84 POGROM GROUP INTERVIEW
Let me first explain my purpose – my broad sense is that since the 84 Pogrom no Delhi Sikhs whether from among the victim families or others have been found to have engaged in any acts of revenge, hate crimes, anti social activities that could be linked to lingering hate or resentment among them. They have sought rehabilitation, they have expressed their disenchantment with the political party generally seen to be the instigator to cause the atrocities to be committed, they have sought justice, they may have held peaceful civil demonstrations to press resolution to their demands and their leaders, voluntary groups may have lobbied in their interest but violent activities have not taken place.
What happened – how is it that the Sikhs who in Punjab continued their violent struggle, while in Delhi where the nature of pogrom so clearly pointed to an organized attempt at using genocidal methods to bend a self respecting, brave community, the aggregated response, in retrospect seems to have been such as to diffuse or subdue hate and not let revenge or hate crimes drive Sikh response for 25 years.
My initial assessment is that the efforts of various relief and justice seeking bodies was to bring succor to the victim families, help their rehabilitation, pressure Government to act and pursue cases for punishing the guilty. They all aimed at additionally creating conditions for restoration of communal harmony but their primary purpose was relief and rehabilitation.
My purpose in our conversation today is not to revisit the entirety of what and why of the 84 pogrom but only to explore the factors that may have influenced this outcome to happen. . I will follow an informal approach where I would ask a question and would seek your response. We will try and stay to our purpose and not digress too much and I thank you for your co operation in being here and joining me in this exploration. So let us start:
- Did you all suffer loss of a family member during the pogrom? Who & where?
- Did you witness the killing? Share some recollections.
- Your ages then, family sizes, resources, responsibilities?
- Who were the first to bring you relief, security and some sympathy?
- Where were you moved to; in what kind of place; nature of relief provided and by whom?
Let me go back a little and tell me:
- How did you come to the locality where you were in 84?
- Who brought you there & why? Did it help, how?
- Where were you earlier, your occupations, way of life, social setting, connection with Sikh sangat?
- Your connection with Sikh sangat or other Sikhs in your new setting? Others around you – their mix, nature of habitation, relationships, rivalries or other tensions?
Let me now explore another area:
- Were you all observing Sikhs? For how long had your families been in Sikhi?
- Did you do some path? Which banis? Name the bani or some tuk that appealed to you the most
- Did your parents and you try and teach something about Sikhi to your children? What and how explained?
- Do you think that dukh, sukh is given by Wahiguru and we all get some of both but some seem to get too much of sukh or dukh?
- What is your understanding of karma? Bhana Man-na? Shubh karman te kabhhoo neh taroon? Rajai chulli niaon ki?
Let me come back to your life after the pogrom:
- Who were the people with whom you could share your dukh sukh in early stages?
- What were they telling you?
- Were you going to the Gurdwara or any sant dera? What were you seeking and did it help? How?
- What was most helpful – sangat, langar, kirtan, katha, ardas, talking to Bhais, parbhandaks?
- Did any patwantai Sikhs come? What did they talk and say to you in person? Did it help reduce your tensions?
- What message did you seem to get from the Gurdwara and Sikhs – who caused you hurt; what should do or not do?
- Did you listen to mukh vaak and kirtan, katha to try and understand what the Guru was telling you about your condition and what a Sikh should do? What did you hear the message to be?
At another level at the same time
- What did you feel about help or lack of help by non Sikhs?
- Your neighbors – who were they? What did they say? Did the children play together? Did you help one another cooking, baby sitting, shopping, collecting things, in sickness and in joyous moments?
- How did you stay busy? Who helped you find the activity – training, jobs – name the organization?
- What influence your other friends at training or coworkers have in reducing your tensions? In what manner?
- How about the rehab agency, their parbandhaks, volunteers, visitors – how did they help you to get over your tensions?
Now tell me about your school
- Did you join one? Which? Who helped, paid the fees, for books, copies and so on? Any help with tuition – who provided? How did you travel to school?
- How did your teachers, class mates and friends influence you and help you cope with your tensions?
- Did you turn avaara gard, take to drugs or join any other gangs or something?
- How many of your friends took to kirtan, granthie, paathee, sevadar as jobs?
- Were you taunted by other kids, in streets, buses – what words were used?
- Did you think of committing suicide? Why, how, what influences prevailed upon your not doing it?
- Did you feel depressed and sought medical help, help from sants, toonai tapaanai, relief workers, friends family, neighbors?
- Did you feel deeply angry at what happened and your life and thought of revenge or just doing some crazy thing? Did you do something? What – was it a harmless prank or an act of violence?
- Do you think Sikhism allows killing of innocent people in a rage of frustration or anger or helplessness? Did this thought influence you?
Compared to this, what did you think of Sikhs in Punjab embroiled in violence and Sikhs in Delhi relatively peaceful? What could be the reasons?
- Fear of reprisals
- Poverty induced resignation
- Scale of responsibility induced acceptance of daily grind
- Hope of justice
- Expectation that life may improve
- Lot of support from relief agency, Sikh sangat, others in the community
- Do you continue to bear ill feelings? Against whom? Why? How strong?
- If you were to face similar experience again would your response in terms of hate or revenge or turning violent or taking to crime be the same?
- Have you ever thought that your peaceful response is not what others seem to be doing? What feelings does that arouse in you?
- Do you think that whatever happened, whatever mistakes may have been done by various agencies, you tried your best and are satisfied with your role? Is there any thing you could have done differently?
- Do you have any lingering resentment against any body or any agency that may be strong enough to cause you to commit an act of violence? Is it because of passive acceptance or your inner realization that senseless violence does not solve any problem?
- Do you think you have given your children values of ek pita ekas kai hum balak and neh koi bairi naahain begaanaa sagal sang hum ko bann aayee and do you think these values will help them live a life of peace in a strife filled world?
- Are you proud of being a Sikh?
- Are you also thankful that Wahiguru gave you the good sense and courage to live through such a grim tragedy?
- Do you have a message or word of advice for anybody who goes through similar experience?
The meeting was very fruitful and made me learn how sterile and fruitless my attempt at the rationalisation of their detailed response could be. The flow of emotion laced words of the victim widows was rich with experiential wisdom. The ‘how’s’ did not matter to them. The responses came naturally. They did remember ‘who’ mostly those they felt thankful to. Survival – yes was important. Future of kids – it mattered but had to wait for the present to get sorted out. This never happened. Even now we look for help to continue to survive and seek justice.
Hopeless – no! Hopeful – not much. Resigned? Yes, if life allows you to be that!