THE WITHERING WASTE OF BREAKS IN VIOLENCE

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ABSTRACT

I have tended to associate Gandhi with trying to maintain amicability between the fissiparous and divisive impulses and influences that disrupt the sense of calm and peace both within and around us. My interest, for several years, has been to look for faith and interfaith perspectives that in some ways may have resonance with the search for societal peace and harmony and its link to the broader well being of the society.

I therefore have ventured to recount for you a chain of developments and in all likelihood not unknown Sikh experience in 1984 India that deeply traumatized and scarred this community. The event though triggered as part of a continuum of tensions building up and escalating over a period of time, was in the nature of a pogrom that mostly targeted working age Sikh males thousands of whom were subjected to gruesome killing after the murder of Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh security guards.   

In the aftermath of the pogrom, after the initial relief effort by interfaith groups, the long and laborious process of helping thousands cope with their loss and get on with their lives became the burden of the widows of the pogrom. Their stories tell of their inner strength and religious beliefs while trying desperately to keep the survivors able to cope with their unfolding life without turning hostile or revengeful.

They succeeded but partly – many kids could not cope – they became school drop outs, took to drugs, some committed suicide. Some widows also resorted to suicide to end their misery. In spite of over three decades of suffering, no one from among the victims’ families is known to have indulged in any act of revenge, rioting, violent crime, hate incident, terrorism or any other socially disruptive or anti social behavior. That it happened is a fact. That it happened at the continuous urging of widows is little known or appreciated.

So the cycle of violence was broken. There was this opportunity for healing, for justice to be delivered and bring a closure so that memories of haunting nightmares could be tucked away in the layers of shared empathy. But that was not to be.

This is not a lone such example in the world we live in. Just substitute the identities, with few simple caveats, and this narrative can be seen to be playing out in almost all societies in ways big and small.

To the society, a deliberate choice by the victims to respond to selective violence by peaceful overtures may tend to reinforce existing prejudices rather than commending their choice or resolve the underlying issues. The break in cycle of violence therefore is not a development that gets recognized or lauded, much less used as a spring board for catalyzing change.  It is just allowed to wither away!

PREAMBLE

Let me say at the outset that I am not a Gandhian scholar and as such I may not have much to add to your search to further explore Gandhian thought to enrich your deliberations. I have, in my thoughts, associated Gandhi more with trying to maintain amicability between fissiparous and divisive impulses and influences though my interest, for several years, has been to look for faith and interfaith perspectives that in some ways may have resonance with the search for societal peace and harmony. Most of my search has been located in Sikh religious life and its concern for the broader well being of the society – sarbath kaa bhalaa.

I therefore have ventured to seek your indulgence to share with you a chain of developments culminating in a relatively recent and in all likelihood not unknown Sikh experience in 1984 India that has left the Sikh community all over the world traumatized and scarred. The event though triggered as part of a continuum of tensions building up and escalating over a period of time, was in the nature of a pogrom that targeted the Sikhs for being Sikhs and for no other reason. I will try to link a discussion on this event to our subject to see if it raises some points that may merit deliberations by searchers for peace and harmony.

RECOLLECTING END OF AN ERA

I was sixteen, going on seventeen, when Mahatma Gandhi was shot dead in Delhi on 30 Jan. 1948. We lived in New Delhi, opposite Feroze Shah Kotla, where now the Maulana Azad Medical College is located and I remember watching Gandhi’s funeral procession go by with Nehru and Patel standing on the gun carriage as it solemnly made its way to the Rajghat. A few days earlier Gandhi had visited the District Jail, where my father was the Medical Officer, for his evening prayer meeting, an opportunity that I had missed to see and listen to that sage at close quarters.

In the years preceding while in School, I had keen interest in political happenings, which at that time mostly meant the public meetings, demonstrations, protest marches for India to be freed from the British, mostly led by the Congress Party. I recall listening to speeches by the eminent leaders of the time including Nehru, Patel, Azad, Jayprakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia et al. The Congress was in the forefront in negotiations with the Government, again in defending the three Indian National Army Officers tried in Red Fort with Nehru donning his Barrister’s robes as the Defense Counsel and so much else that was happening. The air was electrifying, full of excitement and expectations – of the possible glow of freedom!

