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1984 Where Have All The Men Gone?

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by Admin Singh, Nov 3, 2009.

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  1. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    On the surface, the line of two-room dwellings on a dusty street in west Delhi appears little different from thousands of other roads in India's crowded capital.
    The paint flakes off buildings' walls and the grass grows in parks that haven't been mowed in months. Kids play cricket in the street, fruit and vegetable sellers push their wooden carts through narrow lanes and women busy themselves with housework and cooking. What sets this impoverished community apart is one remarkable absence: men.
    C-block, or the "Widows' Colony," as it is more commonly known, is where Surinder Kaur, 65, lives today after she sold her house in Sagarpur and moved next door to her sister Harjinder Kaur, 57, a few years ago.
    Every morning, the women have tea together in a two-room house, where the only picture is of a newlywed Harjinder and her husband, killed 25 years ago in one of the darkest chapters in Indian history.
    The Widows' Colony in Tilak Vihar is a cheaply built and neglected cluster of homes, which were given by the government to hundreds of women and their children who survived the anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984.
    But as the grim event's 25th anniversary arrives, crime, addiction and prostitution have taken root in what was supposed to be a survivors' safe haven. Residents say this is because of the damage to the mental health of children who were witness to their parents' and siblings' murders and who grew up in impoverished homes and weren't given any medical help - physical or mental - for their problems.
    "They'll slice a blade right through you if they know you're new to the area," warns Harjinder. "Even the autorickshaw drivers refuse to come here."
    Devender Singh, 26, an unemployed drug addict whose father was killed before his eyes in 1984, says his brother was murdered in the colony a couple years ago and that it's likely he'll meet the same fate. "We're all thieves and addicts here," he says. "When you get no work, what else will you do?"
    The lawless attitude of the young people is an echo, residents say, of India's broken justice system. The young people saw no punishment for the crimes committed against their families, so they see no justice for the crimes they'll commit in the future.
    The anti-Sikh pogroms were four days of mayhem in the northern parts of India, particularly Delhi, in which armed mobs set fire to Sikh homes and businesses, killed unarmed men, women and children and attacked gurdwaras, Sikh places of worship. The violence, which left almost 3,000 people dead, was a reaction to the assassination of the country's Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, on Oct. 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards, Beant Singh and Satwant Singh. Earlier, in June, Gandhi had approved Operation Bluestar. [An ill-conceived mission with political goals, but carried out on the pretext of going after Sikh separatists. Thousands of innocent pilgrims who were in the complex to commemorate a high holiday were massacred during the indiscriminate army assault.]
    Surinder Kaur was at her home in Delhi when the murderers broke in. Diwali, the biggest festival of the season, had just ended, but she and her husband had left the lights around the house up. In just 15 days, their eldest son was getting married, and the celebrations were already getting under way.
    Then a mob of more than 2,000 people descended on their middle-class neighbourhood, killing dozens of Sikh families and burning alive Surinder Kaur's soon-to-be-married son and husband with petrol from the family's motorbike. "It's like a cyclone came through our lives and ripped it apart," she says. "We've never celebrated another festival since."
    [Belying the appearance that the mobs were merely responding to the death of a beloved leader - Indira Gandhi was anything but; she was widely hated for her dictatorial stint after suspending democracy in the country, and had only recently spent a stint in prison for corruption - it quickly became apparent that the mobs had initially selected the most vulnerable areas, that is, the poorer parts of west and north Delhi. The unfolding events revealed a much more organized pattern, spreading strategically across the city, including upper-class and diplomatic neighborhoods.]
    Eyewitnesses have repeatedly told stories of the police looking on as rioters murdered and raped, having gotten access to voter records that allowed them to mark Sikh homes with large Xs, and large mobs being bused in to large Sikh settlements.
    "On Oct. 31, there was primarily looting and arson attacks," says Jaskaran Kaur, co-director of Ensaaf, a U.S.-based nonprofit that works in the predominantly Sikh state of Punjab. "On Nov. 1, you see that everything happened very methodically - there were simultaneous attacks following similar patterns where the gurdwara was often attacked first before the residences and properties, and the death squads were able to make extensive use of state infrastructure like buses and trains."
    Despite this, the army was not called in until days later. "We saw what they did and who did it," says Surinder Kaur. "We saw the local politicians marking up our homes. At the time, we didn't know what it was for."
    But while 10 official commissions have been set up over the years to investigate the events of the four days, only a handful of minor convictions have been made, and not one major politician or police officer has been convicted.
    "The justice system is based on evidence, and people are scared to come forward or are persuaded not to," says political analyst Amulya Ganguli. During the riots, Jaskaran Kaur of Ensaaf says the government "worked to destroy a lot of the evidence about who was involved with the killings by refusing to record [first information reports] or name those that family members mentioned."
    Instead, in March 2009, India's Central Bureau of Investigation filed its final report on the pogroms, clearing Jagdish Tytler (a Congress Party leader), one of the accused who had major political ambitions and was announced as a candidate for Indian parliament elections in 2009. Tytler had been accused of leading mobs of thousands during the riots, and though he was named by several eyewitnesses, he was ultimately exonerated because of a purported lack of ‘concrete' evidence.
    Hundreds of Sikh protesters gathered outside the courts afterward, and Sikh journalist Jarnail Singh threw a shoe at Home Minister P. Chidambaram during a press conference in April, following the Minister's obfuscating remarks on the matter. The Congress Party was forced to drop Tytler, and another accused, Sajjan Kumar, as candidates for the election to protect its image.
    Outside of India, too, Sikhs have been making a consistent effort to get more international attention to the lack of accountability for what happened. In the 2005 elections in Britain, the country's million-strong Sikh community banded together to make it a campaign issue.
    For the 25th anniversary of the event, advertisements by Ensaaf - showing an old woman wiping away her tears, with the words, "25 years ago, our loved ones were burned alive in front of our eyes," and in the next line, "Why has India, the world's largest democracy, denied us justice?" - are scheduled for the month of November in the San Francisco Bay Area's transit system.
    But many Sikhs in India seem to have been quick to move on. While there is still a large community waiting for justice and, in some cases, compensation, the deep distrust that once existed between the community and the Congress Party has dissipated. The party has been in power in Punjab for many years, and party chief Sonia Gandhi - daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi - helped by formally apologizing to the Sikh community in 1998.
    In September, India's cabinet also extended a $1.5 million rehabilitation package for victims - a pittance according to any standards. Many, however, feel that more compensation - which was insufficient and delayed to begin with - is not the answer.
    Jaskaran Kaur suggests starting with a truth commission, a special prosecutor's office and a wide range of services, including rehabilitation of family members, physical and mental services and acknowledgement of the event in the form of museums, history books and convictions.
    "Apologizing doesn't amount to much for family members unless the state is going to acknowledge its role in the massacres and then take serious steps for accountability."
    For Surinder Kaur, it no longer matters. The safe haven provided by the government made her community unsafe a long time ago. "We haven't allowed our children to mix with anyone in this neighbourhood," she says of the Widows' Colony. "One day, they'll get out of here, and there will be a new beginning."
     
