30 years after 1984 – Why do we keep coming back to Trafalgar Square ?

It is that time again…
June sadly spells and reminds every Sikh of the Tīsrā Ghallughara, the Sikh Holocaust, the Sikh Nakhba, the disaster that  continues to reveal even more unanswered questions and the thud that resonates in every Sikhs heart, i.e: the desire for justice.
Some suggest why bother? Why not forgive and forget? No one is listening so your calls will never be answered or reported!

A quick recap
During those fateful days of June 1984 under the orders of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the Indian army and forces invaded forty-four gurudwara, including the central site of the Darbar Sahib complex (often referred to as the Golden Temple), throughout Punjab, India.

The devastation and the loss of life have never been addressed. Instead, there have been continued efforts to silence the desire for truth, even when questioned by external agencies. It is a fact that over 10,000 shoes were recovered from the site after the battle. Mothers, fathers, sons and daughters never returned home. Where are they? Some witnesses suggest that bodies were secretly stacked and removed whilst the complex was sealed. Five months later the devastation continued post the assignation of Indira. A vicious attack on the Sikh community in the form of Pogroms ensued. Burning tyres were placed on peoples heads as they were dragged out from houses marked as Sikh residences. Many women were raped and to date no one has been brought to justice for these crimes.

During the following 10 years further sadness prevailed through disappearances, torture, detentions & many human rights violations.

30 years later…
On Sunday 8th June 2014 along with thousands of others I attended the 30 anniversary march commemorating the need for justice and hope. At the head of the procession was positioned a giant coffin with flowered banner outlining ‘India’s Sikh Genocide’. On the sides of the stand were flower arrangements spelling: Dad, Sister,  Brother, Mother… The procession also featured an open air truck with a Jail cell mock-up. The people seated inside were locked in chains and it signified that many prisoners are still incarcerated and awaiting release.

The latter word incarcerated probably summarises the current state of play. Somebody suggested to me that a people without out a state have no basis for communicating on a world stage.

Lets us take a quick look at post partition broken promises & discrimination with Sikhs:

In 1950, despite protests by Sikhs, the Indian constitution was adopted, which failed to even recognise the Sikhs
as a separate religion. Instead, Sikhs were categorised as Hindus and remained defined as such under Article 25 of the Constitution. The British recognised Sikh marriages under the Anand Karaj Act 1909, however this was replaced by the Hindu Marriage Act 1951*.

Post partition in the 50s, the Punjab was a state utterly broken and totally ruined both economically and socially by the Partition with Pakistan. Instead of Government help, the Sikhs began facing economical, social and religious discrimination.

  1. Farmers in Punjab paid higher prices for their agriculture inputs, but were offered lower prices for their produce in comparison with neighbouring states. The Central Government assumed sole control over prices and farmers were not allowed to cross state boundaries to get higher prices for their labours in the next state.
  2. Electricity generated by the Hydroelectric  Bhakra Dam on the Panjab borders was more costly and provided in smaller amounts in Panjab than in it’s neighbouring states.
  3. 75% of the water available to Punjab was being diverted to other states.
  4. 70% of the revenue raised by Punjabis, for development of Punjab was sent to other states. The Central Government investment in Punjab was less than 1%, the lowest amongst all the states. However, Punjab was the most highly taxed.
  5. Restrictions on the recruitment and promotion of Sikhs in the armed forces were applied. This was a grave insult as Sikhs being 2% of India’s population counted for the majority of sacrifices in the freedom struggle against the British.

After Independence Sikhs began facing racial slurs from leaders and the media. When Nehru was reminded about the promises he and Gandhi made to the Sikhs before Independence and all the broken promises since, he stated simple,
“the circumstances have now changed.”

“Kya main taqat dushman ke hath main de dun (How can I entrust power into the hands of the enemies).”
(Jawaharlal Nehru, 1961)

“The Sikhs are lawless people and a menace to the law abiding Hindus… The Government should take strict measures against them.”
(Jawaharlal Nehru)

In a circular sent to all Deputy Commissioners in Punjab by the Home Minister Vallabhi Patel, there were instructions that Sikhs should be treated like a “criminal tribe.” They were urged to be severe so that the Sikhs should wake up to the political realities and recognize “who are the masters and who are the slaves.”

In 1956 all states in India were recognized on linguistic and cultural basis, however Punjab was the only state in India left out of this. In addition huge anti-Sikh propaganda compelled virtually all Punjabi speaking Hindus to deny Punjabi as their language and claim allegiance to Hindi, however, their knowledge of Hindi was non-existent.

