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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Indira Gandhi's assassin declared 'great martyr'

Release Date: 10/31/06
News Source: Rediff.com

A group of Sikh leaders on Tuesday conferred the status of "great martyr" on Beant Singh, one of the assassins of former prime minister Indira Gandhi, at a function organised by the Dal Khalsa in Jalandhar.

The jathedar of the Takht Damdama Sahib, Balwant Singh Nandgarh, accorded the status to Beant Singh.

Nandgarh also honoured members of Beant Singh's family by presenting them siropas (robes of honour) and shawls.

A large number of political activists representing different factions and groups participated in the event held to pay tribute to Beant Singh, who was shot dead by security guards of the slain PM minutes after he assassinated her on this day 22 years ago.

A resolution that said Beant Singh had attained the status of a "martyr" was adopted by the gathering.

Remembering the carnage - 22 years later

Release Date: 10/31/06
News Source: Indo-Asian News Service (link 1, link 2)

The 22nd anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi - widely regarded as one of India's greatest prime ministers - on Oct 31 must also be a requiem for over 3,000 Sikhs who died in the pogrom following her premeditated killing.

The wave of what surely must be called ethnic cleansing that raged unchecked for nearly three days across the country after Gandhi was shot dead by two of her Sikh bodyguards on the morning of Oct 31, 1984, ended only with her funeral with the state's blood-lust satiated and some semblance of order in worst affected Delhi restored.

And while unbridled chaos and mayhem proliferated unimpeded across the capital, the casual slaughter of some 350 Sikhs including women and children in the trans-Yamuna resettlement Trilokpuri colony was without doubt the most brutal.

The charred and hacked remains of the hundreds that perished in Trilokpuri's Block 32 on the smoky and dank Nov 2 evening eloquently depicted an unbelievable tale of slaughter which, about a quarter of a century later, still haunts my memories that time has not dimmed.

The carnage took place uninterrupted in two narrow alleyways not more than 150 yards long with one-roomed tenements on either side lasting over 48 hours with the murderers never ever caught taking breaks for meals before returning and resuming their senseless slaughter.

Both lanes were littered with bodies and body parts besides hair brutally hacked off, forcing people to walk precariously on tiptoe.

It was impossible to place one's foot flat on the ground for fear of stepping on either a hacked limb or a dead person.

The entire area was awash with blood, some of it coagulated over which flies laconically buzzed. It could not even flow down the drains, inefficient at the best of times, as they too were now choked with human remains.

It all began on the morning of Nov 2 around 11.30 a.m. when along with my Indian Express colleague Joseph Maliakan we heard of the Trilopuri massacre - then ongoing - from a Mohan Singh, who had shaved his head and face only hours before and took shelter in our office canteen.

A dazed Singh, who had somehow managed to escape the pogrom under the cover of darkness, blandly told us his incredulous tale of some 300 Sikhs having been killed in Trilokpuri's Block 32.

The victims were poor, low caste Sikhs who wove string beds.

Shortly afterwards, along with Maliakan and Alok Tomar of Jansatta, we rushed to Trilokpuri and on arrival at the re-settlement colony, established by Sanjay Gandhi during the Emergency in the mid-1970's, found the entrance blocked by massive concrete pipes and lathi-wielding men atop them standing guard.

Some 300 yards from Block 32 we found our path blocked by a huge mob; and before we could reach them two policemen astride a motorcycle burst through the crowd coming from the direction we were headed.

We flagged the motorcycle to a halt and asked the head constable driving it whether any killings had taken place in Block 32.

Smiling sardonically he said 'shanti' prevailed. On insistent quizzing he admitted that two people had been killed in Block 32.

As we proceeded down the narrow road towards Block 32, our car was blocked by the mob that turned nasty and began stoning us.

A spokesman for the crowd, a short vicious-looking man dressed in a white kurta and pyjama, told us to leave or be prepared to 'face the consequences'.

Block 32, he simply said, was out of bounds.

Hurriedly backing out under a barrage of rocks we headed for the nearby Kalyanpuri police station and asked the duty officer whether any trouble had been reported from Trilokpuri's Block 32.

He too echoed what his motorcycle borne colleagues had said - the area was calm, 'shanti' prevailed and no deaths had been reported from the police station's area of responsibility.

A truck parked nearby attracted our attention. On closer inspection we found three charred bodies in the back and a half-burnt Sikh youngster lying on top.

