Thursday, 3 November 2016

An act of Genocide- 1984 Sikh Riots

The brutal blood shed of 1984 still horrifies Sikh community. Such acts leave indelible impact on harmony and raise questions on humanity.

The blood shed in Gurgaon: 

Gurpreet Singh was 16 when he watched his parents, two brothers, aunt and nephew burnt to death by a mob. The date was November 2, 1984.
The day the mob arrived at Badshahpur in Gurgao, Gurpreet’s neighbours hid him in their house, and from a window he watched the events unfold below. The mob of “at least one thousand” burnt down the gurdwara opposite his family’s house, before turning its attention to the family.

The six members of Gurpreet’s family were among those killed in Gurgaon and Pataudi, for whose families the one-member Justice T P Garg Commission has recommended Rs 12.07 crore as compensation.
“They began calling out to them to come down, reassuring them that no harm would be done,” Singh said, “My eldest brother went down, and the minute he got there, they gave a call to surround him, and burnt him alive.”
His other brother too was called down, and when he tried to flee, the mob allegedly caught him, beat him up and burnt him alive, some of the attackers even chopping off his fingers.
“After that, they set fire to our house, which brought everyone outside, and they burnt them alive,” Gurpreet said.
Other survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that took place in the wake of then prime minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination tell equally horrific tales of violence, robbery, rape and murder.
The riots led to violence and death all over the country. In Gurgaon and Pataudi, 64 people were killed — 47 in Gurgaon and 17 in Pataudi. In addition, survivors allege 21 commercial properties (stores and factories) were burnt in Pataudi, and 35 Sikh families were affected by the riots. In Gurgaon, they allege, 300 houses were burnt down.
Survivors of the riots say the nightmare continued even when they were taken into refugee camps, meant to shelter and look after them.
“They took us to camps and simply left us there,” said Surender Singh, who was 42 when the riots took place. “There were no provisions for food, water or latrines for us. We were cooking our own food and buying our own things. We had to manage ourselves.”
Families who left their homes intact when they went to seek shelter in refugee camps allege that, on returning, they found the houses ransacked, with their furniture, jewellery and even basics like utensils and bed-sheets stolen. They also allege that, in many cases, the authorities refused to acknowledge deaths, and did not file FIRs.
“Forty-seven and 17 are just the official figures, there are others that are not acknowledged,” is an allegation repeated in several families.
Pataudi, a village that had 35 Sikh families in 1984, now houses only 10.
Gurjeet Singh, who was hiding at a neighbour’s house during the riots, remembers the tales that were told of atrocities committed during the days of rioting.
“People were tortured to death, it was not quick. I have heard of women being stripped, and raped, after which rioters relieved themselves on them and then burnt them to death,” he said.
The effects of the 1984 riots were felt long after the violence subsided. Survivors talk of the way the events impacted the future of children in the community, many of whom could not be educated since their parents had died or been robbed to such an extent that they could no longer afford to send them to school. Marriages, too, became difficult since people had been looted to such an extent they were struggling just to survive, they said.
Survivors of the riots talk of the fear they feel even today whenever they hear of communal unrest anywhere. “We just close our shops and stay at home. We have already seen a lot. We’d rather be safe,” said a resident of Gurgaon, who preferred not to be named.
Though Sikh families in Gurgaon and Pataudi say images of atrocities committed during the 1984 riots haunt them even today, they don’t expect most of the perpetrators to ever be caught and punished.
They demand only compensation for what they have lost. They feel what various governments and courts have offered seem is “insufficient”. “All we want is the compensation that we deserve… In a democratic country, we are still waiting for democracy,” said one survivor.

Blood Shed in Areas of Delhi and Punjab:

I lived through the Sikh riots—and 30 years later, I’m not ready to forgive or forget

