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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The World watched as the Sikhs Died

Times of India: 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

22 years have passed, but yet it seems like yesterday for me when remembering the events of late October and early November of 1984.

Unfortunately, I feel like one of the unlucky ones who experienced the anti-Sikh time period in India during the year of 1984. As a young child, I vividly remember watching the television set in despair as the Sikhs’ Golden Temple complex was desecrated and innocent Indian citizens were slaughtered only because they were Sikhs.

To this day I recall asking my Mother as I watched those haunting images on the television, "If we too are Indians, then why are they attacking us?"

October 31st, 1984 is the day Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. History has it that Prime Minister Gandhi's famous last words were "If I die today, every drop of my blood will invigorate the nation."

The dead Indira Gandhi with her son, Prime Minister Ranjiv Ghandi.
The dead Indira Gandhi with her son, Prime Minister Ranjiv Ghandi
(Time Magazine, November 1984).

Literally she was correct; however, the nation of India had already been invigorated months before the day she died.

In June 1984, Gandhi foolishly ordered a military attack on the Golden Temple where she claimed to the world that Sikh militants were trying to build a state within a state. But she never revealed to the world why those Sikhs were upset, or how the Sikhs felt undermined from the time of India's Partition where their land was divided in half. She never revealed how those Sikhs were repeatedly lied to with a sequence of false promises of specific civil liberties.

To make matters worse, a series of Sikhs became agitated only because they felt that their elected government leaders were not listening to the inquiry of their citizens leading to the call for more State’s rights. Only after a series of democratic and peaceful protests conducted
by the majority of Sikhs, she made the extreme decision to attack the Golden Temple complex as militants resorted to arming themselves as a last alternative. And only so that their voices could be heard on the international stage.

Sikh defenders at the Golden Temple complex (Time Magazine, June 1984).
Sikh defenders at the Golden Temple complex
(Time Magazine, June 1984).

It's funny how a story can be altered when looking at the other side of the coin to formulate the bigger picture.

So with the devastating destruction of the Sikhs’ most holiest buildings from her attack, it left many Sikhs feeling that their Homeland had betrayed and isolated them in their own birthplace. Gandhi had symbolically wounded them by destroying and undermining the Sikhs’ holy Golden Temple complex.

As these feelings of invigoration grew from the Golden Temple attack, it was only a matter of time before a reaction was to occur... which turned out to be an unfortunate one.

With the assassination of Indira Gandhi 1984, it brought several days of true terror to the first week of November in India. Both Democracy and Harmony were left with no manpower and not enough water to put out the fires of anguish and vengeance that the Indian society felt. At a time of National crisis for young India, angry mobs looted Sikh homes and businesses throughout India with the worst happening in Delhi. After several days of anarchy, 3000 Sikhs were killed only because they were members of the Sikh faith just like Beant Singh and Satwant Singh.

Sikh households destroyed in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination. Time Magazine, November 1984).
Sikh households destroyed in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination
(Time Magazine, November 1984).

Sikh men were forced off of buses and trains and were decapitated. Other Sikh men
had to face other forms of horrendous torture such as being restrained with tires while being doused with gasoline and lit on fire to be burnt alive.

Sikh women were also not spared as many were violently raped while being forced to watch either their husbands and children killed by the angry mobs. Worst of all, evidence has been coming forward that the mobs were organized and controlled by blood thirsty government officials.

All while the world watched and did nothing, thinking they had nothing to gain out of the situation. Humanity lost in 1984, just like it has been lost in Rawanda, Gujrat, and now in Sudan.

Although this event in 1984 was an Anti-Sikh movement, it’s ironic to know that there were stories of hope. For example, I have personally met several individuals who risked their lives and bravely stepped up to the noble cause of personally guarding Sikh homes when the mobs came.

The rioting after Indira Gandhi's death (Time Magazine, November 1984).
The rioting after Indira Gandhi's death
(Time Magazine, November 1984).

So 22 years later with no individuals brought to justice from the turmoil of late October/early November of 1984 in India, one can only hope that sometime soon all the guilty can be caught and prosecuted.

