cases, Congress leaders were also accused of reading out names and addresses to illiterate rioters, and even directing them to homes of the Sikhs.
5. Rajiv Gandhi's remarks on riots: Indira Gandhi's death and son Rajiv's elevation to the post of prime minister were announced simultaneously. Rajiv, later at a public rally, said about his mother's death and the subsequent anti-Sikh riots: "When a big tree falls, the earth shakes." It is often seen as his attempt to justify the riots.