On 31 October 1984, Congress party officials provided assailants with voter lists, school registration forms, and ration lists. The lists were used to find the location of Sikh homes and business, an otherwise impossible task because they were located in unmarked and diverse neighbourhoods. On the night of 31 October, the night before the massacres began, assailants used the lists to mark the houses of Sikhs with letter “S”. In addition, because most of the mobs were illiterate, Congress Party officials provided help in reading the lists and leading the mobs to Sikh homes and businesses in the other neighbourhoods. By using the lists the mobs were able to pinpoint the locations of Sikhs they otherwise would have missed.
Sikh men not in their homes were easily identified by their distinctive turban and beard while Sikh women were identified by their dress. In some cases, the mobs returned to locations where they knew Sikhs were hiding after consulting their lists. One man, Amar Singh, escaped the initial attack on his house by having a Hindu neighbour drag him into his neighbour’s house and declare him dead. However, a group of 18 assailants later came looking for his body, and when his neighbour replied that others had already taken away the body an assailant showed him a list and replied, “Look, Amar Singh’s name has not been struck off from the list so his dead body has not been taken away.”