Monday December 11, 2017
Home Opinion 1984 riots: W...

1984 riots: When silence spoke so unmistakably

0
32
Image from archives.deccanchronicle.com

By Sanjay Suri

President Zail Singh could not get through to then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi when he needed most to, when thousands upon thousands of Sikhs needed him to, urgently. It was after all a matter of life and death for them.

“We tried all day,” Tarlochan Singh, press secretary to the president through those deathly days of 1984, and later chairman of the Nation Commission for Minorities, said at an event last week at the launch of the book ‘1984 – the Anti-Sikh Violence and After’ that I have written. I was then eyewitness to much of the violence as a crime reporter with The Indian Express newspaper.

Picture from @HarperCollinsIN
Picture from @HarperCollinsIN

But all day and late into the night the president could not get a word in, Tarlochan Singh said in his startling revelation. That kind of stonewalling between the head of state and head of government was unprecedented. Rajiv Gandhi had been sworn in prime minister on the evening of October 31; his mother, prime minister Indira Gandhi, had been assassinated by two Sikh police bodyguards earlier in the day.

Zail Singh had learnt almost before anyone else, just how direly threatened Sikhs were then in Delhi. “The President was the first Sikh to be attacked,” senior lawyer H.S. Phoolka, who has been campaigning for justice over the 1984 killings, told the gathering. The president’s car was stopped and attacked early in the evening of October 31 while he was on his way to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences where Indira Gandhi had been taken.

The president could hardly have been expecting the new prime minister to display some of the hostility he had encountered on the street the evening before. Because hostility this evidently was; Rajiv Gandhi then undoubtedly was a son grieving over the shocking murder of his mother, but he was also prime minister. Surely, his personal grief was not such that he couldn’t set it aside a minute for the sake of the president.

Rajiv Gandhi
“Rajiv Gandhi (1987)” by Bart Molendijk / Anefo

Rajiv Gandhi’s silence spoke unmistakably; he knew that Sikhs were being attacked all over Delhi the next day but demonstrated that he really did not want to know. Tarlochan Singh believed the president wanted to express concern over the safety and security of Sikhs. But if all he wished to do was to reach out to Rajiv Gandhi over his personal loss, it would still appear hostile to refuse to take that call.

Tarlochan Singh’s intervention at the meeting added a new dimension to a chapter on Rajiv Gandhi in the book, where I present facts to show that the killing of those thousands of Sikhs was backed – at the least I argue – by “passive aggression” coming personally and directly from Rajiv Gandhi.

Yet more inputs arose at the meeting pointing the same way, by way of a glimpse of the personal responses of the Lt. Governor of Delhi, P.G.Gavai. “He wept and wept because he said he had failed,” Capt. J.S.Gill, an associate of Gavai, told the meeting.

Why did Gavai think he had failed? The book records a telling documented fact, that Rajiv Gandhi called Gavai for a meeting at 5.30 pm on November 2 and instructed him that all violence must end within 15 minutes. This was the first firmly decisive step Rajiv Gandhi took. But by then 3,000 Sikhs had already been killed. Did Rajiv Gandhi not know before then that Sikhs were being massacred? What was Rajiv Gandhi ordering Gavai to end, now suddenly within 15 minutes.

The killing, and the loot and arson were in evidence all over Delhi, and Rajiv Gandhi was hardly ignorant of these. He most certainly would want the violence to end on the evening of Nov 2 because among other considerations, world leaders had begun to arrive in the city for Indira Gandhi’s funeral to take place the following day. Perhaps he had a more humane intention, eventually, than preparing a presentable city before foreign dignitaries. But before that meeting with Gavai, no such decisive move came from the new prime minister to end the violence.

Rajiv Gandhi had no doubt delivered a speech calling for peace and harmony. But to share here a thought in the book: “The Sikhs of Delhi did not need to hear speeches on the right thing to do; they needed the right thing done.” This, clearly and tragically, was not.

Gavai too had seen that, how could he not? He was agonized because he found himself powerless to do any earlier what he knew it would take. What as that? And who or what restrained him? Another question answers that question.