In his quasi-conscious state the man told us he was from Punjab and had come visiting relatives in Trilokpuri.

A few hours earlier he said a rampaging mob armed with lathis and machetes had killed his hosts and set him on fire after dousing his body with kerosene. He had been brought to the police station, placed on top of the dead bodies and had lain there for the past six hours.

He died soon after, we later learnt.

But when the three bodies in the truck and the half-alive Sikh were pointed out to the station duty officer he denied all knowledge of them saying they would be dealt with by Saheb, the station house officer who was away in some other part of Delhi and would return later in the evening.

Desperate to get help we combed the area and were met by an army patrol commanded by a Sikh colonel, a part of the detail summoned from Meerut in aid of civil authority, who assured us that he would dispatch help to the beleaguered Block 32.

We returned to Block 32 only to discover that no troops had arrived.

Later we came to know that though the army had officially been summoned a day after Indira Gandhi's murder to maintain order, it was chaos - or they were not deployed.

None of the army units summoned from cantonments around the capital were provided help, guidance or logistic direction by the local authorities. Neither was the army issued shoot-to-kill orders to quell restive bloodthirsty mobs till after Gandhi's funeral pyre was lit Nov 3.

Thereafter within hours the army restored order although for days there were cases we investigated which revealed that the local authorities had deliberately kept soldiers in the dark about pockets of Sikh refugees still fighting for survival across parts of east Delhi.

However, after pleading in vain with many military convoys to intercede and stop the Trilokpuri killings, we arrived at police headquarters around 5 p.m. and informed Additional Commissioner of Police Nikhil Kumar, who later retired as head of the National Security Guard, of the goings-on in the east Delhi colony.

To our chagrin and amazement he asserted that he was a 'mere guest' artist. Other police officers including those in charge of the Trilokpuri district also expressed indifference and their inability to help.

On returning to Trilokpuri an hour later in darkness we found the local station house officer and two constables surveying the sea of Sikh bodies surrounded by thousands of people.

The most frightening part, which still sends a chill up my spine after 22 years, was the total and complete silence that hung over the area.

Not a sound emanated from anyone as in the light of a few hurricane lanterns we walked wordlessly down the alleyway littered with bodies.

Halfway down was a polio-afflicted young woman holding a child in dumb silence all emotion having drained from her.

Her blank, uncomprehending eyes looked at us sightlessly in what we took to be a plea for help.

Quietly we lifted her and the child and handed them over to the police posse never to see them again.

A faint whimper from inside the same house led us to a young Sikh whose stomach had been slashed open two days earlier. He had managed somehow to tie a turban around his gaping wound, crawl under a pile of bodies and survive.

All that the handsome scooter rickshaw driver wanted was water. He died hours later.

A three-year old girl, stepping over the bodies of her father and three brothers and countless others lying in the street clung helplessly to one of us pleading mutely for help.

'Please take me home,' she quietly said standing knee-deep in corpses in what was the only room of her house.

That the police arrived over 24 hours after the Trilokpuri massacre was revealed by the Indian Express Nov 3, the day of Gandhi's funeral. There was nothing or no one left to protect.

In the intervening years all of us eyewitnesses deposed before the innumerable inquiry commissions into the 1984 killings. But none of the guilty was punished.

(Rahul Bedi, as the then correspondent of Indian Express, was the first to reach Trilokpuri that bore the brunt of the anti-Sikh carnage. He can be reached at shahji@spectranet.com)

© 2006 Indo-Asian News Service

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Jeeta Jatt... The Movie!!!

Looks like the brilliant minds behind "Where not to do Bhangra" have returned with the anticipated hit of "Jeeta Jatt!" This new short was screened at this year's Spinning Wheel Film Festival and won the crowd over immediately.

I'm glad to see silly stuff like this happening... and only wished I could be on the West Coast to help these guys out. Enjoy the short below, which is divided into two parts.

Jeeta Jatt, Part 1

Jeeta Jatt, Part 2

Jalia Dhindsa is the next Gabbar Singh!
While chilling outside the SWFF 2006, Sartaj trying to act tough with Mr. Shane Gill... who played the infamous Jalia Dhindsa. Watch out Gabbar Singh, Jalia Dhindsa is coming for you!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Shout out to Brandon on the Peace Bridge

Hey gang, I received an email a while back from Brandon on the Peace Bridge after he viewed The Sikh on the Street. I've been meaning to post his thoughts since he sincerely shares his viewpoints and some needed action by society.

