India 1984 – when it backstabbed and betrayed with Sikh nation (Part-6).

Brutality on women by Indian forces 

TAVLEEN SINGH tavleensingh@expressindia.com

Posted online: Sunday, October 31, 2004.

It’s hard to write an article that appears on October 31 without remembering that it was on this day, twenty years ago, that Indira Gandhi was shot dead in her garden by two Sikh policemen. With the return of the Gandhis to the political limelight there will be many this year who will remember Mrs Gandhi, many who will pay fulsome tributes, many who will glorify her reign. How many will remember the pogroms that followed? Almost nobody is my guess even if we now have a Sikh Prime Minister and an uncompromisingly secular government. Not even the Communists with their daily petulance over perceived communalism will dare remind the government they control that justice still has not been done. It’s the one event that even the most ardent secularists choose to forget which is for me a constant puzzle.

In the many years I have spent reporting wars, riots, caste killings and other violent events on our sub-continent, I can remember nothing that matches the horror of those first three days after Mrs Gandhi was killed. For those of you who were not there or may have forgotten, let me help you remember. Within minutes of Mrs Gandhi being shot, my news editor rang me and asked me to rush to the hospital where she had been taken. By the time I got there they had already closed the gates of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and although there was no official announcement of her death till late that afternoon we found out within the first hour. Despite All India Radio pretending all day that she was still alive news of her death spread through the city quickly but on the first day there were no killings. There was tension, an ominous, heavy tension but nobody, and especially not ordinary Sikhs, had any idea of what was going to happen. The most that was expected were a few stray incidents of violence.

I worked at the time for a British newspaper and they wanted me to go to Amritsar the next day to gauge the mood there. By the time I returned on the afternoon of November 1, I could see the fires from the airport.

There was chaos at the airport because there were no taxis since most Delhi taxi-drivers were Sikhs and the mobs had started burning them alive. When I finally managed to get a ride with a Tamil gentleman, our taxi was surrounded on the way to the city by a mob with petrol soaked rags in their hands. ”Any Sikhs in the car,” they grinned as the Tamil gentleman looked nervously at me. By that night armies of killers roamed the streets of Delhi looking for Sikhs to kill and Sikh properties to burn. For the next two days, the mobs were allowed to murder, loot and burn while the government sat back and watched. By the time the Army was ordered out, the streets of Delhi were littered with bodies and the burned out remains of trucks and taxis with the charred, corpses of their drivers at the wheel. Nobody bothered to pick up the dead because there was no room left in the morgues and one of the images that continues to haunt me is of a dog eating a human arm in a Delhi street.

More than 3000 Sikhs were killed in two days in the city and then in a couple of hours it was brought to a sudden halt. All it took to stop the carnage and the savagery were a handful of soldiers in the streets with orders to shoot at sight. The mobs melted away as they would have done on day one if the government had wanted them to.

Anybody who believes that what happened in Narendra Modi’s Gujarat was the worst communal violence since Partition does not remember what happened in Delhi in the first week of November 1984. It was our first State-sponsored pogrom and if we do not acknowledge this then we must recognize that attempts to bring justice to the victims of Gujarat is mere tokenism.

It is wonderful that the wheels of justice, that Modi and his murderous thugs tried to stall, are moving again. May every murderer, rapist and thug be brought to justice so that we never have another Gujarat. But when will those responsible for what happened to the Sikhs in 1984 be punished for what they did? I ask the question rhetorically because I know the answer is never, but justice of some kind must be done if we are serious about ensuring that no government in future ever gets away with pogroms against its own citizens.

Of course swift and severe justice is the best way to ensure this but swift justice is not possible from a justice system that will take 350 years to clear its backlog of cases. Besides, Prime Ministers and Chief Ministers are unlikely to be tried like ordinary criminals so the way forward, in my view, is for our shiny, new, ”secular” government to set up something similar to South Africa’s Truth Commission. Let men like P V Narasimha Rao (Home Minister in 1984) and Narendra Modi and all the officials and policemen who failed to do their duties come before the Commission and answer for their failures. Let those who saw their husbands, brothers and sons burned alive come forward and publicly identify those who led the mobs.

Let the new ”secular” government put its secularism where its mouth is and convert the toothless Minorities Commission into a powerful Truth Commission. It is the least we can do for the thousands of innocents who died because two Sikh policemen assassinated Mrs. Gandhi.