In the course of an interview with former police commissioner Ved Marwah, the question arose who had stopped his inquiry from completion at the last minute. Marwah would not answer the question, but he did offer an answer by way of raising the question: “Who else?”

Feature image from archives.deccanchronicle.com

(IANS)

Next Story

‘1984 riots shut our doors to a better life’ (October 31 is the 32nd anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s assassination)

0
25
Indira gandhi
32 years of Indira Gandhi assassination

Located in a dingy and dirty lane, there’s hardly any scope for the sun’s rays to penetrate into Surjeet Singh’s 50 sq yard home. The two room set is the only shelter for him, his wife, four children and widowed mother, to whom the house was alloted after his father was killed in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 — when he was just eight at the time.

“You can see how we are surviving. It has been now more than three decades of the 1984 riots, but seems our lives have remained stagnant. Forget justice, our condition of living has rather deteriorated. The riots shut our doors to a better life,” Surjeet, now 40, told IANS.

 The Widow’s Colony in West Delhi’s Tilak Vihar was established by the government and alloted to the widows who survived as a part of the compensation to victims of the anti-Sikh riots that broke out on October 31, 1984 on the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. However, the present condition of the colony is extremely miserable; power lines hang low, garbage is littered over the narrow lanes and the drains are left uncovered.

Around 3,000 widows were alloted houses in Tilak Vihar but now only a countable are left. Many went back to Punjab while few have settled in other parts of Delhi.

Sixty-five-year-old Kuldeep Kaur, one a widow who has been residing in the colony since its inception, said that she has now learned to live with the traumatic and harrowing past pain but was worried about the future of her children and grandchildren

“I am old now and have accepted whatever was written in my destiny. The riots not just took away life of my husband but permanently closed the scope of leading a secured and decent life. My three children saw their father being burnt alive in front of their eyes; they didn’t attend school. And now, my son drives an e-rickshaw; what future will he give to his children,” Kuldeep Kaur lamented.

Surjeet Singh, who is a freelance photographer by profession, said he saw his father murdered by angry and violent mobs but was too young to understand what was happening. “Imagine a life without a father, how difficult it must have been for the widows to continue their lives with the sole earning member gone. At that time, women were not so educated to get a job. The situation after the riots was very bad,” he voiced.

The riots had majorly affected the children of the widows living in the colony; they got involved in addictions — started taking drugs and surrendered themselves to alcohol –and left schooling.

“Nobody could afford school, even though some went to school they couldn’t complete their education because the dreadful past was too difficult to forget and difficult to concentrate on studies. The boys of Tilak Vihar are actually useless but you cannot blame them,” Surjeet Singh pointed out.

Kuldeep Kaur recalled how their lives changed in a blink; she and her children had no roof to shelter them and had to spend many days hungery. Being less educated, she couldn’t get a job so took up a stitching work to continue her livelihood.

“And this is not just what I have gone through but tale of all the widows in Tilak Vihar. Kamane ka zariya khatam ho gaya hain (our medium of earning a livelihood is closed). Now they (the survivors of the riots) either run autos or have small shops of their own,” she further added.

The survivors pitched that despite knowing under what circumstances they live, there has been no help from the government.

“Its all gimmick by the political parties, whosoever comes to power. They leaders show their face either before the elections or during this time. They show their sympathy, give us false promises and then vanish, no sign of them for a year,” Surjeet Singh pointed out.

Kuldeep Kaur lamented that even the compensation amount which was offered by the government has not yet been fully given to them. She said: “Kishto mein milta hai (we get in installments). Had we got the money in time, our children could have at least completed their education, got a decent job and settled well.”

Surjeet Singh said that he doesn’t expect any monetary compensation — all that he wants is a better life for his children and doesn’t want them to struggle for a living.

“Only those who have gone through this knows the pain. But now, our hunger for justice have also died. We have lost all hope for the culprits to be punished. Every year many journalistst turn up, they talk to us, express their grief and gratitude, but nothing fruitful comes of it,” he replied.

“An earnest request,” Singh paused before adding: “Please do write something that forces the government to take up our case seriously.”