Most chronicles of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots focus on Delhi and Punjab. Few acknowledge Daltonganj—a typical town in Bihar (now in Jharkhand)—as a place that heavily bore the brunt of the carnage.
I know differently.
Thirty years ago, when the violence broke out on the streets of that town, I was all of 30, married, with a little girl. We lived in a joint family with my parents, three brothers, their wives, and children.
Three years earlier, the year my daughter was born, I had felt the need to stand up on my feet, and I had opened a shop of automobile spare parts in Daltonganj’s busiest area.
The whole of the town is no bigger than a Delhi neighborhood. Like much of small town India, it has a fair share of different communities, one hospital, two film theaters, and a handful of schools.
In its anonymity thrived its innocence. Until October 31, 1984.
I clearly remember it was a Wednesday. It was around four in the evening. One India-Pakistan cricket match had been abruptly canceled midway, and people huddled around their radios began spreading the message: “The BBC said that Indira Gandhi was assassinated this morning.” Not until 4:50, when the Urdu news report was transmitted via All India Radio, did we know that it wasn’t a rumor. The prime minister had been murdered.
It was the last day of Chhath Puja, so I was expecting one of my Hindu friends to visit me. This friend—let’s call him Ashok—came every year to give me holy prashad. A couple of hours had passed by—and though people were in a state of shock, everything seemed pretty much like any other day. The market was closing down and people were returning to their families.
When Ashok arrived, I was preparing to leave, too. “Don’t go home tonight. It’s not safe,” he told me. A medical shop close to the hospital run by a Sikh had apparently been looted. Another Sikh laundryman had been attacked.
Who did it, I did not know. What was going to happen, I could not tell.
I somewhat panicked. A couple of my Hindu friends got together and suggested I should stay the night with my friend Kamlesh, who lived right across the street from my shop, instead of returning home to my family. I conceded.
The next morning, mayhem broke out. As I peeped through the windows of my friend’s house, I saw a mob of some 600 people break into the wooden door of my shop and loot it. They carried rods and kerosene. The inhumanity was frightening. Some people who I would often sip tea with in the evenings were right there, in front of my eyes, devastating my livelihood. My brother’s shop next door was looted and set aflame.
The whole day, I hid behind the windows, barely knowing how long would this go on; barely understanding how were they, we—the Sikhs—at fault. Indira Gandhi had been killed by her two Sikh bodyguards, but how did it justify attacking innocent Sikhs who are, like everybody else, just trying to earn their living?
I did not know about my family’s whereabouts for hours. Eventually, the telephone lines improved and I could use my friend’s phone to find out that they were being protected by one of our neighbors.
Later that day, my friend Kamlesh received a threatening phone call; people were saying he had hid a Sikh in his house. Kamlesh’s neighbor, a fearless Hindu, offered to help. The same night at 11, I removed my turban, opened my hair, covered myself in a white sheet and moved over to his neighbor’s house.
Sikhs cover their hair out of respect for god’s creation. That is our identity. As a Sikh, it was no less than demeaning to be forced in a situation to let it down.
On Nov. 2, a curfew was declared. The looting and the killing nonetheless continued. Another day passed. The army arrived. On Nov. 4, the curfew ended, but the army men stayed on for several days afterward.
I was clueless about how the rest of the town fared. I was pained with rage and agony. For two hours, when the curfew was lifted, I joined hordes of other Sikh men at the police station, and told a cop: “I am one of the victims and I want to have a look at my shop.” The cop who had been patrolling the areas asked me: “Which one was yours?” I told him—only to be informed the shop was completely emptied. I insisted on seeing it for myself.
I don’t know what I was thinking. Instead of returning home, I went with the cops to my shop. I opened what was left of a broken door. Three or four stray dogs greeted us, huddled inside the tiny space, looted of my once simple life.
I somehow got rid of them, sat right there, and cried and cursed endlessly. I found a sack and collected whatever items remained. I asked Kamlesh to keep them for me, but he declined because the army had announced that they would be searching the rioters’ homes for their bounty. That, I think, never happened.
After four days, I returned home with the sack. My wife and mother, who had little hopes of seeing me again, cried and cried–as they would for many days to come. There were several mob attacks on my house during the course of these four days, but our longtime neighbors—a joint family of Rajputs, just like ours—saved us.
The loss all around was unprecedented. The nearby gurudwara was strewn in blood—and those marks have barely rubbed off to this day. The head priest was slashed to death—and his young children were beaten and harassed. The broken windowpanes of the gurudwara remain, a bitter memory to the stone pelting that went on for hours on the holy shrine.
In Daltonganj, countless Sikh men were beaten up. A dozen died. Some houses were stoned; others set ablaze. Some local Sikh who were traveling out of the town were dragged out of trains and killed. The hospital refused to admit the injured, unless men cut their hair. Turban-wearing Sikhs had to make a choice: cut your hair or not get medical care. In the wake of the rampage, several Hindus, too, could not leave their homes.
Thereafter, a few Sikh families sought help from their related families in Punjab and left the town. I, too, went and found a place in Amritsar, but I could not convince my family to relocate. My father—who had witnessed his father’s killing during India’s partition in 1947—was hellbent on the whole family migrating together, or not migrating at all. My mother had lost her brother in the brutal attacks on Hindus and Muslims and Sikhs alike in 1947. Any form of killing is wrong—but I can attest it’s worse when the nation corners one single community.
In his first-person accounts from Sikhs across the nation, Jarnail Singh’s book, I Accuse, captures the anguish of a community that is still struggling to forgive and forget—given there has been no justice till this date. Across the nation, more than 8,000 Sikhs were killed, women were raped, burnt alive, homes brought down, children forced to grow up. These have affected the psyche of the people permanently.
Thirty years have passed, but the memory of the riots doesn’t fail me. In some ways, I have put it behind and moved on. In some ways, I have not. I still feel vulnerable to be living among many of those people. The pain, the trauma, the betrayal of the government, the suspicion of my friends, and the mistrust in justice—these cannot be taken away from me. It isn’t easy to forget. And so, I never will.
As told to Shelly Walia, a reporter for Quartz India and Amarjit Singh Walia’s daughter..

Thousands of families were ruined in just 3 days. It was a gruesome genocide.
"Leaders" shedding crocodile tears have not spent a single rupee from their pockets for the riot victims.
Under the leadership of Sant Longowal, welfare was done for the grief stricken and shattered families.
Perpetrators of hatred must be punished and precedence be set. This is a sensitive matter for the community and must never be entwined with politics. All political parties such as BJP-SAD and others have tried to capitalise on this matter to gain votes from Sikhs.
However they have no compassion for the cause or community and so will never solve the issue, to keep a talking point alive.

Complete details of the incident:


Report from: The Indian Express

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