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Arun Nehru and Lalit Suri

I thought I knew all the major players in the ‘organized’ 1984 Sikh riots.

I was wrong.

Hartosh Singh Bal’s Caravan article uncovered these two gentlemen – one a Gandhi extended family hawk, the other a hotelier.

Gathering feedback on possible ‘war games’ is one thing:

“As one of the few Sikhs in a senior position in the government—even though I was clean-shaven, he wanted to know my views,” Gill said, his back ramrod-straight. “He wanted to know how the community would react. It was not the first time he had spoken to me about Punjab, and he made no bones about his views. I remember him once telling me, with some pride, that he was a hawk. I told him such a move would be a blunder. Given the history of the Sikhs it would result in assassinations, and I remember using the plural.”

Talking coldly about a 3-day sanctioned plan about to be executed is quite another.

The mention of Nehru led Gill to relate his personal experience of the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s death. On 1 November, he went to his office. “Lalit Suri of Lalit Hotels, who used to come and see me often, dropped by. He was the errand boy for Rajiv Gandhi, and since he often needed some work done, he was close to me. He came to me in the ministry and said, ‘Clearance has been given by Arun Nehru for the killings in Delhi and the killings have started. The strategy is to catch Sikh youth, fling a tyre over their heads, douse them with kerosene and set them on fire. This will calm the anger of the Hindus.’”

Suri, Gill continued, “told me that I should be careful even though my name is not on the voters’ list, the Delhi gurdwara voters’ list. ‘They have been provided this list. This will last for three days. It has started today; it will end on the third.’”