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1984 George Orwell's 1984 Alive in India

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by IJSingh, Aug 20, 2009.

  1. IJSingh

    IJSingh United States
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    Writer SPNer Contributor

    Sep 24, 2004
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    India and Indians now tell us that 1984 was a mere blip on the stellar record of the world's most populous democracy.

    What a difference 25 years make?

    In June 1984, when the Indian army attacked the Harmandar (Golden Temple) in Amritsar and 40 other gurdwaras across Punjab, the government was able to ring Amritsar and Punjab with two of the heaviest security cordons even seen.

    No one - certainly not a Sikh - was able to cross it. No news filtered out on the fate of the thousands of pilgrims gathered in the Darbar Sahib for the commemoration of Guru Arjan's martyrdom.

    Brahma Chellaney, a reporter who was caught in the mayhem, tried to report on it and was charged instead with sedition.

    In 1984, the Indian government exerted absolute and full control over all media - press, television and radio. Rumours abounded but not an iota of news filtered out of Punjab.

    The world has changed and how.

    In recent weeks, Iran has been in turmoil. But, despite its best efforts, the Iranian government failed to put a curtain of isolation around the country. The news filtering from there kept us glued to our televisions day and night.
    Thanks to technology that did not exist in 1984 - the ubiquitous Internet, Cell phones, Twittering and You tube - the whole world knew what happened on the streets in Tehran as it happened. The eyes of the world were and are upon Tehran, and the government is held to some restraint and worldwide embarrassment.

    Less than six months after the army attack of June 1984, the Indian prime minister was assassinated and a reign of terror was let loose over unarmed Sikhs in Delhi and many cities across India. Once again, Sikhs were held up as the face of terrorism by the Indian government - in total disregard of the truth. And the world believed it.

    The world has changed for the better. The iron control that was possible in 1984 can no longer happen. The way the Indian government was able to portray Sikhs as terrorists across the world is no longer possible. The ignorance that most Indians still live in about what exactly happened in 1984 would not exist.

    My Indian friends never tire of labeling the period "those bad or unfortunate times" that happened 25 years ago. The ball and chain of the past will only hold us back, they say. The new mantra is that India is now on a fast track of moving forward and even the financial troubles that plague the developed world can't tie India down.

    Already the deniers of history tell us the "troubles" of 1984 lasted only two days in Delhi. The reason that not more than a handful of people have been charged with the wholesale killings of Sikhs over those two days, they claim, is because a really monumental tragedy never happened. Perhaps a handful of people died. In any case it was anti-Sikh rioting - spontaneous because the country's beloved prime minister had been assassinated by Sikhs.

    Yes, I, too, am tired of listening to the same old litany of half-truths and distortions. I won't dwell on the history. It is quite well established. Within six hours of the assassination of India's Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, in 1984, truckloads of armed thugs materialized in Sikh neighbourhoods. They had lists and addresses of Sikh-owned homes and businesses. They were armed with kerosene and weapons. They went on a spree of killing, burning, raping and looting. No Sikh was safe anywhere in India's capital city and many other towns and cities across the country.

    Two days later, as if obeying an unseen commander, the frenzy stopped. Where were the police and army for two days? Safe in their barracks, of course. The government admitted to the death of over 2700 Sikh men, women and children in Delhi alone. That comes to better than 1300 victims for a 24-hour day or a shade over 50 per hour - almost one per minute.
    And all the victims were unarmed. In 1984-India, trucks were not easily available; kerosene was rationed, requiring standing in lines for ever; and lists of addresses were and still not easily assembled. In those pre-Google days, one could not download addresses at the touch of a button.
    India has never shown such remarkable efficiency. To put a genocidal killing spree together within hours speaks of a sea change in management skills that has not been seen before or since. That's why I don't label it anti-Sikh riots. There was no spontaneity to the violence. Riots they were not.
    The next step was monumental in its deception. The new Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, signed an agreement with Sikh leaders promising to hold an inquiry and bring the guilty to trials. There have been over ten Inquiry Commissions in the past 25 years. Only a handful have been arrested for killing several thousand. In the meantime, evidence continues to degrade and disappear.

    I think any government that treats its own citizens with such callousness has no right to govern.

    Yet, as our friends tell us, we must move forward. The ball and chain of the past will not save us.

    So, what is now for us to do?

