Why & How Sikhs were targeted 1984?
On behalf of the Sikh community across the world, I take this privilege to thank with the depth of my heart to the Forum Against War Crimes and Genocide, Chennai, and Prof. Manivanan (Head of Political Science Dept who is the eyewitness of this episode while a research scholar at Delhi University) for holding this Hall Meeting titled ‘Remembering Anti-Sikh Riot 1984’ for students in Madras University. I am grateful for conferring me the honour to address this august audience which have spared their precious time and taken pains to come over here to listen, share our unexposed grief and untold story of the Sikh Genocide. Instead of going into the unpleasant discussion about the details of casualties, damages and destruction, I would like to confine to the hardly known theme about “Why & how the Sikhs were targeted?”
To start with, let me unveil the root cause for which Sikhism came into existence. The concept of United Nations Organisation came into existence in the year 1945 shortly after the World War II, to maintain peace among the nations. Like nations, major religions also are at war with each other and sometimes it is difficult to differentiate between a religious battle and a political conflict. Efforts were made to set up a common religious platform under the nomenclature of World Parliament of Religions held in Chicago, U. S. A., in the year 1893. It has started the dialogue and interfaith meetings worldwide but a common strain of affinity, mutual understanding, peace and harmony is still a long way to go.
Five centuries ago, the first founder of Sikhism, Shri Guru Nanak Sahib put in practice a vision for peace and welfare of all humanity. Guru Sahib was the first visionary to dream and materialize the concept of oneness of human beings, freedom of faith and unity of religions along with their manifold separate diversities. Guru Sahib was a great revolutionary, humanist, a social reformer and a political rebel. He put life into the dead soul of the Indian society and successfully motivated his followers to sacrifice their life and property for protection of the honour, dignity and faith of the people. Internationalism and inter-religious understanding were gifted to the world by Guru Sahib in the form of the universal Sikh religion and it’s Universal Scripture – Shri Guru Granth Sahib. To lay the foundation of the concept of fatherhood of God and brotherhood of all human beings, he travelled forty thousand miles in forty years in absence of modern facilities. He spread this message through person-to-person contact within the nook and corner of the country and across China, Tibet, Sri Lanka to West Asian Countries and the Middle East.
Coming to the subject, I would like to take you towards immediately past few years of 1984, to grasp the roots of the problem. Smt. Gandhi, the then Prime Minister posing herself as the only saviour of the country, has paved the way to withhold the Dynasty Rule by exploiting the hero-worship tendency of the masses. The basic concept of the constitutionally formed “Republic of Indian Union” was thrown into dustbin and a new concept of “Undeclared and Unconstitutional Central Government”, under one person came into existence with a band of sycophants. I don’t think anybody has forgotten the strangely coined slogans, “Indira is India – India is Indira”, “Incarnation of Goddess Durga”, so on and so forth.
In 1971, she caused unwarranted interference and bifurcation of East and West Pakistan and created Bangladesh. But this formula could not bring any electoral benefits for her to capture majority votes. Instead, it caused severe damage to the sentiments of even the loyal Indian Muslims and bifurcated the civil society.
Why Sikhs were targeted?
In 1975, she adopted another scheme and imposed National Emergency. This idea backfired, and the entire Nation stood against it. The Sikhs according to their religious tradition stood against the oppression, started courting arrest by taking oath at Shri Akal Takhat Sahib, Golden Temple. Their agitation lasted for 21 months, from the day One till the emergency was lifted, that is from 26th June 1975 to 21st March 1977. According to the Amnesty International, 1,40,000 people had been arrested and detained without trial, out of them 40,000 that is 28.57% had come from the 2% minority community of the Sikhs. This caused severe heart burn which determined her to teach a lesson to this microscopic peaceful minority, by demolishing Shri Akal Takhat Sahib their source of inspiration and smashing the community at all levels.
The saddest aspect of this episode is that she was the first and probably the last Head of the Government in the history of world, who instigated its subjects for civil war. She projected the most dramatic killings to the greatest extent using all media sources. Repeatedly she was heard saying that, “If the terrorists in Punjab does not stop slaughter of the Hindus, the retaliatory programme against the Sikhs may start in the rest of India”. But no Hindu could be driven by such vague statements to fulfil her evil ambitions, as they were very well informed by other means. Her falsehood was apparent from a written reply of the Home Minister to the Parliament stating that, “Out of a total of 11,694 killed by the terrorists in Punjab during 1981-1983, more than 61% that is 7,139 were Sikhs”.
Their most advanced and prosperous homeland Punjab was completely ruined and converted into graveyard by the state organised terrorism and anti-terrorism bloodshed. This resulted in massacre of the Sikhs, from the middle of seventies, all religious Sikhs were targeted throughout the country. And the Foreign Mission Offices have carried this goal all over the globe. In June 1984 to inflict maximum damage the day was chosen on the overcrowded occasion of Martyrdom Day of Shri Guru Arjan Sahib, to storm the holiest of the holy Shrine Sri Har Mandir Sahib, Golden Temple and 74 other Gurdwaras by imposing Blanket Curfew all over Punjab.