Furthermore, Sikhs felt the wrath of Hindu nationalism nurtured by M.K. Gandhi. After his death fundamentalist cults and organisations such as RSS and Arya Samaj began anti-Sikh propaganda. Sikhs were humiliated throughout national media and literature. Arya Samaj and other fundamentalist Hindu organisations published literature, held events and conferences which degraded and insulted the Sikh Gurus. A great effort was made to dissolve Sikhism into Hinduism.

In 1966 the Punjabi Suba Movement began, during peaceful agitations throughout the 50′s and 60′s over 250,000 Sikhs demonstrated peacefully and courted arrest to get their linguistic rights (this is 5 times the number of Indians arrested by the British in the whole “Quit India Movement”). Darshan Singh Pheruman was martyred whilst on hunger strike in prison. He demanded that Sikhs should be given more rights and more autonomy for Punjab.

Two majority Punjabi speaking districts were left out of the 1961 census. The now already shrunken Punjab was further halved to form a Hindi speaking state Haryana in 1966. Furthermore, the small remnant of Punjab was still denied the status of a Punjabi speaking state. Some of the prosperous Punjabi speaking areas including the capital Chandigarh were left out and given to Haryana. This was a direct violation of the Indian Constitution and pre-independence promises. Punjab remains the only state in India to have a shared capital and no control over its natural resources, water and electricity.

adapted from: http://centralsikhmuseum.com

*NB It is only recently in May 2012 that the Anand Marriage Act became law. According to the amendment Bill, couples whose marriages have been registered under this Act, will not be required to get their marriage registered under the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths Act-1969 or any other law for the time being in force. That means it took over 65 years before change could take place!?

Escalation became the route to take issues seriously
With all this background is it any wonder why escalation occurred. Political mischief on the part of the party in power positioned a poor image of the Sikhs. With a media black out together with what has now been revealed as false encounters, the Sikh community continued to suffer. The irony being that the Sikhs were standing up for more utility rights that it would be for all communities residing in the state.

The sheer brute force of the attack on people residing in the Golden Temple complex together with thousands of of innocent worshipers attending the  commemoration of Guru Arjan Dev Ji’s martyrdom was disgusting. Heavy artillery and tanks sparked a vindictive attack on Sikhs & their heritage. With reference to the latter, for example, the Sikh Reference library was burnt down and many artifacts stolen. Many priceless items are still in the custody of the Indian government? We’d like them back please.

Seeking inspiration from attendees of the 30th Anniversary rally
The march started from Hyde Park. It was peaceful, well organised and for a change this year the stage and guests spoke mainly in English. They articulately put forward the background and importance of the event.

I in the meantime recorded a few audio interviews for a future episode of Sikhwithin Radio and TV recordings for Sikh Channel.

I was pleasantly surprised about the optimistic outlook demonstrated by all interviewees. The interviewees were a selection of young, older and a passerby.
They all agreed that being there was important. What struck me the most was 5 amazing suggestions they gave:

  1. Greater Education – Many of the kids I spoke to stated how their parents had communicated the importance of human rights and what Sikhs are all about, e.g: Defending the defenseless. The recalled that their parents thought it was important for them to know why 1984 was such a sad event for the community.
  2. Let us be United – To not be distracted from the sensationalist reporting of a random mischievous events or agencies with alternative agendas.
  3. Data gathering is essential – The need for a survey to list precisely the missing.
  4. Urgency – Time is running out – Related to the latter, the importance of collating evidence now before sadly, for example, mothers who have lost their kids during the struggle pass on. I ask what about those accused of the crimes of Nov’84, why are they still roaming free and how long before they pass on? As a parallel,  one person suggested that even Nazi hunting continues even if the guilty are in their 90s.
  5. Sikhs are indeed Humanitarian – The Sikhs pursuit of humanitarian efforts around the world – ‘It is in our DNA to help others’ and this permutation to the general view of the race should continue. Therefore, do more good!

There were more suggestions from the interviews  and I encourage you to listen to some of the recordings I’ll be posting up.
Sadly, I noted that although there were many cameras from the world’s press, not much was reported the next day?
I still advocate the need to create more media to spread the word of truth. For example, in my book, 30 years for Justice and Hope, published in May 2014 with all proceeds to Khalsa Aid, (available from the following link), I end with:

Everyone knows about the Jewish Holocaust and are appalled by it. Any genocide exposes the dark side of humanity. Continuing the struggle and communicating truth through media, film, music and poetry are parallel strategies. Only then will we prevail in exposing what happened and to walk a journey to justice and hope.

In summary, there is a need to take the opportunity to return to the scene year-on-year. To unite under a banner of uncovering the truth and to stay focused leading the human race about the importance equality and human rights. After all, its in our DNA to stand-up for others and that also includes ourselves.

Categories: 2014, Ethics, Justice, Media Watch, Sikh Media, Sikhs

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