Recently, the blood soaked 1984 anti Sikh riots completed 31 years on 1st November, a date marked in the history pages with blood, flames and tears . Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal recently gave the victims’ families enhanced compensation of 5 lakh rupees which was announced by the Centre. The date, 1st November, brought back memories of the nightmare in which this country lost 8000 Sikh men, women and children in one of the bloodiest periods of Independent India. There have been cases and judgements against some of the perpetrators of the gruesome violence against Sikhs, but we can’t say that justice has been done.
The Khalsa Force has described the horrific incident of 1984 riots.The episode that has crossed 31 years, has left painful memories in the history of India
“Most of the attacks on Sikhs and their properties on the night of 31st of October, were restricted to the districts around AIIMS hospital. But the mobs began to fan out from this area burning down properties, setting alight any trucks and cars belonging to Sikhs and brutalising any Sikh they came across, most of whom were simply trying to get back home after a day’s work. Apart from the isolated attempt at the Sabzi Mandi station, the Delhi police took absolutely no action to stop the attacks. Top officials had noted the attempts taken at the Sabzi Mandi and consequently, an order was issued that all Sikh policeman (who formed over 10% of the Delhi police force at the time) should be taken off duty immediately and confined to their residential colonies.”
The Nagaland Post talks about how this ignorance and blatant delay in answering the citizens has affected different communities in the country and the way they are reacting is the outcome of force rather than choice. The return of award by academicians should have brought a reaction from the government as it is the duty of the government to ensure peace harmony and stability in the country.
“When distinguished writers and artists return to the Academies the awards which had been conferred on them, the question to ask is not why they did not do it earlier, say, at the worst times like the emergency. Writers and artists are a sensitive lot. They react when they feel and how they feel. It is, in fact, the duty of the government to find out why they have felt that the situation has come to such a pass that they have no alternative except to return their award. Nayantara Sehgal, Jawaharlal Nehru’s niece, who was the first to return the award, said that the space for dissent had shrunk.
Many artists have followed suit. In a letter to the Akademi authorities Hindi poet Manmohan, while returning the award, has maintained that the current trend of “curbing the voices of dissent and freedom of expression, which was evident in the recent murders of intellectual writers Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M.M. Kalburgi” was disturbing. “Indians have experienced to register protests. Several writers and artists have recently returned their Academi awards and prizes in protest against the prevailing situation. I am also returning the award to the Haryana Sahitya Akademi,” the writer states in the letter. Indeed, an atmosphere of communal polarization, hate crimes, insecurity and violence is getting denser in the country. Political leaders seem to be promoting or patronizing it. The government is only running down the artists and writers. Freedom of expression is the foundation on which the structure of democracy has been built. The entire structure will come down crashing if it is harmed. Unfortunately, this is what is happening. This feeling of suffocation has emerged after the advent of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. There is fear to express a different point of view. “
Vishy writes on Ulaar about names in the organized Sikh Riots being hidden by the media. Such incidents only add to the already high levels of distrust by people in the government and systems. The issue is a highly sensitive one, especially in the Sikh community. Nationwide too, the question that arises is how much our system of democracy and judiciary is taking the responsibility to remain accountable in the eyes of law.
Another setback comes in times when media plays duality. Media censorship in Punjab is not giving a clear picture of a situation that might be more serious than what we see and read in electronic and print media. Censorship might be justified in a way but the influence of politics and the extent to which people demand answers cannot be ruled out.
Simran Jeet Singh writes about the painful state of violence that took place in the state of Punjab.
“The wounds from 1984 are still fresh in the Sikh psyche. The community has not yet healed from the trauma of being targeted in anti-Sikh violence, and the realities of oppression continue to shape how Sikhs around the globe understand themselves today. I was born in the United States in the summer of 1984, during the height of the anti-Sikh violence in Punjab. I was just a baby while my Sikh brothers and sisters were being targeted in India because of their religious beliefs. Although I was not directly affected by the anti-Sikh violence, the experiences of my community remain an intrinsic part of who I am today. The wounds of 1984 still last with me and always will. – See more at: http://sikhcoalition.org/advisories/2015/current-situation-in-punjab”
Sanamdeep Singh Wazir narrates the story of Nirmal Kour in the year 1984 when riots and violence was inevitable and how he and his brother were saved by his parents. The writer recalls the horrific night that still is alive and leaves Kaur with a grip of fear even today.