 A day after former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her Sikh security guards 20 years ago, crowds of mobs barged into Sikh women’s homes, dragged their husbands, sons by their hair, set fire to them and then bludgeoned them to death.

“My husband, my son was snatched from my lap and was killed. I had six brothers, they were all killed their sons-in-law were killed. My sons-in-law were killed too. At least 18-19 people of my family were killed. My entire family was killed. I single handedly brought up these small kids,” screamed Jassi Bai, a grey-haired woman on crutches who lost her entire family in the riots.

As India marks the 20th anniversary of Gandhi’s death on Sunday, about 800 Sikh women widowed in an orgy of anti-Sikh violence after the assassination, are still seething in anger.

Living in tenements in a corner of Delhi often called “Widows’ Colony”, all the women tell horrific stories of bloodthirsty mobs “necklacing” their family with burning tyres, setting their turbans on fire or beating them with iron rods.

“It’s understandable and all right if you punish the guilty, irrespective of whether he is a Sikh, Hindu, or Muslim. If he has committed the crime, then by all means punish him, kill him. But what did all the Sikhs do? My only plea is give us justice, we want justice,” said Ravel Kaur, as she sobbed, sitting next to a photograph of her slain husband in her ramshackle glass shop in New Delhi.

With their beards and distinctive turbans — their religion prohibits men from cutting their hair — Sikh men are easy to spot in India and all over the world.

The government says about 2,733 people died in the wave of killings aimed at the Sikh community after Gandhi was shot dead by two Sikh bodyguards seeking revenge for her decision to send the army to flush out Sikh separatists from the Golden temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.

But activists say about 4,000 people were killed in the riots, said to be the worst religious violence since the bloody partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947.

Two decades and many investigations and commissions later, T.K.S. Tulsi, a lawyer fighting for the riot victims, says only 10 people have been convicted for murder while 500 people have been acquitted and half the cases have been closed by police.

“As it is, under our system, to be able to nail a person who is wealthy or influential is almost impossible. But when both combine, when they are wealthy as well as influential, it is virtually a breakdown of the system. So therefore, we have had virtually no convictions, there have only been a few convictions and victims have got tired. But it is not as if they have got defeated, the victims are still angry and this anger will persist and this will perhaps persist for many generations,” Tulsi said.

Living virtually as refugees in their own country, the Sikh widows — part of a community of about 19 million people — say all they have received in all these years is a 300,000 rupees compensation and dank quarters in the “Widows’ Colony”.

Although two decades have passed, their wounds are still festering because of a host of social problems: their children have grown up with a burning sense of revenge which has driven many into a life of crime and drugs.

Most of the women said they had lost all hopes of ever getting justice after the return to power of the Congress party, who the Sikhs say sparked the brutal riots of 1984. Congress denied the accusation.

Jagdish Tytler, one of the Congress leaders, who has been given a clean chit by the Delhi High court in the riots case, said the anger against him was misdirected.

“Nothing, its all nonsense. I am one person who is not ever involved, directly or indirectly and the High Court has given this notice. And the High Court has given its findings, the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation, – federal investigating agency) has given its finding. I am the only person with no FIR (First Information Report), with not even a complaint against him. It is all a political stunt.”

Few are hopeful even though the country has its first Sikh prime minister, Manmohan Singh. (ANI)

India refuses to learn lessons from its history of communal riots. The sins of 1984 revisited Gujarat in 2002 and are likely to surface again, says Josy Joseph.

THE police looked the other way as politicians led marauding mobs into the city. You could be talking of Delhi of 1984, or Ahmedabad of 2002.

For its very long history, India has an extremely short memory. Uncomfortable events from the past are tucked away into obscure corners. Especially those that involve violent-bursts of passions stoked by religion, caste, politics or plain hatred.

May be it is the greed to move forward to the future that prevents backward looks. But the forward march is more often than not interrupted by another round of bloody sacrifice of innocence. And yet again the nation fails to offer succor to its victims, deliver justice punish the guilty.

Assurance of immunity to the criminal is almost ingrained in the society. Witnesses to bloody pogroms in India grow up without any guilt. Each mob violence is forgotten in the next one.

