India Rs 11 Lakh To Design 1984 Riots Memorial


Rs 11 lakh to design 1984 riots memorial

The design of a memorial being built at Gurdwara Rakabganj Sahib to pay tributes to thousands of people who died in anti-Sikh riots across the country in 1984 will be finalised through an open competition.

Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) has asked architects, sculptors, artists, historians, scholars and the general public to suggest a design for the ‘November 1984 Carnage Memorial’. The artist whose design will be finalised will be given an “honorarium” of R11 lakh, DSGMC chairman Manjit Singh GK said.

“Anyone can suggest us a design. But we will not give the memorial the shape of a gurudwara. We are looking forward to some creative design that coveys universal brotherhood, tolerance, compassion, humanity and humility,” he said.

The design will be selected by a group of prominent Sikh scholars, historians and architects.

“The memorial will not be just for Sikhs; it will also remember non-Sikhs who laid down their lives while saving Sikhs. It will be dedicated to army personnel who lost their lives during that period,” Singh said.

Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) had earlier planned to rename a park in Punjabi Bagh in West Delhi for those who lost their lives in the 1984 riots. The re-naming committee of the unified MCD had approved the proposal and the date to lay the foundation stone was also finalised.

The function, however, was cancelled at the eleventh hour.

Tejwant Singh

Rakabganj Gurdwara is the perfect place for the memorial because it is a stone's throw from the Parliament building. I wish the organisers would have it facing the Parliament so anyone and everyone who enters the Parliament would have no choice but have to look at it. This daily reminder should be the centre theme of the design which would be the best homage for those who vanished in this holocaust.

Another thing I have been thinking about is, why has not Akal Takhat added these victims in our daily Ardaas? After all, they are the only ones who have the authority to alter the SRM.

This is the iron shaft still stuck in our hearts and is seething in the furnace of our memory glowing with its crimson colour, a daily reminder to us all what viciously took place by the fiends, who were brethren in arms just a few hours before all Hell broke loose.This event did not happen in the past not too distant. In fact, it seems like yesterday; everyday to me.

Tejwant Singh
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Tejwant Singh

The story did not start in 1984 either. In the article Nostaligia... or Deja Vu? T. Sher Singh lists, exhaustively lists, the chronology. One double-cross after another. The article is worth reading because the number of double-crosses beggars imagination.

I appreciate the thread was started lest anyone forget.

Spnadmin ji,

Guru Fateh

Thanks for the tour to the memory lane. Allow me to share some of my own memories.

I remember the war of 1965 very well. I was 11 years old then and lived it all the way as Ferozepore is a border town. In fact Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev were cremated at Hussainiwala on the banks of River Sutlej in 1931 which became the border village on August 15, 1947, about 10 miles from our home and people still flock at their Samadh- a marker- during the April 13th, on the day of Vaisakhi.

It is a big Cantonment. It had more importance and prominence during the British era though but still is an important military garrison. I was studying at a Catholic-convent/military school, an ironic combination.

We are a joint family. My father’s side and my Chacha’s with Pita ji and Mata ji lived together in the same British style bunglow. Due to my family’s connections in the Army, my dad and my chacha knew three days before India was going to attack Pakistan.

We were told the night before it was going to happen and were told to sleep in the living room which was the safest place in a 3 storey bungalow. My family had also invited some other people from the neighbourhood to stay with us whose places were not safe. There were two Muslim families among them.

We polished our guns with great pride as kids without knowing what the true reason was. It was not because there was going to be a door to door combat but as an 11 year old, a target shooting champion with the 22 rifle, I was very excited about it. I was the youngest to win the championship that year.

My brother-who lives in Vancouver- and I were scolded many times for rushing up the stairs to the roof to look at the Sabre American jets of Pakistan zooming across and throwing bombs. Luckily, they were bad with their aims. They tried to shoot at the oil depot next to the railway station and failed every time.

My family with others arranged food for the Brigade from Ferozepore which also included the Sikh regiment who were on the forefront of the war unlike the Madrasi regiment who were way at the back at the border crossing. The food was cooked at the Saraghari Gurdwara. Brave people used to go to the front lines to serve it at night.

After the war was all over, we came to know that we had taken a town called Barki near Lahore. As it was a Military School I was studying at, the General invited all the school to visit Barki on the military trucks. We were told that there were still Pakistani families living there. The Langar was arranged from the Gurdwara which we took with us to serve the people of Barki.

When we got there, it was littered with Patton Tanks given to Pakistan by the US. We went inside and played around, served langar to the people who were surprised by it and offered us sugar canes as a gift for the gesture.

In fact, there is one Patton Tank still standing on the Topan wala Chowk- The Cannon Crossing- just on the outer walls of Saraghari Gurdwara as a souvenir of the war won. The reason it is called The Cannon Crossing because there are four British era cannons, one at each corner.

Some memories stay with us forever no matter how far in the past the events had occurred and these are some of them that I carry with me.

Tejwant Singh