Report of the One-Man Commission of Inquiry into the Sadar Bazar Disturbances (1974): Volumes I & II
On June 25, 1974, the Ministry of Home Affairs established a Commission of Inquiry to study the communal clashes between members of the Hindu and Muslim communities in localities within the jurisdiction of the Sadar Bazar Police Station, New Delhi, and few adjacent areas on May 5, 1974. R. Prasad – former Secretary to the Government of India – was appointed as this one-man commission, and he released this report in two volumes on December 28, 1974.
The report states that the ‘serious communal disturbances’ started with a minor quarrel between Vishwanath, resident of ‘Gali Milwali’, and two residents of ‘Gali Anarwali’ named Nasim Ahmed and Iqbal outside a film theatre near Sadar Bazar. The next morning, Nasim Ahmed and Iqbal confronted Vishwanath, others joined in, and what started as “…a fight between two groups assumed the shape of confrontation” and 11 people died in this incident.
Volume I of the report, in three chapters, covers the Constitution and ‘terms of reference’ of the commission (Chapter I); the causes and course of the disturbances (Chapter II); an official account of the disturbances, ‘evidence of public witnesses’, information on riot damage and relief assistance, and measures recommended for preventing such disturbances (Chapter III). Volume II contains appendices and annexures.
The report notes that 11 people died (8 Hindus, 1 Sikh and 2 Muslims) in this incident – 10 of these deaths occurred on the same day and 1 after some weeks. Two of the deceased had been hit in police firing.
Reports from various hospitals showed that 133 people – including 92 Hindus, 16 Muslims, 23 policemen and two firemen – were injured in this incident. Of these, 54 were discharged after first aid – the hospitals kept no record of the nature of their injuries. Of the remaining 79 injured, 63 had fire-arm injuries and 16 had blunt or sharp-edged weapon injuries.
In the incident, the police fired 166 rounds and used 95 ‘tear smoke shells’ and grenades. People in the crowds fired 150 rounds, using a gun and a rifle.
The report notes that a small quarrel would not have assumed such serious proportions involving large numbers of people without an enabling ‘psychological atmosphere’. The commission attributes this to a “…propensity among members of the two communities not to regard disputes involving individual members of different communities as merely private quarrels but as group quarrels calling for group action."
V. K. Kapoor, the deputy commissioner and district magistrate of the area, in a written statement to the commission, said that the total damage to property and loss was estimated to be over Rs. 12 lakhs. He also stated that Rs. 2,000 each was sanctioned to the families of those that lost their lives due to the riots.
The report states that the disturbance adversely affected the economy of New Delhi – its scope was wider than the physical and material damage in the riot affected area. It quotes Sachidanand Hassija, a spokesman of the Northern India Manufacturers Association and Federation of Indian Manufacturers, New Delhi: "…because of these riots on the 5th of May, for nearly two long months business and industry was at a standstill in the Sadar Bazar area. Customers who came from other States to do business in this market felt scared for quite some time to come there and the result was a heavy loss to trade and industry," and “...many undertakings outside having business in or though the Sadar Bazar area because their production was slowed down as their normal trade channels through Sadar Bazar were choked for several weeks."
The report notes that there existed Sub-Divisional Committees in New Delhi to secure the maintenance of public order in the event of communal disturbances, consisting of members of the Metropolitan Council, Municipal Corporation and other leaders representing their areas. The Sadar Bazar Sub-Divisional Committee, notes the report, had 17 members, and only one was a Muslim.
The commission of inquiry recommended that arrangements be made to handle communal disturbances, which involve monitoring areas where riots could occur – not just where such an incident is reported, but where such a situation could potentially unfold.
The report notes that rules and procedures for obtaining licences for possessing arms, or monitoring licences issued outside New Delhi where the weapons, must be tightened.
Focus and Factoids by Flavia Lopez.
R. Prasad, (former) Secretary to the Government of India
Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.
19 Jan, 2007