On October 21 1984 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated;
within the next four or five days nearly three thousand Indians were
slaughtered by fellow Indians and the vast majority of killings were
in the national capital. But whilst Indira Gandhi's assassins have
been hanged two years later the killers of the thousands have
not only not been punished but the nation continues to honour them
by making them ministers and holders of party office with senior
positions. Many are also likely lo be given tickets
for the forthcoming elections.
These killers have no remorse of any kind fortified as they are by
their leadership at the highest level—Prime Minister Narasimha Rao was
the Home Minister in 1984. In stark contrast we need to recall the
massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on Vaisakhi Day in 1919. Unbelievably in
the House of Commons the most uncompromising of Imperialists Winston
Churchill stated: "However we may dwell upon the difficulties of General
Dyer upon the critical situation in Ihe Punjab upon the danger to the
Europeans throughout the provinces— one tremendous fact Stands out I mean the
slaughter of nearly 400 persons. That is an episode without parallel in
the modern history of the British Empire —we have to make it absolutely
clear that this is not the British way of doing business."
Dyer was removed from his command and not long afterwards was a
broken man; only a few days before his death he turned to his wife and
said: "I long to meet my God so that I may ask whether I did right or
wrong at Amritsar !" One wonders whether the strong man of the Delhi
Congress H.K.L. Bhagal and the others involved experience any sense
of remorse or will ever be punished.
It needs to be mentioned here that the 1984 killings (why do we
call them riots '?) were the largest since the massive obscenity of the
1947 religious Slaughter and comparable to the holocaust by some of our
invaders centuries ago. Jawahar Lal Nehru said in one of
his letters to Mountbatten dated June 22 1947 (quoted he one of the
twelve volumes of Transfer of Power, published by Her Majesty's Stationery
Office) that "Human beings have an amazing capacity to endure misfortune.
They can bear calamity after calamity, but it is very difficult to have to bear something,
which can apparently be avoided. it is curious that when tragedy
affects an individual we feel the full force of it, but when the
individual is multiplied a thousand fold, our senses are dulled and
we become insensitive."
The nation is aware, but strangely silent, about the savagery
indulged in by her cohorts and the party in power in the wake of the
assassination. Thousands of helpless men, women and children, who
were pulled out of running trains, were butchered by rampaging mobs.
We have had any number ot committees, commissions and judges making
recommendations to render justice, handing out the severest
strictures on a partisan and criminalised police rnree.
Throughout the carnage, Delhi's policemen either made
themselves scarce or stood by while mobs set fire to defenseless
human beings, some even participating in the orgy of violence. In
the Lajpat Nagar area of Delhi on November 1, when a group of
concerned citizens tried to organize a peace march in support of
Hindu-Sikh amity, a police jeep blocked the way and the police
officials demanded to know if the marchers had official permission.
In Trilokpuri, scores of witnesses have testified that policemen
were seen supplying diesel oil and petrol to arsonists. These are
but a few examples of the perversity of those in majority and in
Sikh educational institutions and several large and many small
houses were burnt, movable property, cash and jewellery stolen or
destroyed. Factories and business premises, together with machinery
and stock in trade, were looted, damaged or destroyed. A
disturbing feature of this is—according to the report of the Citizens
Commission headed by former Chief Justice of India, S.M. Sikri that
for the first time in the history of mob violence in India, a
systematic attack was made on places of worship. Of about 405 gurdwaras
in Delhi, some three-quarters were damaged or destroyed.
The gurdwara in my colony was extensively damaged and much
desecrated. And on 1st November there was a murderous mob of about
two hundred goons, inspired by the ruling party, in front of my house—many
other houses of the same community were similarly targeted—baying for
our blood. My family and I were on the rooftop and, militarily speaking,
we had a tactical advantages being on high ground. Our ammunition were
pieces of broken glass from windows and broken pitcher pieces used in slings
(catapults) hastily assembled to give 'battle', we also had a toy gun to
threaten the mob. However, the mob moved on after shouting obscene slogans
and exhibiting obscene gestures. I have always been reminded of the hymn
that we used to sing in school, Sacred Heart School, Lahore, over six
decades ago—"With sling and stone he slew", the Biblical story of David and Goliath !