It is the age old tradition of the Sikh people; they never hold any indebtedness for long. Accordingly, after the Bluestar Operation the Intelligence Agencies warned about the danger of having Sikh Bodyguards and repeatedly requested Smt. Gandhi to replace them. But she intentionally ignored the advice to become the Great Martyr to lay the foundation for her Dynasty Rule by getting sympathies from the masses. As such her son was made the Prime Minister, superseding the Constitution and ignoring elected representatives.
For instigating violence against Sikhs, her dead body was constantly shown round the clock for three days on the only State Owned Television, with provocative slogans “Khoon ka badla – khoon se layenga” that is “Take blood for the blood”. In the history of television channels of the world, this was the first and last time showing the dead body for such a long time. Mr. Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous one sentence, “When a big tree falls – the earth shakes” during the brutal massacre of the Sikhs further flared up the situation; this most unfortunate statement was repeated on media.
Most humbly, I would like to submit that it is not in fitness of event and proper to describe this tragedy as Anti-Sikh Riots, as there were no two groups engaged against each other. In an organised manner all Sikhs, even the retired defence personnel were disarmed by the police. As such, it is absolutely a State Organised Sikh Genocide. It has even defeated the worst precedence of Nadir Shah, the Iranian Invader famous for cruelty who looted world famous Koh-I-Noor Diamond and Peacock Throne. He ordered general massacre of the Delhi people which lasted only for few hours from morning till evening. To clarify between the riots and genocide, I quote the headline of the Hyderabad Urdu news paper “Siasat” of May 14, 2005, “254 Hindus, 790 Muslims killed in Post-Godhra riots”. This is quoted about the riots of 2002 saying that, “Government informed the Rajya Sabha in a written reply by the Minister for Home Affairs Sri Prakash Jaiswal.” Whereas, in 1984 there were no reports in media or Parliament about any other person being hurt during this tragedy except the Sikhs.
To immediately gain the sympathy wave votes, this unconstitutional Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi unwarrantedly dissolved the Parliament, and declared Parliamentary Elections in 1984. As expected, he won with the largest majority since independence sweeping all political parties. This happened with the support of State Organised three days and four nights Sikh Genocide at Delhi and several other places spreading hatred against the Sikhs all over the country.
For encashing Hindu Votes again in the next Parliamentary elections of 1989, Shri Rajiv Gandhi the Prime Minister, instructed the District Magistrate in Ayaudhia in December 1986 to open the seal of the disputed site and allow the Hindus to perform “Sheela Niyas” (laying the foundation stone). Earlier in the year 1949 this disputed structure was sealed by the District Magistrate (District Collector) till final adjudication by the Court of Law. This place was claimed by the Hindus as birth place of Lord Rama and alleging that Emperor Babar converted it into a Mosque.
The result of this policy of ruling the country, we have witnessed in December 1992 in demolition of the Babri Masjid and aftermath large scale bloodshed and destruction. In 2010 the judgment opened another Pandora’s Box of battle in the Courts and subsequently may be followed by civil war in the streets. See the magnificent solution by the present Rulers that civil war so initiated can never subside due to day-by-day flaring up of the sentimental flames by them and also by the so-called well-wishers of the communities and Nation.
Bangladesh Vs Golden Temple
Let us introspect and find out the difference between the war against East Pakistan in 1971, an enemy country and in 1984 storming a indigenous local place of worship consisting of few thousand square yards, of which a large area is covered with the sarovar Smt. Gandhi, repeatedly assured the Parliament and through media that under any circumstances the Golden Temple will not be attacked. By giving such statements, she assured a safe shelter for the people to gather there. Then she pleaded the Army Action as justified for flushing out a few hundred terrorists as unavoidable. Even if this contention is believed to be correct, then how do you compare the strategy of indiscriminately killings of thousands of civilian Sikhs women and children within Golden Temple complex and detaining hundreds under TADA for years together without bail and trail? On the contrary in the fight against East Pakistan, 90,000 soldiers were taken as prisoners of war of the enemy who were released after a few months. When such a large number of fighting soldiers could be made captives, then what prevented the Government from cupturing a few scores of so called terrorists by strategically besieging that small area at Amritsar to make them surrender? How anybody could justify the treatment meted out to the Sikhs in their own country, worse than treatment given to the enemies?
Even though most of the Hindus believe that the Sikhs are the saviours of their religion and the country, but at the same time how some of them have reciprocated, is the blackest chapter of the world civilization.
During the decades of the eighties and second half of the seventies of twentieth century, the Congress dominated Central and State Governments were responsible for systematic genocide and harassment of lakhs of unaccounted Sikhs in the country and abroad. This was not in hand in glove with the unsocial elements, but directly State organized Carnages through the Army, Para Military Forces, Police and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). This is not the end of the tale; many more Sikhs are still facing the aftermath and consequences of those days. I can say so authoritatively because I am also one among them, having spent about eight months in jail without bail and trail, and still undergoing litigations since last 27 years i.e., from 1984 onwards, and expect to be continued for a few more years.
