NEW DELHI, August 17, 2016: An extraordinary move by PM Modi’s Office is sure to make thousands of Sikhs happy. The 32-year old Government blacklist that banned Sikh NRIs from 212 families to visit India has been scrapped and in election-bound Punjab, this move was much appreciated by the community, mentioned a leading news portal.
The blacklist affected most of the non-resident Sikhs who were residents in the UK, US and Canada. It was the Congress Government who made the blacklist after the Operation Bluestar in 1984 and the 1985 Kanishka bombings.
As known to all, Operation Bluestar was brought into effect under the order of PM Indira Gandhi. The operation took place between June 3- 8 June in 1984 and it was to remove Sikh militants who were accumulating weapons in the Harmandir Sahib Complex (now Golden Temple) in Amritsar, in order to establish control over the place.
The blacklist was brought into being as Sikh militants were spreading terror back then. As a result, Sikh militant groups were investigated for the bombing and there were several arrests in Canada. Explosives on the board of a Boeing-747 aircraft, Air India’s Kanishka that was flying the Montreal-New Delhi route resulted in destruction. 329 passengers, who were Canadian-Indians in the majority were killed while it was over Irish airspace.
Sources said the decision of the Government to remove the blacklist is likely to be headed by the additional secretary of the home ministry who had examined the blacklist, and 212 cases of a total of 324 were removed, reported ET Bureau.
Apart from that, remaining cases were examined and removed from the blacklist as well bringing relief to many NRI Sikhs. The officials who were in charge of the decision did not want to be identified.
Further, the ET bureau reports mentioned that the Intelligence Bureau have opposed the decision of removing the ban. During PM Modi’s visit to UK and Canada, there were several representations from Sikh NRI groups who urged him for the reconsideration of the India travel ban for Sikhs. Therefore Modi’s office delved deep into the matter. As a result, a committee was set up after which members of Intelligence Bureau was asked to reexamine each case minutely.
When detailed case studies were done, it was found that the names that were jotted down in the blacklist were random and that without investigation entire families were included in the list who had no connection to the incident. Apart from that, the surprising part is that the blacklist was never publicly acknowledged. Therefore for all these years, there were numerous visa denials and Sikh NRI communities were barred from visiting India. This led to the rise of thousand of voices who termed the act as systematic discrimination.
NEW DELHI: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday attacked the Narendra Modi-led central government after the prices of cooking gas was again hiked, asking him to “vacate the ‘Sinhasan’ (post of the Prime Minister)”.
“Mehangi gas, mehanga rashan. Band karo khokala bhashan. Dam bandho kam do. Warna khali karo sinhasan (Expensive gas, expensive ration. Stop making hollow promises. Fix the rates and give employment or else vacate the post),” Rahul Gandhi tweeted attaching a news report of the hike.
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 email@example.com)–IANS