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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom 15-yr-old Sikh-American Ruminates On 1984

Discussion in 'Sikh History' started by Aman Singh, Dec 1, 2009.

  1. Aman Singh

    Aman Singh
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    Jun 1, 2004
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    In modern society, thousands cannot be killed without the world knowing about it.

    Yet just 25 years ago, over 3,000 people were killed and tortured in the streets of New Delhi and other parts of India and hardly anyone seems to know about it.

    In November 1984, government officials incited mobs to kill thousands of innocent Sikhs in response to Indira Gandhi's assassination. Hate-filled slogans called for the blood of Sikhs ("khun ka badla khun") on government-run radio and television channels. The police stood by and watched as the Sikh president of the country, Giani Zail Singh, was attacked by the mobs.

    Although Giani Zail Singh remained safe in his bulletproof car, India's failure to protect its own President made it clear that the average Sikh citizens were in a world of trouble. The involvement of the government and police in the carnage reminds me of the following Urdu couplet:

    When the gardner himself set fire to my nest, the leaves that were supposed to protect me themselves started fanning the fire.

    The State did not just participate in planning this massacre, but also justified it afterwards. For example, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi explained, "When a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little." This heartless response has been quoted by Sikhs repeatedly over the past 25 years.

    Despite the inhumanity of people like Rajiv Gandhi though, we must maintain our own humanity.

    For the past quarter century, we have continually been asked to forgive and forget. We have been repeatedly encouraged to stop dwelling in the past and mourning the dead. Just this past May, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh advised against keeping the issue of 1984 carnage alive.
    I agree with the first half of the statement. We should forgive. As the Guru Granth Sahib says, forgiveness is divine.

    It appears clear that forgiveness is critical.

    As far as forgetting the past and moving into the future is concerned, I believe that it is our past that must guide our future. We need the past to better understand reality and to help prevent future tragedies. Forgetting is dangerous, because when we forget, the same problems recur, just as they have in Gujarat, Rwanda and Darfur.

    In order to progress, we must first educate ourselves and then move on to educating the world. If people around the world had known about the Sikhs, the 1984 massacre in India would have been recognized across the globe. In fact, racial prejudice against us still exists, just because people do not know who we are.

    We must take initiative by writing books, giving speeches, and building the events of 1984 into school curricula.

    The Tiananmen Square standoff in China, where the death toll was far less than that of Delhi, is taught in every high school in the country.

    The book Night, by Elie Wiesel, is a first hand account of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany, and is commonly assigned to high school students.
    If we can expose the government's attempts to cover up the size and scale of the massacre and effectively counter government propaganda, many more people could understand the real nature of what happened. Once people begin to understand, then hopefully there will be a drive for interventions that can change the lives of widows and orphans who continue to suffer to this day.

    In order to tell people our story, we need them to listen. We want people to hear what has happened to us and feel our pain, yet we ourselves do not feel the pain of others. How many people, including myself, have ever thought about the atrocities being committed in Darfur at this very moment? Hundreds of thousands have been tortured and killed, and millions are still displaced. How many of us shed a tear when more than 800,000 were butchered in Rwanda in less than two weeks in 1995?

    Our Gurus have taught us to value every single life. Bhai Kanhaiyaa's message was that we should connect with all of humanity. Our tradition teaches us to stand up to every injustice.

    On this 25<sup>th</sup> anniversary of the events of 1984, we must remain in Chardi Kalaa. Within months after the Vadaa Ghalughara (Great Holocaust) in the 18<sup>th</sup> century, Sikhs bounced back and drove out Ahmed Shah Abdali.

    Similarly, soon after losing most of the Khalsa at Sirsa and Chamkaur, we captured Sirhind and most of Punjab.

    Despite recent attacks on the Sikhs, we have prevailed. We have rebounded with vigour and remain in the spirit of chardi kalaa.

    Some would say that Guru Gobind Singh lost the battle of Chamkaur. Yet he wrote the Zafarnama, an epistle of victory, to the tyrant Aurangzeb. He lost all his family, his army, his supplies, and all other material possessions, yet to him, these losses did not affect the spirit of Sikhi.