(Somrita Ghosh can be contacted at somrita.g@ians.in)–IANS

Next Story

David Frawley Highlights PM Modi’s Respect for Indian Culture which Pandit Nehru nearly Gave Away to the Marxists

"Delhi elite, which though located in India, kept their minds residing outside the country."

0
34
PM Modi and Indian Culture
David Frawley is the Director of American Institute of Vedic Studies. Wikimedia
  • Nehru had affinity with Communists and Marxists
  • Politically independent India continued to be dependent on the west for intellectual progress
  • Nehru and his followers rejected India’s past and envisioned a different nation away from its important culture

August 22, 2017: India’s culture has been its representative in the global arena. The cultural background of the country can be traced back to thousands of years. The Vedas, written thousands of years ago, still dictate our lifestyle and thoughts.

But this remarkable cultural heritage was infused with Marxism and Communism by India’s leftist leaders. David Frawley, in his recent article, traces the impact of leadership on Indian traditional culture.

But, Pandit Vamadeva Shastri also known as David Frawley- the Director of American Institute of Vedic Studies observes how the exclusive Indian culture was outsourced to the left by Pandit Nehru. “Congress outsourced education and cultural development to the far left, Marxists and Communists, with which Nehru had much affinity,” says Frawley in his website vedanet.com. Nehru was vocal about his different idea of the country that goes away from its genuine culture. Nehru, along with his followers, rejected the Indian past.

Also Read: Padma Bhushan David Frawley points out Christian Missionaries’ assault on Hindu Dharma

Although the country had become politically independent, the intellectual progress continued to be dependent on the west, courtesy of the “Delhi elite, which though located in India, kept their minds residing outside the country.” Traditional Indian culture was criticized by these very people.

Indira Gandhi cannot be said to have continued this trend, but she too “supported the same westernized elite for whom Indian civilization was a dangerous myth to be eliminated for modern progress,” writes David Frawley.

Dr. Frawley also highlights that the influence of Marxism on Indian education was known to very few people in the West. Additionally, the West was also unaware of the socialist stand of the Indian economy.

It was the RSS through the expression of BJP that sought to retain Indian values and culture. But the efforts proved futile as it was perceived backward and antique to stick to Indian cultures. As David Frawley rightly observes, “Much of this was owing to Marxist propaganda that has always demonized its opponents, which the Congress dominated media gladly followed.”

There was hope in 1999 when BJP took the power through PM Vajpayee, but not much changed in the mindset of the nation. Rather, “India fell back into the old leftist rule with a vengeance and a massive corruption and nepotism under the UPA in 2004 that continued for ten years,” notes Dr. Frawley.

The 2014 elections saw the formation of Modi government in India. India’s new leader, Narendra Modi, came to national politics with “the power of vision, personal charisma, a forward development agenda and tremendous work to usher in a new India.”

Modi envisions a technologically advanced India through older Indian ethos. The PM plans on introducing “social media, cashless society, smart cities and a radically improved infrastructure.”

David Frawley acknowledges Modi’s love for Indian traditions. The PM has come up with a lot of programs to help the poor masses of the country. “He is not afraid to be a Hindu or to attend Hindu functions, while at the same time excelling as a modern technocrat,” explores David Frawley.

Modi’s beliefs in Hinduism are not confined to sectarian thoughts, rather, a broad spiritual pursuit of “Yoga, meditation, universal consciousness, and self-realization.”

David Frawley believes that humanity can be inspired through a renovated and revitalized India. The Nehruvian idea of India is slowly dying as PM Modi builds a competitive India in sync with its traditions.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter @Saksham2394


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt. 

Next Story

Seven Decades after Partition: Sikhs in Pakistan Struggle amid Bombings and Violence

Sikhs in Pakistan have been looking to leave Pakistan as their homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam

0
29
Sikhs in pakistan
Types of 51st Sikhs (Frontier Force), now 3 Frontier Force, Pakistan Army. ca. 1905. Wikimedia Commons
  • In today’s period, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities
  • Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty
  • Mr. Singh heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan

Aug 15, 2017: At the age of 11, Radesh Singh’s grandfather left his village in India’s Punjab province to move to Peshawar, which is bordered by Afghanistan in the far northwest of the country.