“There, Mrs Kour said, the mob attacked other Sikh families, harassed the women and tried to cut the hair of Sikh boys. They lit fire to rubber tyres and threw them on the innocent Sikh boys. I asked her if she still feels scared. “My mother till today panics if the door is closed forcefully. She cannot help but cry when she is asked about these events. I, too, feel horrified remembering that night. Those who saved us were Hindus. My cousin sister and her kids were saved by a Muslim family, who stayed with them for almost a week”.
“While recording Mrs Kour’s statement, I saw tears rolling down her eyes. She seemed more anguished than scared. Her family had not lost money or property during the 1984 violence. What they did lose was their hope in the system. Today, she lives with her family in Patiala and never wants to go back to Delhi.
Thirty-one years have passed since the 1984 Sikh massacre. In February, the central government formed an SIT (Special Investigation Team), authorized to reopen closed cases and file charges. Many of those awaiting justice are no longer with us now. There are only a handful of cases pending in courts. Justice is long overdue. It is time for India to know who was responsible for the killings that have forever stained our history and politics.”
Admiral Ramdas wrote an open letter to the government citing his concern over rising intolerance and communalism within the national borders. The readers opinions were seen flooding the internet as the letter talked about how Admiral Ramdas was not ashamed during the 1984 riots. Scroll curated a list of readers opinions and they are alarming.
“This is what you get when there is a choice between a chosen heir and an ideological man, who masqueraded as a secular leader. I nearly fell for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric, but what a wasted opportunity. He has let every thinking Indian down. I am more sad than angry.
He has not said a word against the killers of that poor man who was murdered for allegedly eating beef. This is no sabka saath, sabka vikaas. It is plain and simple highhandedness.
The fact that Admiral Das had to write this open letter is proof enough that things are going downhill. – Rasam
It is bizarre for a former navy chief to feel that he is “forced to hang his head in shame”. Why did our respected former navy chief not hang his shame and maintain a deafening silence during the riots in 1984 and the ones in Assam and Muzaffarnagar, the attack on writer Taslima Nasreen, the ban on Salman Rushdie’s book, and the Bhagalpur blindings.
Why was he silent when lakhs of Kashmiri Pundits were driven away from Kashmir by Muslims and became refugees in their own country? Were all these incidents “tolerable” to the ex-navy chief ? Why did he not write an open letter to the then prime minister when massive infiltration by Bangladeshis was taking place in Assam?
Is Admiral Ramdas being selective in writing an open letter, just because these incidents happened under a different government? “– Vijay Dabade
Madhu Trehan writes about addressing communal riots. While India has seen many leaders come forward to solve various national issues, the issue of communalism seems far from over.
“The virulent triumphalism of Hindutva thrust upon us is light years away from the Hinduism in the content and philosophy of the Vedas, Upanishads and the Sutras. Vedic literature is written in the spirit of enquiry and often there are contradictions in it, which is the beauty of it. Unlike Islam, there is nothing in our sacred books that encourages conversions or violence towards followers of other religions. Please listen to Swami Vivekananda’s speech in Chicago on September 15, 1893.
Statistics do not touch upon the reality we live in today. Writers have been murdered for non-alignment of thought and belief. A man was murdered on the presumption he had eaten beef. A man transporting cows was lynched. Yes, law and order is state controlled and those state governments are responsible. But, what motivates these goons? Have they misunderstood Swami Vivekananda? Is it the triumph of transformation from the passive Hindu that so dismayed Swami Vivekananda?”
The 1984 Sikh riots is a painful stain on the history of India and it will remain till justice comes in its place. In the wake of new government and politicians coming to light every 5 to 10 years, it would be good if the victims’ families are given closure in a quick, responsible and humanitarian manner.