In 1946 I finished School from Delhi and went to College at Lahore – something that was the in thing with the young. At the same time my father was transferred to Punjab from Delhi and as the dawn of freedom approached he was again moved – to Lahore. Since Lahore was likely to go to Pakistan, Sikhs and Hindus were moving east to Indian territory. Finally we too made to the safety of Delhi days after 15 August 1947, but in the course I personally experienced two episodes at the hands of rioters, providentially saved in both cases.

We as a family had lost all that we had but were happy to be alive and together. Living in the Capital again, I sensed Delhi had changed. Proximity to Congress Leaders helped and people started seeking them out. Soon the leaders themselves started showing some signs of internal differences and there were others who were not happy with the direction the country was taking. It was around then, even as communal conflagration accompanying the partition had not abated, one evening within six months of the tryst with destiny, the architect of freedom was shot dead and a while later the peaceful Kashmir valley turned into a battlefield. Sikhs, ever true defenders of land, added a minor twist into this picture over the years following.

A PEEP AT THE BACKGROUND

Sikhs as a community and the Indian Central Government, led mostly by the Congress Party[1] since the Country’s independence in 1947, had a certain sub-text of tension in their relations. Sikhs nursed a sense of being victims and the biggest losers due to partition of the Country. They not only had suffered the highest loss of life and property but they were also separated from some of the most sacred of their holy sites left in Pakistan.

Having cast their lot with India, Sikhs also started feeling that the policies of the Government were not likely to answer their expectations. Article 25 of Constitution adopted in 1950 put Sikhs within the Hindu pantheon. In 1956 when most of the Indian States were reorganized on linguistic basis, Punjab was left as is[2]. After persistent agitations, a Punjabi state was ceded in 1966 but the division left many unresolved issues. In a climate of increasing polarization, Anandpur Sahib Resolution passed by the Shiromani Akali Dal [SAD][3] sought a federal structure at the center with more devolution of powers to states, increased pace of industrial development, share of river waters and Chandigarh as the exclusive capital of the Punjab along with some other demands. The Central Government characterized the Resolution as secessionist and went all out to stigmatize Sikhs as anti national in the state controlled media.

The ensuing tense political climate offered the opportunity for Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, the head of powerful Sikh Seminary, Damdami Taksal, to tap into the Sikh discontent and the climate of unrest turned into a wave of violent incidents – attributed by the Indian government to Sikh militants. Allegedly planted at the behest of Giani Zail Singh[4] to weaken the SAD, Bhindrawale moved into Golden Temple Complex in 1982 and in turn became a challenge for Indira Gandhi who ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple Complex[5] to capture or neutralize him.

The assault using the full force of the Army was made on June 6, 1984, the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan when the complex was filled with pilgrims. It caused destruction of Akal Takht, the killing of Bhindranwale and his main associates as well as an unspecified number of Sikh worshippers and Gurdwara Clerics.

Sikhs the world over were shocked by the attack on their most sacred Gurdwara and outraged by the concerted media campaign to paint the community in bad light to justify the offensive by the Army. The killing of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, ostensibly piqued at her ordering the army attack on the Golden Temple was tragic but not unexpected. It however was used to set off a second sequence of mass violence. That is the event and its aftermath that we have picked as backdrop to our discussion.

THE EVENT

The event was a politically inspired pogrom over three days in the Indian Capital in which Sikhs were killed mercilessly, many with their families helplessly looking on, while Police idly stood by. Gurdwaras in various colonies were vandalized or torched. In most localities Sikh houses and businesses were marked to be easily identified and selectively attacked. Those killed were mainly Sikh males in the 20-50 year age-group. The official death toll was 2,733, leaving over 1,300 widows and 4,000 orphans [Kaur, 2006]. More than 50,000 Sikhs left Delhi after the pogrom. The survivors, mainly widows, orphans and old people, moved to relief camps, relatives’ houses and Gurdwaras.