Pakistan wasn’t even a glint in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah in the year 1901 when the British ruled the Indian subcontinent and Peshawar held the promise of work and adventure.

It has been 70 years since the partition of India, which divided the subcontinent into majority Hindu India and Muslim Pakistan and led to one of the largest migrations in modern history.

Singh’s family have been waging a secessionist uprising in India ever since, demanding unmitigated sovereignty for India’s Punjab state where they command. Singh’s family is neither Hindu nor Muslim but Sikh, a religious minority in both countries. Feeling increasingly less at home on either side of the border, they have been victims of local Taliban violence in the recent years in Muslim Pakistan.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947. Singh stated that poverty kept his grandfather in Peshawar, which was controlled by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribesmen. He said, “It’s not easy to start over at zero when you have very little,” mentioned BBG Direct.

ALSO READ: 10,000 members of Sikh community in Pakistan lack Education and Health: Sikh Leader 

According to Singh, the enmity in the immediate aftermath of 1947 was slightly lower in the northwest. It was followed by decades of peace. The decision to stay in Pakistan appeared like a reliable option at the time.

The Sikhs had lived harmoniously for centuries alongside their Pashtun Muslim countrymen. Singh explains, Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. In the 18th century, they oversaw a dynasty headed by a Sikh ruler Ranjit Singh, whose capital was Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore. He rebuilt Peshawar’s infamous Bala Hisar Fort, an imposing walled fortress that some historians assume is as old as the city itself.

In today’s period, easily identifiable because of the colorful turbans and the surname Singh, Sikhs in Pakistan are among the smallest minorities. As indicated by the CIA Factbook, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 180 million people are non-Muslims which include Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus.

Singh asserted until 1984 Pakistan’s Hindus and Sikhs lived unitedly in northwest Pakistan. Their children married and worshipped together. But after the tragic assassination of India’s Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, the entire scene changed consequently.

“They (Hindus) cut all relations with us. They said Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No difference. They said, ‘From now on, we will be separate from you”, Singh recalled.

Today Sikhs in Pakistan are contending with the government for possession of dozens of Sikh temples (Gurdwaras); however, they have succeeded to restore some of the buildings. The Pakistan government took over the buildings after 1947 and allowed the squatters to remain.

Once a vibrant Gurdwara attended by hundreds of Sikhs, it no longer resembled a house of worship but rather a sweeping courtyard. However, it was until now that two families called it the home, said Singh.

Singh who heads a council representing the Sikhs in Pakistan, said young Sikhs have been looking to leave as the homeland has begun to turn toward radical Islam.

“They want to go to another country, not to India or Pakistan. But every country eyes them with suspicion.,” he said.

He adds, “Even Indians see his Pakistani passport and question his intentions, suggesting he wants to agitate for Sikh secessionism, the battle that resulted in Indira Gandhi’s death and a dream still held by many Sikhs on both sides of the border.”

According to Singh, Pakistan’s slide into intolerance began when Pakistan’s military dictator Zia-ul Haq set the country on the course of Islamic radicalization in the late 1970s with the former Soviet Union’s invasion of neighboring Afghanistan. Jihad became a rallying cry to defeat the communists in Afghanistan.

Extremism aggravated after the 2001 intrusion of Afghanistan by a U.S.-led coalition, he proclaimed.

The tribal areas were steadily caught by Taliban and in 2013 several Sikhs were killed, their limbs cut. Singh said the brutality of the killings and the threats sent thousands abandoning Pakistan.

Pakistan today uses blasphemy as a weapon against minorities and fellow Muslims alike, which is a crime that carries an involuntary death penalty.

“That is why we have a fear in our hearts, that this law can be used against us,” he told.

“In the last nearly 40 years we have been facing the boom, boom (mimicking the sound of explosions) in every city of Pakistan,” said Singh. “In a long time we have not heard any sweet sounds in our Peshawar, but still we love our city.”


NewsGram is a Chicago-based non-profit media organization. We depend upon support from our readers to maintain our objective reporting. Show your support by Donating to NewsGram. Donations to NewsGram are tax-exempt.