Check out his thoughts. Thanks for hitting us up Brandon.

"I just wanted to give my support for what you are doing. I started researching Sikhism on my spare time between school and work. I am a firm believer in tolerance and understanding. I could answer almost all of the questions you asked in your street interviews with the exception of the one regarding Dr. Bhagat.

It troubles me; I work at the Peace Bridge crossing into Canada. We get a lot of Sikh drivers who come into clear their shipments. They are who inspired me into my research. I like to know the people I deal with on a daily basis. My fellow co-workers however, remind me of some the folks you interviewed.

A lot of them associate Sikhs with Islam, or think Sikhism is an Islamic sect. I wish people would just open a book and read. It's funny when I try to discuss the concept of a turban as a traditional head dress. When I tell people there are Christians who where turbans, they look at me funny. After all, Catholic Nuns where garb stemming from the same influences by which traditional Muslim, Jewish, and Sikh women wear.

I think the sole problem with people, not only in America, but around the world, is that we don't understand the amazing commonalities we share.

The differences are minor. We need to get past them!"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Shout out to the United States Coast Guard's CGC Boutwell (WHEC-719)

I've been meaning to post this a while back, but my buddy Gurbachan Singh of the United States Coast Guard (Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class) passed the following editorial cartoon to me:

'Guide to identifying people by their headgear,' by Ann Telnaes

Cartoonist Ann Telnaes clearly summarizes how to differentiate different types of Americans. Hopefully you don't fall in the far right category.

Shout out to the CGC Boutwell (WHEC-719). Thanks for keeping America's sea borders safe.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The best YouTube video ever!!!

Shout out to all those who got Punjabi Mama's like this one!!!


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Thanks for your support

For those of you who met us in Toronto at the Spinning Wheel Film Festival, or in Washington DC at the Asian Pacific American Film Festival, thanks for stopping by and supporting the works of Dashmesh Pictures. As you may recall, The Sikh on the Street played both in Toronto and DC, while Gatka 1: The Experimentation played in Toronto as well.

With your encouragement, well wishes, and inspiration, our team here will continue to work on initiatives that blend the thoughts of art and education together.

Below you'll find some photos from both the DC and Toronto events. Supreet and I hope you enjoy, as we both had a blast covering the film festivals...

DC Photos (Asian Pacific American Film Festival)

Audience at the Smithsonian's Freer Auditorim getting ready for 'The Sikh on the Street.'
Audience at the Smithsonian's Freer Auditorium getting ready for "The Sikh on the Street."

APA introductions before the viewing of 'The Sikh on the Street.'
APA introductions before the viewing of "The Sikh on the Street."

'Sikh on the Street' in action.

The lovely Supreet and members of Team 'Widow Colony' in a Q&A session.
The lovely Supreet and members of Team "Widow Colony" in a Q&A session.

Toronto Photos (Spinning Wheel Film Festival)

Best sign ever outside Dixie Gurudwara.
Best sign ever outside Dixie Gurudwara.

Breakfast in the skies of Toronto.
Breakfast in the skies of Toronto.

Panel discussion on 'Inspiration.'
Panel discussion on "Inspiration."

Philosophical discussions with Jasmeet (Gunjiv dance co-founder) and friends.
Philosophical discussions with Jasmeet (Gunjiv dance co-founder) and friends.

Cool Singh who taught me during the Q&A session how we all should email Oprah so that she can do a story on the Sikhs.  My email is already in.  What about yours?
Cool Singh who taught me during the Q&A session how we all should email Oprah so that she can do a story on the Sikhs. My email is already in. What about yours?

Q&A session after the viewing of 'The Sikh on the Street' and 'Gatka 1.'
Q&A session after the viewing of "The Sikh on the Street" and "Gatka 1: The Experimentation."

Coolest parts of Toronto visit...

Hanging out with my cousin Bhavan during the trip.  He's one cool dude.
Hanging out with my cousin Bhavan during the trip. He's one cool dude.

Support Sacha Sauda.
Support Sacha Sauda. This is a real neat and needed initiative.

'Thanks' Guru Gobind Singh Ji Stadium!
Ahhh yes... who could forget the stadium behind Dixie Gurudwara. After all, their stadium name is "Thanks. Guru Gobind Singh Ji Stadium." The name says it all.