    The past is a prologue to the future. Without our connection to history, we become like an untethered balloon floating off to somewhere we may not want to go.

    But the past must not hold us back, fixed in one place in time and space. In our personal lives, there is many a story that would be embarrassing to relive. Often they leave an indelible mark in our lives. Wouldn't it be nice if we could rewind the clock and expunge such times? If it were only so easy.
    To move beyond such horrendous sins requires that we face them, acknowledge them and atone for them. And then we can carry forward with us the lessons learned.

    How then to accomplish all that?

    World opinion would likely not come to our aid all that readily.


    Because global realities and geopolitics tell us that India is the only counterweight to China, the only possible competition to China's growing heft in Asia. Also, we need to keep the Islamic world in check - it sits astride the world's oil resources and has access to a nuclear arsenal as well. India is ideally suited geographically and strategically to help us manage that stalemate.

    To deny the logic of the injustice done to the Sikhs would be Orwellian. It does not wash. One can't escape the irony in that the India born George Orwell named his fiction ("Nineteen-Eighty-Four") for the year to which India and its bureaucracy gave its evil life.

    The Indian judiciary, though not entirely independent, can deliver a modicum of justice.

    If that seems too awkward, perhaps a "Truth & Reconciliation Commission" would suffice. But that requires some truth and a lot of honesty, no matter how embarrassing it turns out to be. Many countries, besides South Africa, have tried this route successfully.

    The way of such a Commission need not be embarrassing; it could even be liberating. Many nations - Sierra Leone, Argentina, Bolivia, Guatemala, El Salvador, Chile, Timor and Peru have trod this path. India and Pakistan need to.

    From such a step, honestly undertaken, neither the Indian government nor the Sikh leadership is likely to emerge unscarred and unscathed.

    I think of all the times that we Sikhs have been accused of acting without patience and having gone too far. Now I know that we have been patient long enough and that we did not go far enough.

    Now 25 years and 10 Inquiry Commissions later I would say: Never let the story die.
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  3. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    Mentor Writer SPNer

    Oct 6, 2006
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    As a survivor of the Delhi Pogrom, I feel the need to say a couple of things.

    First, we did get out of Punjab in June 1984. I am sworn to secrecy as to how because someone may need to do the same someday.

    Second, the Pogrom continued past two days. The violence was less after that but no less tragic. My family got killed after the two days.

    Personally, I want to see the ringleaders hanged. Just confessing and saying "Sorry" isn't enough. I have grown beyond where I was, however; I used to want to see them tyred. In fact, I wanted to do it myself. Now I just want to be rid of them.

    I would accept a Peace and Reconciliation thing, but reluctantly, because that is the only way we'll ever get anything approaching justice. And because I am a Khalsa and know that the desire for vengeance is to be overcome.
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  4. kroypatcha

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    Feb 23, 2009
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    Out of all topics in SPN Newsletter #3, this topic attracted me. May be due to curiosity to know, what happened on my birth year, 1984. After reading, I want share few of my views.
    1. Fellow Indians are not responsible for killing of innocent Punjabis. As Punjabis others also innocent. It should be agreed by every learned man/woman, all violence (against innocent) happened due to false politicians. What is the benefit a false politician gets? Answer is simple, in times of Indra Gandhi majority (80%) India don’t have alternative. Ex: in my state AP Congress was the only party. By nature of human, people support what they know than unknown. We voted for Congress even in 1984.
    Same story for 80% India, so what do you think a false politicians do? "Simply showed Punjabis as villains, and showed their self (false politicians) as heroes by attacking Punjabis". At that time AP voted for congress, but there were no bad incidents against Punjabis in AP. In fact Punjabis can be found even in small towns of AP, they do lot of business here (Rich people). Sometimes local people feel, Punjabis as selfish people. Because of Punjabis won’t talk with us in our language. Even though Punjabis earn & stay here. They force us to talk in Hindi. Some people even try to make us learn Panjabi.
    Anyway, I don’t try to make all Punjabis responsible for this.
    2. As per my understanding, Gurus of Punjab fought for India and its people. If some people with Pakistani weapons comes to India (even if they stay in temples, masjids etc), we should fight them. Don’t forget in Kashmir our army attacked many masjids to eliminate weaponed Pakistani/influenced (Punjabis (in army) also involved in these attacks).

    PS:: sorry, I am not good in writing. Thanks for reading.
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