Sikhs felt insecure for a long while following the pogrom. Many families migrated to safety of Punjab or to foreign lands, if they could find a way to do it. A number of families that had left the more affected localities in Delhi did not return to their houses in those areas. Sikhs avoided venturing out unaccompanied and were targeted for special checks by the security personnel, often in rough and intrusive manners. Many parents decided to get the hair of their sons cut in order to avoid bullying and risk to their lives.

MODUS OPERANDI

The attacks everywhere started simultaneously and Gurdwaras were the first targets. Modus operandi was to grab and pull Sikh men out, tear off their turbans, beat them with iron rods or knives, neck-lace them with a tire and set it on fire [Grewal, 2007]. Women and children were spared though some women were killed and many gang-raped, often in front of families. The properties were looted and set on fire. The Congress leaders were assisted by gang leaders from the resettlement colonies set up to relocate slum dwellers during the Emergency. Some Jats, Gujjars and Bhangis also participated in looting the well-off Sikhs.

The Delhi police was conspicuous by absence or if there, in encouraging and even indulging in violence. The police disarmed Sikhs who tried to protect themselves and did not record FIRs after the pogrom. Police vans went around announcing that Sikhs had poisoned the city water supply and that a train had arrived from Punjab full of dead Hindus. Active acts of rumor mongering by Police only aggravated the situation.[6]

WHO WAS THE OFFENDER?

The political establishment and the state controlled media labeled the event as an anti Sikh riot implying it to be a spontaneous violent outburst of mass anger against Sikhs to teach them a lesson for their co-religionists killing Indira Gandhi. Rajiv Gandhi[7] seemed to echo the same line when he matter-of-factly said: ‘Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indiraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.’ Misra Commission[8] appointed by the Government to look into the incidents underplayed the event as a law and order problem with lower castes looting the wealthy with the complicity of police-criminals-politicians nexus.

Soon after the pogrom a non official Citizen’s Commission was formed to investigate into the gruesome happening. Members of the commission were S M Sikri, former Chief Justice of India, Govind Narayan, former Karnatka Governor & Defence Secretary, Badr-ud-din Tyabji, former Commonwealth Secretary, Rajeshwar Dayal, former Foreign Secretary and T CA Srinivasvaradan, former Home Secretary.

The Commission, in its 25 January, 1985 report observed ‘The disturbances in Delhi did not involve  clashes between any two warring factions, each inflicting whatever damage it could on the other. They were entirely one sided attacks on members of the Sikh community and their property, often accompanied by arson and murder, rapine and loot. In some localities the outrages amounted to a massacre of innocent persons.’[9] Commenting on the role of political parties the Commission said ‘eye witness accounts to the Commission have specifically and repeatedly named certain political leaders belonging to the ruling party — accused of having instigated the violence, making arrangements for the supply of kerosene and other inflammable material and of identifying houses of Sikhs —- We have been equally disturbed by the apathy and ambivalence of other political parties — It is a sad commentary on the political life of the Capital that at the moment of its direst need, political activists should be accused of either active instigation or inexcusable apathy.’[10]

Human rights organizations People’s Union for Civil Liberties [PUCL] and People’s Union for Democratic Rights [PUDR] produced a joint report ‘Who are the Guilty?’ containing a list of perpetrators.[11] They opined that ‘far from being spontaneous expressions of madness and grief and anger at Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination as made out by authorities, [it] was rather the outcome of a well organized action marked by acts of both commissions and omissions on the part of important politicians of the Congress (I) at the top and by authorities in the administration.’[12]

Citizens for Democracy in their report ‘Truth about Delhi Violence’ stated that the purpose [of Congress (I)] was ‘to arouse – Hindu chauvinism – to consolidate Hindu votes in the election held on December 27, 1984, which was indeed massively won by the Congress (I).’

Several studies of the pogrom have been made. Van Dike [1996] is of the view that passive stance of Central Government indicates that the pogrom was organized for it by forces that government had created. Kothari [1985] looking at the scale of violence that was unleashed in such a short time, speculates that the attack might have been planned possibly since the Operation Blue Star. Brass [2006] suspects that an institutional riot structure had been readied to be available in Delhi.

