Report of the Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry (1984 Anti-Sikh Riots): Volumes I and II


The Ministry of Home Affairs appointed the Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry on May 8, 2000, with Justice G. T. Nanavati (former Supreme Court judge) as its chairperson. The commission released its report in two volumes on February 9, 2005.

On October 31, 1984, prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her security guards, both from the Sikh community. This was followed by violent attacks on Sikhs and their properties in New Delhi and other parts of India from October 31 to November 5, 1984. Hundreds of Sikhs were killed and injured, many had to leave their homes and take refuge in relief camps, and their properties were looted on a large scale.

On April 26, 1985, the government of India appointed the Justice Ranganath Mishra Commission of Inquiry (Justice Mishra was then the Chief Justice of India) to inquire into these incidents of ‘organised violence’, which submitted its report in August 1986. This was followed by the constitution of three committees to investigate specific aspects of the 1984 riots.

The Nanavati Commission of Inquiry was established to meet the “…wide spread demand from different sections of the public, particularly the Sikh community for an inquiry into several aspects of [the 1984] violence.” The Commission’s tasks included inquiring into the causes and course of the violence in Delhi and other parts of the country, whether the riots could have been averted and if there were lapses by authorities or individuals, the administrative measures taken to tackle the violence, and “…to recommend measures which may be adopted to meet the ends of the justice.”

Volume I of the report covers the commission’s findings and recommendations, and Volume II contains 11 annexures.


  1. The report quotes ‘official estimates’ to say that 2,733 Sikhs died in Delhi as a result of the violence that occurred between October 31 and November 5, 1984. The report states that this number has been disputed by representative bodies of the Sikh community, which say that more than 3000 Sikhs were killed between October 31 and November 7, 1984.

  2. The report states that most of the deaths took place on November 1 and 2, 1984: “Big mobs armed with weapons attacked the houses of Sikhs; male members were assaulted and beaten mercilessly and many of them were burnt alive or cut into pieces. Many dead bodies were removed in vehicles and it is alleged that they were thrown into river Yamuna. Large number of shops and business establishments of Sikhs were looted and many of them were thereafter burnt also. Many taxi stands and taxis were also burnt as mainly Sikhs were in that business.”

  3. In many places, the report states, the ‘riotous mobs’ consisted of ‘outsiders’. The mobs were equipped with weapons and inflammable material which indicates an organised attempt at violence, where a large number of Sikhs were killed very swiftly.

  4. The commission concluded that local leaders and workers from the Congress party “…had either incited or helped the mobs in attacking the Sikhs.” The local leaders, states the report, appeared to have taken the help of their followers and supporters in inciting and committing this violence.

  5. The report states that there is no evidence suggesting that Rajiv Gandhi (member of the Congress party and Indira Gandhi’s son, who was elected as prime minister after her death) or any other ‘high ranking leader’ from the Congress had suggested or organised attacks on Sikhs during the 1984 riots.

  6. The commission notes that the police did not record separate first information reports (FIRs) and statements of witnesses, and did not adequately investigate cases related to the 1984 riots. As a result, it was difficult for the commission to make recommendations about persons named by witnesses as having allegedly promoted or participated in violent acts during the riots.

  7. The commission recommends the formation of a police force which is independent of political influence and equipped to take immediate action during communal disturbances.

  8. If the police is unable to register every offence separately when they are reported during large-scale riots, the commission recommends that the government should take steps to see that all complaints are properly recorded and investigated by independent investigating officers at the earliest.

  9. The commission recommends that the government should provide employment to one member of each family that has lost all its earning male members as a result of the riots, and does not have sufficient means of livelihood.

    Focus and Factoids by Khushboo Sahrawat.


Justice Nanavati Commission of Inquiry


Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India, New Delhi


09 Feb, 2005