Today is the anniversary of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs. So why are we not remembering this day? | Techy Kings


Today is October 31. Since we are becoming a community of memories, it is not out of place to ask ourselves how we should remember this day. As the day of Indira Gandhi’s assassination? Or Sardar Patel’s birthday? Or the start of the Sikh massacre in India in 1984? How do we tell the story of that day to those who did not live it?

The Narendra Modi government has started celebrating October 31 as Ekta Divas. But this union refers to the amalgamation of princely states in India after independence from colonial rule. It is about the geography of India. Not about my people. This government wants everyone to remember August 14 as ‘Partition Atrocity Remembrance Day’ so that people do not forget the violence of Partition but does not want October 31 to be remembered as the day of Sikh massacre. This is not useful for his brand of memory politics.

I looked at the newspapers today. This date was not deemed necessary to remind readers of this horror. It is strange to be forgotten because it is the day that a community in India remembers as the day it was threatened with extermination. The day of the beginning of genocidal violence against him. Why don’t we want to share this memory? The violence was perpetrated by ordinary Hindus against a religious community they had been calling their ‘protector’ for ages. It is not only the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh that claims Sikhism as a branch of Hinduism, but most Hindus have grown up believing it. Then why violence on ‘our own people’?

Some Hindus rationalize violence against Muslims by saying ‘they divided India and created Pakistan, they ruled us, oppressed us, destroyed our temples’. Such arguments are cited to justify any ‘punishment’ Muslims in India have endured from generation to generation. Sadly, many believe this reason is also valid and thus anti-Muslim violence is also considered natural. But what is the justification for the mass killing of Sikhs in 1984 and our collective refusal to hold fast to that memory?

Thirty eight years ago I was a student in Patna. The news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination appeared on the news boards outside the offices. Indian nation And Aryavarta Newspapers and quickly spread throughout the city. This news shocked us. All of us who were against Indira Gandhi also became numb. Something had to happen. but what? We had no idea. There was an inexplicable fear in the air. We knew that those who killed Indira Gandhi were Sikhs.

After some time, a small group appeared on the road shouting slogans ‘Blood will be avenged by blood’ (We will avenge blood for blood). The news came that a liquor store near the Dak bungalow was being robbed. Then stories of looting and destruction of Sikh shops started coming from other parts of the city.

On Ashok Rajpath, in front of Patna Medical College and Patna University, there were some Sikh establishments – a bicycle shop, a tent house, etc. These shops were attacked. The locks were broken. People were seen running away with whatever they could grab. Someone was running like a stack of bowls in his hand and balancing it like a circus magician. Someone was running with a bundle of bicycle handles. With some bicycle frames. On the rickshaw! Some people were taking the fridge and there was a fight about who would keep it. And then they all broke the fridge with stones.

There was a strange joy in this marauding crowd. It is hard to forget the scene of the massive heist in which everyone could see the faces of their fellow robbers. It was cooperative violence. Everyone was cooperating with each other in ‘teaching the Sikhs a lesson’. But there was competition for booty. In this broad daylight violence, the police were not silent spectators. They were helping the looters. Since we were activists of a student organization, we knew the officials of the local police station. We went and asked them to control and disperse the crowd. We got a warning to get off the road. We could not interfere.

Reports of violence also started coming from other cities. In Patna, as far as I remember, there was no talk of murder. But the murders started reaching us from Jamshedpur, Dhanbad, Bokaro and above all from Delhi. That Sikhs were being identified and killed in trains.

Violence continued for three days in Patna. We need to emphasize that the police were complicit in this violence. The looting stopped when the police tried to stop him. Three days later, we suddenly heard that the police were raiding to recover what had been taken. Then we saw people throwing stolen goods into the Ganges that flowed along the length of the Ashoka Rajpath.

We have not heard of any arrests. I don’t recall any criminal case being registered. I can say as an eyewitness that the ‘educated’ section of the city was as much involved in this violence as those who we consider violent because they are ‘uneducated’.

Much later we learned that a Sikh teacher at Patna Science College had to cut his hair to hide his identity. When this wave of violence subsided, we went to Patna Sahib Gurdwara with relief materials for those who had to take refuge there. I still remember that Sardarji who used to run the canteen of Rajendra Surgical Block sitting there and kept his eyes fixed on the ground. I could not even greet him. We did not dare to comfort anyone. This city Patna was their city. Today he was a refugee in a Gurdwara there. No temple opened its doors to the ‘protectors’ of Hinduism. Violence was against Sikhs but Sikhs did not want to show their face. It was then that I understood for the first time how violence robs the community of its victim of self-respect. The condition of the victims is also a proof of their helplessness. They become pathetic.

After a week, public life in Patna returned to ‘normal’. But the cycle shop in front of Patna College remained closed for a long time. Many other shops also remained closed. There is no evidence that the neighboring shopkeepers sought to know the welfare of their neighbors or did anything to help them. A similar concern would have been lacking in other cities.

File photo of a demonstration seeking justice for the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre. Photo: Reuters/Files

However, Delhi was very different. It was a city that Sikh refugees made their own after being forced to leave their homes in the newly created Pakistan. At that time Hindus and Sikhs were brothers. This brotherhood was then instrumental in the violence against the Muslims of Indian Punjab and Delhi. All this was forgotten in 1984.

I want to understand how a city can lead a peaceful life even after killing about 3000 Sikhs. How does this explain the massacre itself? How many people would have to be killed? 3,000? All the people who were involved in the massacre or knew people who lived their lives as if nothing had happened. Even after participating in this mass murder. Some of them would have died a natural death by now. But imagine a city in which thousands of murderers and their relatives and friends live in close proximity to their fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, and grandparents after eliminating the possibility of such relationships among their neighbors. .

What kind of society is this, what kind of family is a safe haven for murderers. Which society simply proceeds as if the mass murders it causes are a ‘natural accident’. Who resents being reminded of this collective injustice?

After the conviction of senior Congressman Sajjan Kumar and others, it is now a solid fact that party leaders and members were involved in the murder. The intervention and unwillingness of the then Congress government to stop the violence and punish the culprits is well documented. Rajiv Gandhi’s callous and tone-deaf statement is rightly remembered. But we ask this question: Did not a large section of the Hindu population of the city actively participate in this violence against the Sikhs? Has there been any discussion on this in the Hindu? society?

This is why I believe that October 31 should be a day of self-realization for Hindus in India and abroad. A day must come when common Hindus will acquire the capacity to recognize the reality of this violence and take responsibility for it. It will be a far more important day for the Hindu community and India than the celebration of a temple consecration or some abstract concept of national unity.


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