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1984: Indira Gandhi’s assassination and anti-sikh riots

On the morning of October 31, 1984, two Sikh bodyguards shot down Indira Gandhi, prime minister at that time, at point blank range at her residence in New Delhi. Before she was officially pronounced dead around 5 p.m., attacks had begun on the Sikh community in many parts of the country. The next day, systematic attacks were launched and Delhi’s Trilokpuri, which has been the scene of communal violence in the past few days, faced the brunt of it. At least 2,733 people died during the violence, which lasted for five days. Business Standard looks back at events that took place 30 years ago. (Click here for detail story)



Justice Thakkar Commission was appointed soon after the death of Gandhi to probe the security lapses. It submitted a report on Feb 27, 1986. The report pointed to a “needle of suspicion” at Gandhi’s close aide, R K Dhawan. However, Rajiv Gandhi dismissed the charges, reinducting him in the government. Later, he was made member of the Rajya Sabha.


Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission was appointed on April 26, 1985. It submitted a report on August 22, 1986.


* The violence was a spontaneous reaction

* Though it ruled out a role of the Congress party, it pointed to a part played by some local leaders.

* It said the police was indifferent and, in some cases, had connived with rioters

* It blamed the police commissioner and Lt. Governor for the delay in calling the army when 5,000 men were available.

On the recommendations of the Mishra commission, three committees were appointed on Feb 23, 1987

One of the committees indicted 72 police officers. Since 13 had retired and three died, action could not be take action against them; 45 were exonerated, two were censured and one was warned. In one case, pension was reduced. The fate of the remaining seven could not be ascertained for this news report.

Findings of another committee:

The police deliberately didn’t record the names of the accused and the victims. In most cases (total 403), the police investigation was “absolutely casual, perfunctionary and faulty”.

As the demand for justice persisted, the central government appointed the Justice G T Nanavati Commission on May 8, 2000. It gave a report on Feb 2, 2005.

The key findings were:

After Gandhi’s assassination, systematic attacks were carried out against Sikhs, without fear of the police. Mobs came on DTC buses and were taken to particular locations. There was no evidence suggesting Rajiv Gandhi or other high-ranked Congress leaders had suggested or organised attacks on Sikhs. But it did not rule out the role of influential and powerful people.

Source: Nanavati commission, media reports, CBI


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