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  3. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Its quite sad that these people have become criminals but one thing is surprising is that
    about mental health of children who had seen the killing of parents.1984 was not the only massacre that happened to sikhs. In 1947 Almost all the sikhs of west punjab were direct and indirect victims of riots.many had seen killings of their entire family ,but still that did not stopped them from succeeding in life .Majority of rich sikhs outside punjab are children or grandchildren of them.

    So what stopped these people from moving on in life?
     
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  4. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    the modern generation is not strong in Sikhi..moral values...thye cannot fight adversity as welll as the older generations did..
    Proof; NOT ONE SIKH..admitted to CONVERSION...in the 17th/18th/19th centuries despite horrendous tortures .NOT even CHILDREN as young as age FIVE.
    Many converted in 1947..BUT still not that many. Many thousands preferred an honourable death rather than cut hair or become muslim.

    Today..given half a chance many many more will cut their hair..and convert..just to save their LIFE. many have done that..cut their hair etc simply for the sake of marrying a girl who demands that...so who says these wouldnt do that IF faced with horrendous torture !! Mere look at the knife and they will say..cut it..cut it but dont hurt me...Such types are only a hair breadth away from CRIME and DRUG abuse...proof is in the pudding in India today...just look at PUNJAB...
     
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  5. harbansj24

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    Gyani ji,

    I basically agree with your theory.

    Another cause could be that Sikhs by natural instinct are Faujis or army men. But Babu Jagjivan Ram as Defence Minister brought in a policy that blocked the recruitment of Sikhs into the army in large numbers by bringing in the rule of population based proportional recruitment from different states.The argument was that this would discourage coup in the army from people of any rebellious region.

    This caused a major loss of natural career for Sikhs. So, many took to petty trade which they were not very good at and hence demoralisation and consequent loss of strong religious attachment set in.

    Lal Bahadur Shashtri had invented a slogan "Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan" . During that time this was highly applicable to Sikhs. But later Sikhs had stopped being Jawans and also Kisans because they started hiring agricultural labour from Bihar.
     
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  6. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    Not to be too hard on Punjabis, Sikhs, or Punjabi Sikhs! This is seen everywhere, each generation becoming softer and less able to stand firm on values than the one before. You know that here in the US a very popular book was written called The Best Generation. That was the generation of my father and mother. They were born during World WAR I, grew up in the Great Depression, fought in World War II and the Korean War, and then worked like slaves to build their lives from scratch in the 1950's. It was a generation that was tough and completely lacking in self-pity -- perhaps too tough and too indifferent to broader issues, such as nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, too willing to fall into line, too willing after 2 wars to ignore the plight of the rest of the world. However, their children, my generation, do not stand up, are weaklings by comparison, and the generations later are focused so much more on feeling "satisfied" at every turn. I don't think we should single out Sikhs. Something more is needed to get at the core of why so many are so de...moralized. I wonder a lot about this..
     
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  7. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Not all sikhs are fauji by instinct.Infact majority of victim's of do not have military back ground.Sikhs in Delhi are known as good businessmen or others are good in education
     
  8. harbansj24

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    The Sikhs who were the targets in Trilokpuri, kalyanpuri and Sultanpuri, given half a chance would up taken up work in the army at the lower rungs in the 60s or early seventies rather than be engaged in artisan type work.

    The Sikhs who excel in Business generally have Pindi, Peshauri or Khukherani backgrounds (Popularly known as "Bhappas"). It was this class of Sikhs whose businesses were severely affected but being highly enterprising and flexible, they bounced back without much complaint or nursing any long term grievance. They are also the ones who are in control of majority of Singh Sabhas in Delhi and also DSGMC.

    Those in education or other civil services are genarally from Lahore, Lyallpur and Sargodha background.
     
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