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Opinion Lost Children Of Punjab: 1984 - 2011


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
The Lost Children of Punjab: 1984-2011

Posted by Mehmaan (Guest)

A couple days ago I was reading some news articles on Hondh Chillar and Pataudi. Some of these articles include photographs from the two big events that took place at Hondh Chillar–clean up of the destroyed gurdwara building and Akhand Paath that took place thereafter in that building. I was talking to a couple friends about what all of this means for us as Sikhs, as youth with a vested interested in all things Punjab but separated from it by distance, and as a generation that, despite a fascination and infatuation with Punjab and Sikhi, seems disconnected to the memory of 1984 in many ways.

I was born a year after Operation Bluestar, no one from my family or relatives were directly affected by the genocide, my grandparents didn’t live close to New Delhi, Amritsar, or any of the other affected areas–Hondh Chillar and Pataudi, for example. As I was talking with my friends, I realized our awareness of Bluestar comes from websites, media, press releases by advocacy groups, a few books and essays, and the occasional speech at gurdwara or elsewhere almost as an annual ritual in June and November. It’s almost a kind of dynamic I can chart out–come the first week of June and November, emotions run high and my inbox is filled with invites to a number of vigils and memorials.

If I view the memory of Bluestar from the perspective of a generation before mine, everything changes. Many of my friends’ parents and grandparents were directly affected in 1984 as victims and/or witnesses. They have a direct connection to and memory of Bluestar. They know what media channels did and did not report, each of them is a walking memorial in a sense.

Then there is the generation after mine, for example, the child whose picture I saw in photographs of the Akhand Paath at Hondh Chillar. Through a peculiar turn of events, all the memories of 1984 have reappeared by the discovery of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi as sites of genocide. This third generation, because of this discovery, is going to build relationship to Bluestar that is much different than mine. It’s actually going to parallel the kind of memory-relationship the generation before mine has. This third generation is living at a time the history of Bluestar is being remade and rewritten. Two generations removed, these children will remember Bluestar with an entirely different dynamic: through sites, like Hondh Chillar and Pataudi. For what it’s worth, the memory of 1984 has just regained consciousness now.

Decades after ’84, with a thinning number of witnesses and victims, I wonder how this third generation is going to remember Bluestar on its 50th anniversary in 2034. What will be remembered? What will be forgotten? Who will speak? Will they look back at what became of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi as two sites that elicited a wave of responses and reactions from Sikhs the world over? Will they reflect on how the individual who discovered Hondh Chillar in 2011 was attempted at being silenced for his activism, and about how his house was raided and he was fired from his job?

What about us though, the generation in between? How will I connect with Bluestar in 2034? What is my role now that the issue, one that is rapidly transforming into a controversy, of victimized sites has surfaced? For all these years, I wasn’t quite sure where I fit in in the discourse of 1984. I felt that my peers and I were the ‘Lost Children of Punjab;’ lost because Bluestar seemed like this somewhat distant past to which I couldn’t really connect and didn’t know what to do about, until a few weeks ago, that is.

For several weeks now, I’ve been struggling to understand sovereignty, and though I’m far from understanding the concept, I now know what to do to see sovereignty in action, and here’s how I see it–the attack on Akal Takht has been viewed as an attack on Sikh sovereignty, for it is through Akal Takht that decisions affecting the entire Sikh qaum are dispersed. If the argument is that only central and dominant built expressions of Sikh sovereignty were under attack in 1984 (Akal Takht, Darbar Sahib, and many other famous gurdwaras in Delhi and Punjab), then the discovery of Hondh Chillar tells us that smaller, non-monumental symbols of sovereignty, i.e. historically insignificant gurdwara buildings and sites like Hondh Chillar, were also under attack.

Ideally, each gurdwara is representative of Sikh sovereignty through the Guru Granth+Guru Panth combination: Guru Granth Sahib as representative of Guru Granth, and a nishan sahib, sangat, and pangat-ready gurdwara building as Guru Panth. Viewed as such, the significance of the attack on Akal Takht, then, is no different than the attack on the gurdwara at Hondh Chillar. So what do we do now that we have at our hands a site that has been relatively undisturbed since it was destroyed in 1984? Do we rebuild it, much like Akal Takht was (twice) after 1984, to a point where its reconstruction denies any memory of Bluestar? How should sovereignty of the Hondh Chillar gurdwara be restored? Who should do it? Given the status and role of the Akal Takht, and then of the SGPC, I see no other choice than to appeal and re-appeal and continue appealing to these two forms of government for preserving Hondh Chillar and Pataudi.

If the purpose of the SGPC is to act as ‘custodian of Sikh gurdwaras,’ then why deny it that title? Its past failed record of preserving original character of buildings has little to do with what we can and should expect it to do in the future. Not pressuring the SGPC to fulfill its title as parbandhak of gurdwaras is to give it yet more time and space to continue neglecting its role as preserver of Sikh sovereignty through the built form. Why not work together to address the future through the SGPC, and demand a change in policy? Just like a legal commission was set up for investigation into Hondh Chillar, why not expect a preservation committee to be set up for it as well?

Though the Hondh Chillar gurdwara was historically insignificant (compared to, for example, Fatehgarh Sahib) in 1984, in its current state in 2011, it is by far one of the most significant and original sites in the contemporary Sikh world. It is my direct connection to Bluestar, a hundred times more than Akal Takht or any of the other gurdwaras affected in 1984. It does not mask mass killing underneath marble, it does not cover impunity in mosaics, and it does not conceal injustice under frescoes. Every time I look at photographs of Hondh Chillar, I know I am no longer a lost child of Punjab.


Gyani Jarnail Singh

Sawa lakh se EK larraoan
Jul 4, 2004
The "authorities" are trying their level best to whitewash and paper over the open wounds of Bluestar and after that...All attempts at establishing a Worthy Monument at DARBAR SAHIB COMPLEX, or even at PRESERVATION of BULLET HOLES and Other Collateral damage to the darbar sahib Complex, harmandar sahib and Akal takhat were TWARTED by the SGPC under orders of the "powers that be"...

Now overzealousness to construct a "monument" at Hindh Chillarr - a god forsaken village off the beaten tracks in far away haryana where practically no one ever visits is an attempt to divert attention AWAY from DEMANDS to raise a suitable monument at Darbar sahib Complex which is deemed to be not politically correct/ embarrassing to the authorites in power at the Centre and in Chandigarh...and there is avery distinct possibility that even the supposed Hindh chillarr Monument will turn out to be a case of HOT AIR being blown for the SGPC Elections in mind and will be soon relegated to the dustbin of history to join the others already there like the Khalsa Heritage Project, 300 Khaksa Anniversary Defence University etc etc. When Political Will is missing/dishonesty is emphasised/politicans know they cna get away with anything/wild statements etc..then NOTHING can be done.japposatnamwaheguru:



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