In just three days, over 4,000 Sikhs were killed in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s most controversial, powerful and longest-serving prime minister. The poorest neighborhoods in Delhi saw the worst riots.

It was an organized massacre of the minority community by politicians and their supporters. Rioters had a free run as the Delhi Police looked away. They ruled the streets as an overwhelmed civil society figured ways out.

Within days of the riots, the usual Indian response was triggered: Commissions and committees, assurances and some stupid political statements, charges and counter charges, and denials by the very leaders who incited the mob to violence.

Hundreds of FIRs were registered by the police. Hundreds more were refused, because the victims wanted to name Congress leaders like Sajjan Kumar, HKL Bhagat and Jagdish Tytler.

Investigations into hundreds of murders were closed by police, they didn’t even make it to courts. Hundreds of murders are yet to be even registered by police.

In 20 years, nine commissions and committees have inquired into the riots. The first one headed by Justice Ranganath Mishra, who went on to become India’s chief justice and later the National Human Rights Commission chief. But the commission was a sham. Statements submitted by widows and victims were made available to the accused like Sajjan Kumar, whose supporters were allowed to file their responses months after the deadline. Years later, the CBI found these statements in Sajjan Kumar’s house.

The latest commission, one led by Justice GT Nanavati, is still to complete its inquiry. The government last week gave yet another extension to him.

By 1990, six years after riots, just one killer had been convicted. Three special courts set up in 1990 were almost shams. One court acquitted over 100 accused within weeks. The exception was the court chaired by judges like SN Dhingra.

Widows and survivors walked the Kafkaesque corridors of Delhi courts for years in search of justice. They were threatened, some gave in. A handful of the Sikh leaders were accused of taking money from the accused.

Through the travails of these victims, Delhi progressed. Apartment complexes, BPO boom and malls – it has been an unprecedented two decades for Delhi as right wing ideology burst into the scene. Hopes of the BJP-led government delivering justice were misplaced.

The past two decades has been an unending trauma for the riot victims eeking out a living in the shanties and crumbling colonies, earmarked for them. For the orphans of 1984, the lost childhood has been replaced by a miserable youth.

In a city that is a comfortable home to political refugees from over 40 countries, the victims of 1984 are forgotten and hidden – like sins.

Delhi has been the graveyard of many an empire: Be it the Slave Dynasty, Lodhis, Mughals or the British. But can modern Delhi overcome its history? Will India survive the curse of history? For a country that refuses to learn from history how bright could the future be?

The answers to these questions lie buried in the lessons of the past. In search of a solution to the endless cycle of violence, Timesofindia.com captures various aspects of the 1984 riots, its victims and responses, hoping that the leaders, authorities, ordinary men and women realize that no cause is worth a life

source: India refuses to learn lessons from its history of communal riots. The sins of 1984 revisited Gujarat in 2002 and are likely to surface again, says Josy Joseph.

THE police looked the other way as politicians led marauding mobs into the city. You could be talking of Delhi of 1984, or Ahmedabad of 2002.

For its very long history, India has an extremely short memory. Uncomfortable events from the past are tucked away into obscure corners. Especially those that involve violent-bursts of passions stoked by religion, caste, politics or plain hatred.

May be it is the greed to move forward to the future that prevents backward looks. But the forward march is more often than not interrupted by another round of bloody sacrifice of innocence. And yet again the nation fails to offer succor to its victims, deliver justice punish the guilty.

Assurance of immunity to the criminal is almost ingrained in the society. Witnesses to bloody pogroms in India grow up without any guilt. Each mob violence is forgotten in the next one.

In just three days, over 4,000 Sikhs were killed in the wake of the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s most controversial, powerful and longest-serving prime minister. The poorest neighborhoods in Delhi saw the worst riots.

 It was an organized massacre of the minority community by politicians and their supporters. Rioters had a free run as the Delhi Police looked away. They ruled the streets as an overwhelmed civil society figured ways out.

 Within days of the riots, the usual Indian response was triggered: Commissions and committees, assurances and some stupid political statements, charges and counter charges, and denials by the very leaders who incited the mob to violence.

To read ahead this post, kindly click here;
https://asrandhawa.wordpress.com/india-1984-when-it-backstabbed-and-betrayed-with-sikh-nation-part-7/

Ajmer kesri

By :- Ajmer Singh Randhawa

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