Interviews conducted with several survivors in late 84/early 85 by Uma Chakravarti and Nandita Haksar were published as a book in 1987. Veena Das worked on the experience of the survivors of Sultanpuri from November 5, 1984 till July 1985, published 1990. In 2007, two works based on interviews with survivors in Tilak Vihar Widow Colony by Jyoti Grewal and Angela Harlock were published. Personal experiences and recollections of the violence presented in many of affidavits filed were later posted on: www.carnage84.com.

The evidence leaves no doubt that the violence was meticulously planned, well coordinated, directed specifically at Sikh males and executed in almost identical manner in all localities by the party in power. Given this, the most lenient term that may be used to label it would be a ‘pogrom’ – an organized and officially encouraged massacre of minority Sikhs in locations where they were vulnerable. The Home Minister, Rajnath Singh, and others in the present BJP Government have termed the massacre as ‘genocide’ in TV interviews.[13]

The following narration by a victim widow to the author is representative of the experience as it unfolded in her life and is typical of thousands of such stories of victim families still living in Garhi and the Widow Colony.

STORY WITHIN THE STORY

Garhi is a small basti just off of the East of Kailash development in the affluent South Delhi. This small basti, unbeknown to most people living in this neighborhood has been home to about thirty widows of the pogrom against Sikhs in 1984. These women were resettled in small tenements in early 1985 and it was in this neighborhood that they reconstructed their lives. Surjit Kaur and survivors from her extended family moved to Garhi from Gurdwara Nanaksar when they were allotted a tenement there in 1985/6.

Her parents had escaped from Rawalpindi during the riots following partition of India in 1947 and ended up in Gorakhpur, where she grew up and was married in late 60’s when she moved to Nand Nagri to live with her husband Joginder Singh. Her husband had four brothers and they were all together in garment export business. Four of the brothers lived close to the shed where they had installed the machinery required for their business and the fifth brother lived in Ashok Vihar with his family. They employed about 15 persons in their factory and were pretty busy with their growing enterprise.

Surjit Kaur and Joginder Singh had two sons. The four brothers lived together with their families and their old mother in a traditional joint family setting. Between the brothers they had eleven kids, five boys and six girls. Two of the girls were married and lived away from Nand Nagri. The marauders killed all the four brothers and two boys, both in their mid teens. Four widowed mothers were left with four girl children and three male kids – age from 3 to 15 years.

Their experience, as they faced the hostile gangs is hair-raising. Surjit Kaur remembers calls ‘sardar nikalau’ – turn out Sikhs – being made as the hooligans approached. The rumors were already rife that they are coming after Sikhs. Her husband and one son had gone to Gurdwara to find out what was happening and if they could collect there, if needed. The Gurdwara was set on fire at about nine in the morning and possibly her husband and son were killed then. She only saw the fire and smoke rising from the Gurdwara from atop her house.

As she heard the loud voices getting closer, she also saw flames arising from a Sikh house nearby. As she looked on she saw a little boy, two or three year old, son of one of their Sikh neighbor running in panic. She ran out and picked him up and ran back home. She saw her eldest brother in law and her other son and asked them to hide in a steel almirah and shut the doors. But she had to keep opening the doors to get them fresh air to breathe in the air tight container in which they were hidden. Soon the menacing group was at their doors. The calls for ‘sardar nikalau’ were loud and shrill now. She stood clutching the little boy to her bosom. As she stood transfixed, she heard muffled thumps from within the almirah and some smoke and flames rising from around her. She ran and opened the door of the almirah and shouted to her brother in law ‘veer ji, tussi apni jaan bachaao – respected brother, you now run and save your life.’ The gang grabbed hold of the elder, dragged him to the street as she followed him with the little boy. She saw her nephew also in the mix and ran and grabbed hold of him. Then one steel rod hit her brother in law on the head. He fell and more blows started following as if to break each of his limbs. As she looked on frozen in helplessness, she saw her younger brother in law receiving blows the same way. Then one of the gang poured kerosene oil on the shrieking man with broken limbs writhing in pain on the ground and another one sprinkled some white powder and set him ablaze. The last that their eyes met, her brother in law and she seemed to have intuitively realized the inevitability of their total helplessness – there was nothing to say, no signs to make, just endure what came to be done while the two little lives clung on to her – scared, bewildered, traumatized.