In this civilized era, Army is seldom used for crushing any public movements, but has indiscriminately used against a particular community of the Sikhs. And it has been done so by promoting on 1st August 1983 a puppet Lt. Gen. A.S. Vaidya as Chief of the Army Staff, by superseding the genuine candidate Gen. Srinivas Kumar Sinha, who would have definitely refused to obey the illegitimate orders.
On an early occasion, when Gen. Sinha was the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) Western Command, a prestigious appointment in the early eighties, he was ordered to deploy tanks and storm Damdami Taksal at Chowk Mehta, Amritsar, the head quarter of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. But he refused, as there were Sikh soldiers in army and their sentiments will be hurt by attacking a Gurdwara. According to seniority, he was transferred to Delhi as the Vice Chief of Army Staff, with the expectation that he would succeed Gen. K. V. Krishna Rao as the Army Chief. He was supposed to familiarize himself with the office of the Army Chief. Against the prevailing norms it was a surprise, when he was superseded and his junior Lt. Gen. A. S. Vaidya, the GOC-in-C Eastern Command was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff over his head. Gen. Sinha submitted his resignation against this injustice and preferred a retired life.
According to the “Operation Bluestar - True Story” by Lt. Gen. K. S. Brar, who was in command of the operation, the President of India Giani Zail Singh was kept under house arrest after taking his signature for the operation till it was over. Gen. Vaidya, Chief of Indian Army, Lt. Gen. Sunder Ji, Vice Chief of Indian Army and Lt. Gen. R. S. Dayal, GOC-in-C Western Command, were camping and supervising the action. They were reporting and getting instructions from Mr. Rajiv Gandhi who was monitoring without any constitutional authority from Delhi.
Contravention of Geneva Convention
In the present days the Indian Army has rightfully declined to be used against the Nexalite rebellions in the Red Corridor area. Army never attacked any place of worship anywhere in the world not even on the enemy lands.
I would like to quote the International Humanitarian Law - Geneva Conventions Protocol 1977, which describes as follows. Article 15. Protection of civilian medical and religious personnel. Clause 1. Civilian medical personnel shall be respected and protected. Clause 5. Civilian religious personnel shall be respected and protected. The provisions of the Conventions and of this Protocol concerning the protection and identification of medical personnel shall apply equally to such persons.
But in its contravention the Indian Army deployed seven armoured tanks and helicopters and stormed, destroyed, plundered and put to fire the age old library, archives, Tosha Khana (treasury) and holiest Golden Temple of the Sikhs. The most shameful aspect of this episode is that it was highly hailed with one voice by almost all in the Parliament, except a very few in the entire country.
N. R. I. Sikhs
R.A.W. was formed in September 1968 with the responsibility for strategic external intelligence, after we faced two consecutive wars, the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the India-Pakistan war of 1965, as it was evident that a credible intelligence gathering setup was lacking. But it was also mainly used in coalition with the Foreign Mission Offices, against the prosperous, strong and vibrant Sikh Diaspora. It has framed a list of hundreds of N.R.I. Sikhs, refusing Indian visa, mobilizing poisonous propaganda in general and security circles all over the world particularly at Airports, intriguing factions and conflicts among the Sikhs, their Gurdwaras and organizations.
There might be thousands of common Sikhs who got worst treatment since years, but their cases were never reported. But a much highlighted case by the press is of the dignitary the 5th Sikh Mayor of Slough (UK), Sardar Joginder Singh Bal who was held by arm and forcibly deported from Guru Ram Das International Airport, Amritsar, to London, in the year 2007 without disclosing any reason despite having a valid visa.
I went to Slough, London, to take his personal interview on 7th August 2010. As told by him, he went from Punjab to U.K. in 1968, when he was 20 years and became a British citizen. He is an active labour party worker and elected continuously as a councillor since 2001 till today. He became Deputy Mayor in 2008-2009 and Mayor in 2009-2010. He was granted Indian Visa in the years 1978, 1981 and visited Punjab. But was denied in the year 1997, when his brother was seriously ill with cancer and died. Again in the years 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007 he was granted visa.
Since 2007 his visa case was constantly persuaded to Government of India by Ms. Fiona Mactaggart a Labour Member of British Parliament for Slough. In the year 2009, Sardar Tarlochan Singh, former Chairman, National Commission for Minorities and M.P. stormed the Upper House of Indian Parliament, taking up the discrimination against Sikh NRIs in the name of Undisclosed Black List. In reply the Government admitted that in one year 150 people with valid Visas were sent back from Indian Airports by the Immigration Staff. A few days later, he was granted visa and visited India in 2010. After so much hue and cry many more names have been deleted from this Black List, but it still exists.
Since a long time, the Indian government has a surrender policy for those involved in several offences attracting capital punishment for the dangerous dacoits, Kashmiri youths, Naxalites who have been offered even police jobs. But harassing, humiliating, blacklisting and blackmailing innocents put a question mark, whether there is any rule of law in India for the Sikhs who do not have any criminal antecedence?
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2012, All