Misra Responds to Nanavati Report

August 17, 2005 | Comments Off on Misra Responds to Nanavati Report

Retired Supreme Court justice Ranganath Misra headed the first Commission of Inquiry into the November 1984 massacres of Sikhs.  He was appointed in April 1985.  Misra held a closed door inquiry, prohibiting news coverage of his proceedings.  In a recent interview with an Indian Express reporter, Misra defends his whitewashing of the massacres and criticizes Nanavati for naming specific politicians in his report.

ENSAAF’s report Twenty Years of Impunity includes an extensive analysis of the Misra Commission report.  Twenty Years draws from 6000 pages of previously unavailable material filed before the Misra Commission, including 1100 affidavits, arguments, orders and proceedings from the Misra Commission. 

In its chapter on impunity, the report analyzes the functioning of the Misra Commission, such as its bias against the victims.  For example, the victims’ representative body Citizens’ Justice Committee (CJC) withdrew from proceedings after Misra refused to give them copies of affidavits for preparation of examination of witnesses.  Misra raised fears of national security in justifying his denial of their request.  Further, Misra permitted cross-examination of the victims, but did not allow the representatives of the victims to cross-examine any of the government, police and Army officials it summoned.  The Commission also did not inform the CJC when it heard testimony from several key police officials.

According to the Misra Commission, there was no definite evidence of policemen leading or instigating mobs.  As Twenty Years demonstrates, however, in his report, Misra regularly concealed information in countless affidavits.  While discussing several lapses, such as the delay in enforcing the curfew and failing to call the Army promptly, the Commission attributed these lapses to the senior police officers’ lack of knowledge of the extent of the carnage, despite prominent witness testimony of senior police officers moving amidst the violence and of witnesses informing senior officers of the massacre. 

Twenty Years further discusses the inconsistencies in Misra’s analysis, his failure to mention key patterns that emerged from the affidavits, and his faulty logic.  Throughout the report, Misra stated a conclusion based on his perception of the legitimacy conferred on a person by his profession; provided no supporting evidence for his conclusion; and failed to mention or acknowledge counter-evidence.  For example, Misra dismissed allegations against doctors regarding their refusal to provide care to injured Sikhs, by stating:

Indian doctors with their high spirit and tradition could not have allowed themselves to be obsessed by the thought that two guards of the Sikh community had murdered the democratically chosen leader of the great polity.

With this sentence, and no other explanation, Misra disposed of the numerous accounts found in affidavits regarding the refusal of doctors to provide proper medical care to Sikhs.

Similarly, Misra dismissed allegations against senior Congress party leaders, such as HKL Bhagat, on the basis of the legitimacy conferred by their political positions: “Shri Bhagat being a sitting M.P. and Minister was not likely to misbehave in the manner alleged.”

Twenty Years of Impunity specifically challenges Misra’s findings, demonstrating that the massacres were organized and involved planning, instigation, and direct action by senior police and political officials.

Justice Misra was rewarded for his whitewashing of the massacre of 1984.  As stated in the Indian Express article, he even went on to represent the Congress Party itself in the upper house of the national parliament.

See also:

Amnesty International: India: Victims of anti-Sikh riots face further delays


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