To Surjit Kaur and her three sisters in law as also the other women who went through similar ordeals of being witness to such cruelties to their husbands and sons these orgies of inhuman violence seemed to be tearing their insides but that did not matter anymore – nothing did. There was pain. There were deafening shrieks and loud noises of ‘marau, marau’ – kill, kill – by the killer gang. As the flames started to leap, numbness overcame every other feeling. Drained of emotions, she only stood as if watching a scene play out to its grim end – relived millions of times since in its nightmarish fidelity of the ghastly images.

She felt a man with a cut on his face tugging at her sleeve and he took her with the two boys to his home. She does not remember much except cut on his face and his kindness – what she did there or how long she was there. She instinctively headed back to her home and spotted her younger son forlorn standing on the roof. She got hold of him and just held on to the three boys as the day wore on. Later when it had turned quiet a Hindu Brahmin living nearby came over and took her and the boys to his home.

They never got the dead bodies of their six scorched dear ones; nor did anyone else. Remains of those killed were dumped in trucks and taken away. No tending, no words spoken, no feel or touch of their remains or even placing a little rag to cover their half burnt bodies, no rituals or prayers or last rites – all feelings suppressed within, never really vented, no closure of any kind – only dimly dawning sense of struggles ahead and the ponderousness of vulnerabilities of the little lives that so tightly clutched to her – a frightening specter of the vividly daunting human bondage!

SOME BITS OF AFTERMATH & MY SEARCH

In the aftermath of the pogrom, after the initial relief effort by interfaith groups, the long and laborious process of helping the widows and thousands of kids cope with their loss and get on with their lives was mostly undertaken by the Sikh communities, Sikh volunteer groups and Gurdwaras. In this effort the role of the widows was central. Their stories tell of their inner strength and religious beliefs while trying desperately to raise the kids to be able to cope with their life without turning hostile or revengeful.

They succeeded but partly – many kids could not cope – they became school drop outs, took to drugs, some committed suicide. Some widows also resorted to suicide to end their misery. While still struggling with their grief and grinding poverty, the widows have grown into old and tired women and the children have grown into men and women still living in poverty and consciously aware of their grief and grievances.

Yet in spite of over three decades of suffering, no one from among the victims’ families is known to have indulged in any act of revenge, rioting, violent crime, hate incident, terrorism or any other socially disruptive or anti social behavior. That it happened is a fact. That it happened in a world that continues to revel in tit for tat, eye for an eye kind of spiraling hate crimes and terrorist acts is also true.

How did it come about? What happened? Could there be something to learn here for deeply divided world consumed by un-diminishing passion for revenge and hate? Questions such as these led me to explore a bit further to understand this unrecognized and unexplored fallout from a gruesome happening that we as searchers for peace are hungry for.

In this pursuit, I have had great help from Nishkam and the Sikh Forum. Nishkam had been involved with relief and resettlement of the victim families from the beginning and many of the widows were still in almost day to day contact with them. Sikh Forum had been the nodal agency for help and follow up on the problems and issues connected with the Pogrom. Both had a wealth of information, coupled with willingness to share and help organize access with several members of victim families.

COALESCING RESPONSE WITHIN FORLORN HEARTS

My conversations with the widows lead me to believe that they certainly did not entertain any thought of revenge at any time. Their consistent view was that though the perpetrators were mostly Hindus, they were incited and led by political agents and also some hoodlums. The widows again were conscious that those who had tried to rescue them were also Hindus and members of other faiths. As time went by most of the heavy lifting was done by Sikhs but the initial help by and kindness of volunteer activists from other faiths is etched in their minds.

As they slowly started trudging through the daily routines, their resolve received spiritual and ethical strength from the Gurdwaras and Gurbani [Sikh Scripture]. They thought of their responsibilities. They thought of the sacrifices made by the Gurus for the well being of one and all. To them trying to keep their children safe and free of hate became like the call of dharma for this was the only way they could see them adjust to their trauma and live through their deeply scarred lives.