    The Sikh principles that our Tenth Guru established could neither be affected by Aurangzeb then, nor by the Indian state centuries later. We must realize this, and live in chardi kalaa, always moving forward defiantly.
    When we reflect on 1984, we should not feel defeated. Rather, we should follow in the great footsteps of our Gurus and ancestors and feel empowered to drive forth change. We must find faith and courage in the fact that we have survived such adversity.

    And are the better for it!
    [Harmann Singh is 15, and a sophomore in high school.]
    Photo of Amritsar 1984, courtesy - SikhMuseum.org

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  3. Mai Harinder Kaur

    Mai Harinder Kaur
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    Oct 6, 2006
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    What Harmann Singh writes is more true than he could know, at least in my case.

    On the morning of 31 October 1984, I was a happy young wife and mother with a near-perfect life, visiting relatives in Delhi. (Of course, I was not perfect, but my living situation was.) My loving, Gursikh husband was a physician and our son was as good as they come. We had a small farm in Quebec that was my domain. It was a great place to raise a son.

    In nearby Montreal, both my family and my husband's lived in peace and prosperity, richly blessed by Guru ji. We had all the pleasurable things offered by Maya.

    By Maya.

    A few days later, I was a widow and our son was dead, as well.

    One of my lives ended.

    And another began.

    Today, I hardly see that carefree young woman in myself. She seems unbelievably shallow to me. Her happiness was the happiness of one who has always had everything handed to her, who cares about others, yet has no idea of what they are going through.

    Today, with the kirpaa of Akaal Purakh I have found - or developed - depths I could not have dreamt of. Great suffering forced me to either fight and live, or give up and die. I stepped off a high cliff and my father, Guru Gobind Singh ji, caught me in loving arms and I have, slowly, slowly healed. My body, mind and heart were broken. But what has been broken, can be mended and made stronger than before.

    I cannot yet claim to be grateful that all this is the Hukam of Vaheguru. Maybe someday. I can say, however, that I am a better person for it.

    Remain in chardi kala!


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  4. arshi

    arshi United Kingdom
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    Aug 20, 2009
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    With young souls like Harmann Singh around, the future of sikhism must be safe and secure.

    Mai Harinder Kaur's brief account is moving. May Waheguru give our sister strength and chardhi Kala - her exemplary submission to His bhana and the resolve to live her life based on true Sikh Ethics and the courage drawn from our Father Guru Gobind Singh Ji is an inspiration to all.

    Rajinder Singh 'Arshi'
  5. harbansj24

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    Feb 19, 2007
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    Yes. We should not forget and we should learn.
    Yes we should not seek revenge, but we must ensure that the main perpetrators never occupy position of power again. Like Jarnail Singh very heroically did this time.
    We must ensure that those innocents who were wronged must be given justice; not justice of revenge (Which is un Sikhlike) but through repair of soul and recovery of spirit.
    We must also remember that Akal Purakh has His own way of dispensing justice. The person who acquiesced in the killing of 3000 innocents was himself blown up into 3000 pieces!

    We must learn that we should never indulge in un-Sikhlike acts of cowardice of our leaders, like not condemning killings of innocent Hindus in the name of Sikhism.

    We must also learn not to allow sacrilege of our holiest shrines like allowing its ugly fortifications, even if it is done by manipulations of top political authorities. We must learn that the responsibilities for this lies with our leaders and with no one else. We must learn to be ever vigilant against such manipulations. Sikhs never allow themselves to be manipulated.

    We must learn to be united and resolve our internal differences quickly and not bicker and take up intransigent positions.

    These are some of the things we must learn and not forget.
  6. arshi

    arshi United Kingdom
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    Writer SPNer

    Aug 20, 2009
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    With young souls like Harmann Singh around, the future of sikhism must be safe and secure.

    Mai Harinder Kaur's brief account is moving. May Waheguru give our sister strength and chardhi Kala - her exemplary submission to His bhana and the resolve to live her life based on true Sikh Ethics and the courage drawn from our Father Guru Gobind singh Ji is an inspiration to all.

    Rajinder singh 'Arshi'
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