I just hope that this can happen in my lifetime.

At this year's remembrance of Indira Gandhi at her memorial shrine, Congress supporters were shouting "Long live Indira!". However, these statements are tainted after understanding the actions that she took which ultimately led to her demise.

In summary I don't cry for the death of Indira Gandhi, for the action as to why this happened can be comprehended.

But upon reflection, I cry because India’s turmoil of 1984 is all blamed on how India's young democracy failed at that time period.


Blogger Pogo ji said...

wow... this is all really sad. one can only pray that nothing like this never happens again.

4:23 PM  
Blogger ranjeet said...

these all very bad and showing of hindu's mind for sikh.after 1947 the leader of sardar patel was said that I HATE SIKHS but no charge on them if sikh says i want to leave with hindu.nehru says sikh are "jariim pesha log".who gave 85% participate to independant india and his total population in india is only two percent.
so koi nahi KHALSA HAMESHA UCHA hi rahuga. hindu di 30-30 hazaar kudiya bachaaiya aapa but always hindu says sikh is terrorist.

acritghan hai hindu sardara di qurbania da badla eh log nahi de sakde.

if all have any doubt of SAINT JARNAIL SINGH JI BHINDRA WALEY please bring of book "SINGH GARJ".

9:01 PM  
Blogger Shiv said...

Now don't get me wrong, I like the Sikhs, I really do. I think they're really nice people, at least all the Sikhs I've known. But in 1984 Indira Gandhi did wht had to be done. Bhindranwale and his associates had to be taken down.
The Golden Temple is considered to be a very Holy Place. Then why the hell were a bunch of lunatics allowed to be there with rocket launchers, grenades and machine guns.
It's not about attacking the Golden Temple, Im sure it was a very tough decision fr her too. But the Golden Temple was where the militants were. Im sure if it was some place else the Indian paramilitary forces would've gone in a lot earlier.
If I were to be there at the time, Miss Gandhi would have my complete backing.
Wht happend is sad, but what had to be done, had to be done.

10:50 AM  
Blogger sartaj said...

I understand your thoughts Shiv, but I suggest you read "Fighting for Faith & Nation" by Cynthia Mahmood. It does a good, non-bias, analysis to the turmoil that lead up to the events of 1984. I think it will help you to look at the larger picture and understand both sides to the story.

Keep in mind that the attack on Harimandar Sahib is seperate from the assassination of Gandhi, but connected. These thoughts of mine in this writeup are specific to the aftermath of her assassination.

Wow... I've actually come out of hiding in some manners and done something with the website. =)

That's what happens when you get married... I need to get around to posting pictures from the marriage to whenever they come online. =)

I'm around...

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guru ka das would like to make a benti,

Shiv, Please read into BOTH sides of the stories. Let me ask you a few questions which you should look into:

The main question which comes to mind is that was Sant Jarnail Singh Ji, the so called person who the Indian government wanted caught and dead, hiding in all 42 Gurdwaras in Panjab? If the attack on Sri Harmandar Sahib Ji was justified as 'flushing out Sikh militants who were hiding in Sri Akaal Takht Sahib Ji', then why attack 42 other Gurdwaras across Panjab and kill innocent sewadars and Sikh pilgrims?

Why attack on a sikh holy day when the temple will be full of innocent people?

why take tanks into the complex to fight?

Why burn holy scriptures in harmandhir sahib?

why not write post mortem reports for those who died? some families still don't know if there children died in Harmindhir sahib or are alive.. they have just "dissapeared"?

Why not allow amnesty international investigate into what happened?

Why was the a military coup in the whole of panjab?

I could ask a hundred more questions...but i feel these should be a starting point into understanding how indira gandhi didn't attack militancy...she made a direct attack on sikhi!! And dhan Guru Gobind singhs khalsa never die!!! they fight..jo tho prem khilan kha chao sir dhar tale ghale mere avo!! We remove fear when we are Baptised Gursikhs!!

Gur bar Akall!!!

Bhul jhug mhaf :)

9:02 AM  

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