So even as the widows talked about their hurt and did not want the children to forget about it, they also did not want them to become obsessed with hate and vengeance. This may not have ensured that the kids will sense closure – perhaps they did not, nor did the mothers. The kids may have dropped out of school, drifted into depression, took refuge in use of drugs, some committed suicide but none, not one of them ever committed a hate or violent anti social act or crime. The cycle of hate did lose traction. It stopped.

The story lives on today – three decades later. I asked them if it was fear that made them do it. Their response was touching and clear. ‘We lost our husbands, fathers, sons in front of our own eyes. We were dishonored and raped. We were left with nothing. There was hardly a pain and suffering that did not befall us. What more could have been done to us? We were left with the kids, the old and the infirm. They had to be cared for.’ Words are mine, the thoughts were theirs.

They were deeply resentful that neither had any of the prominent organizers of the pogrom been declared guilty nor had they received the compensatory help that the Government had promised from time to time. Peaceful response by them therefore was a deliberate choice, not the result of amends being made by those connected with their plight.

They were also conscious that the Sikh community seemed to have moved on by putting the problem on the back burner – not forgotten but — – kind of attitude. ‘We get called when any protests are planned or our eye witness accounts are needed’ Surjit Kaur had said.

PARALLELS FROM GURBANI

I would at this stage try and look at the direct victims of this mayhem in two parts: those that died and those among the survived whose tragedy was the most excruciating. For this I would draw on two Gurbani sources to try and make some comments.

Guru Nanak has a few compositions that collectively are referred to as Babar Vani. In these verses the experience of victims during the invasion of Babar is relevant to our discussion. The Guru says that the ‘Men whose letters were torn in the Lord’s Court were destined to die’ and die they did. The story of the dead finished with that remark.

The story that the Guru finds poignant is of the women left: ‘The women – Hindu, Muslim, Bhattis and Rajputs – some had their robes torn away, from head to foot, while others came to dwell in the cremation ground. Their husbands did not return home – how did they pass their night?’[14] Night is also a metaphor for life in Gurbani!

It is those women that we are talking of. The widows were deeply scarred, poor, uneducated women whom fate had dealt an extremely hard blow. They struggled to keep caring for their kids and other dependants as best as they could in very harsh circumstances. It is the living of life with such resoluteness that the Guru perhaps had in mind when he said[15]Satheeaa Eaehi N Aakheean Jo Marriaa Lag Jalannih  Naanak Satheeaa Jaaneeanih J Birehae Chott Marannihcall them not ‘satee’, who burn themselves on their husbands’ pyre; O Nanak know only those as ‘satees’ who choose to die by the unending pangs of lonely struggle as they live out their destiny.

That is what I see in those lonesome women. So I talk of their fortitude; their girhee burden [family bondage]; the good people around who in ways, big and small, helped them get past their most difficult and trying times. I also laud their resilient strength, resolve and goodness in trying to live a life serving those whom nobody will own or tend to if abandoned [their dependants]. And yet while doing that, continually telling the kids: ‘no revenge, no violence!’

REALITY CHECK – THIRTY TWO YEARS LATER

So far, the prosecution of cases against senior Congress leaders alleged to be involved in the Pogrom has not been successful nor has the Congress leadership acknowledged the Party’s involvement in the planning and execution of the Pogrom. Hundreds of other cases were closed by the Courts citing lack of credible evidence after long lapse of time. Victims and Sikhs in general seem to have lost hope of justice being delivered.

The present BJP administration has formed a Special Investigation Team [SIT] to look into the major grievance about the lack of delivery of Justice. It was recently announced that at SIT’s recommendation, the Government had decided to reopen 77 cases that earlier been closed by the Courts for various reasons.[16]

The BJP Government also granted additional compensatory aid of Rs 5 lakh [$ 7500] to the families of those killed.

A proposal to erect a memorial to the victims of the Pogrom was also resisted and did not make any headway.

Victims and their families want to get out of grinding poverty and gloom that subsumes their lives but their hopes are fading after thirty two years of struggle.

On the other hand Radical Sikh groups and the influential western Sikh Diaspora would like that Sikhs receive justice, a clear expression of contrition, security for religion, language and culture along with some form of regional autonomy in a federal setting.

The fact is that this issue is far from settled and it can easily be used by a persuasive leader to incite violence. What happens in this case may be worth further exploration but it really is not our subject – it is only an example to point out the difficulties in peace processes.

BACK TO OUR SUBJECT

So the cycle of violence was broken. There was this opportunity for healing, for justice to be delivered and bring a closure so that memories of haunting nightmares could be tucked away in the layers of shared empathy. But that was not to be.

This is not a lone such example in the world we live in. Just substitute the identities, with few simple caveats, and this narrative can be seen to be playing out in almost all societies in ways big and small.

To the society, a deliberate choice by the victims to respond to selective violence by peaceful overtures may tend to reinforce existing prejudices rather than commending their choice or to feel impelled to resolve the underlying issues. The break in cycle of violence therefore is not a development that gets recognized or lauded, much less used as a spring board for catalyzing change.  It is just allowed to wither away!

The question therefore is that if the community and the society at large do not recognize the good in those, who choose to rebuild their lives with feelings of rancor and revenge controlled after surviving a ghastly experience of selective, directed pogrom, how can we ever hope to succeed in promoting such responses among people? If the honor only comes to those who die fighting, then we will keep reaping martyrs that the aggrieved community honors but the society may not want to own.

The other question before us could be if for killing of a mighty one, innocents in thousands can be killed in retribution to teach a minority a lesson, howsoever recalcitrant it may be made out to be, then what is the meaning and purpose of laws?[17]

It is for the strong and more so for the Governments to make the least violent choices when dealing with the weak or the populace. When I say this, most nod in assent. That encourages me to talk more and I relate the role of widows as I see it – the real heroes in a sad and dismal tale populated mostly by anti-heroes.

What do I see? A look of bafflement!

That troubles me. I miss the great Mahatma and his soothing words. So I turn to you all. Thank you.

Nirmal Singh,

Orlando, Fl

Camp New Delhi

21 August, 2016

Edited: 27/09/16

[1] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Indian-National-Congress

[2] http://www.indianetzone.com/49/linguistic_reorganisation_states.htm

[3] http://www.globalsikhstudies.net/pdf/Anandpur_Sahib_Resolution%5b1%5d.pdf

[4] https://www.thesikhencyclopedia.com/biographies/sikh-political-figures/zail-singh-giani

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harmandir_Sahib

[6] This summary is based on a large number of books, and articles including the books, reports, web resources etc. variously mentioned in the text of this paper.

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajiv_Gandhi

[8] http://www.carnage84.com/official/misra/brief.htm

[9] Report of the Citizen’s Commission, 18 Jan, 1985, p. 38.

[10] Ibid, p. 32

[11] Who Are Guilty? Report of a Joint Enquiry into the Causes & Impact of the Riots in Delhi from 31 October to 10 November, PUDR-PUCL, Nov. 1984, Annexure IV. The Congress politicians named include HKL Bhagat, Dharam Das Shastri, Lalit Maken, Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and several others. Police officers identified as complicit include ACP Malhotra, Jai Singh, Rao Ram Mehr, Hari Ram Bhatti, Ravtas Singh, Survir Singh, R D Singh – all SHOs, plus others. The list includes the names of identified ring leaders and perpetrators block by block in various colonies.

[12] Ibid.

[13] http://www.firstpost.com/india/anti-sikh-riots-1984-genocide-several-persons-yet-punished-rajnath-2017149.html

[14] jinh kee cheeree dharageh paattee thinhaa maranaa bhaaee  eik hi(n)dhavaanee avar thurakaanee bhattiaanee t(h)akuraanee  eikanhaa paeran sir khur paattae eikanhaa vaas masaanee   jinh kae ba(n)kae gharee n aaeiaa thinh kio rain vihaanee  – Asa M I, p. 417

[15] Suhi M III, p. 787

[16] http://www.tribuneindia.com/news/nation/centre-reopens-28-anti-sikh-riot-cases/287454.html posted August 30, 2016.

[17] It may be recalled that India has experienced political murder of three Gandhis [M K Gandhi, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi]. The law did take its course in all the three cases and the perpetrators were punished but retributive killing was additionally served only on Sikhs.

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