Over the next four days more than 3000 Sikhs died at the hands of these
mobs in Delhi. Most died gruesome death—burnt alive or hacked to
pieces. The carnage spread lo neighbouring states as well.
In Uttar Pradesh, more than a thousand Sikhs were reported
killed in cities such as Kanpur, Lucknow and Ghaziabad. In
Haryana, the death toll exceeded a hundred. In Bihar, the
toll rose to 300. Many Sikhs were also slaughtered by
well-armed mobs in Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh
and Maharashtra. The Congress party ruled in most of these states.
V.N. Narayanan, in his volume, Tryst faith Terror (page 24),
October 31 to November 3, completed the cycle of
tragedy and trauma of 1984. The Indian nation was at
its worst in displaying anli-Sikh barbarity
and at its best in expressing shock and outrage
at the savagery. The Sikhs of Delhi would never
forget the farmer and could never stop
savouring the latter. It would have brought
home an important lesson. It was the Government
and the ruling party that let loose the barbarians,
but ordinary people were trying to protect the
innocent targets ..."
There are a few lines in William Dalrymple's volume, City in Djinns—
A Year in Delhi, which warrants mention here. He says:
"When the outside world first discovered the Trilokpuri massacres, long after
the rioters had disappeared, it was Block 32 that dominated the headlines.
Dogs were found fighting over piles of purple human entrails. Charred
and roasted bodies lay in great heaps in the gullies: kerosene fumes still
hung heavy in the air. Piles of hair, cut from the Sikhs before they were
burned alive lay on the verandah: hacked-off limbs clogged the gutters ."
A social function a couple of months ago, attended by retired judges,
retired senior bureaucrats, vice-chancellors and several authors and
intellectuals, commenced with a ten-minutc kirtan by eight young girls and
one boy in their pre-teens. The children's parents had been slain in Trilokpuri
by 'inspired' mobs. Some of these children must have been toddlers in 1984
and unaware of the happenings fourteen years ago. They rendered two
shabads on this occasion with a stoic but fearless expression.
The first was from Guru Gobind Singh's Epilogue to Chandi Chariter:
translated into English it runs thus:
"Grant me this boon O God, from Thy greatness.
May I never refrain from righteous acts.
May I fight without fear all foes in life's battle.
With confident courage claiming victory !
May my highest ambition be singing Thy praises.
And Thy glory be grained in my mind !
When this moral life reaches its limits,
May I die fighting with limitless courage !
The English translation of the second shabad, which brought many tears,
was as follows:
"This world is a transitory place.
Some of our compatriots have already gone, and some day
the rest of us will also have to go. This world is camly
a tempolary abode."
As someone there remarked after these children had left,
this shahad was fraught with humility and fatalism.
And lastly, when a wound is not healed—when basic justice
is denied —it festers and when iestcring is not taken care of,
gangrene sets in, and then surgery becomes the only remedy. Let us
learn from history, for history is a cruel stepmother and when
it strikes it stops at nothing ! As media reports have revealed.
past memories still haunt the victims of the 1984 massacre— and
efforts to bring the guilty to hook face stumbling blocks.
The Delhi High Court, fourteen years after the offence was
Committed, has upheld the death sentence on Kishori Lal on 16th
October, 1998; he was given the sentence two years ago by a
lower Court. But there is another coun of appeal and we would be
in the next millennium before the final 'outcome'. Kishori Lal,
a butcher by profession, scythed down his terrorised victims
with unhurried venom. For him it was apparently just another day at
the office. Only, this time his victims were not of the porcine kind !
The treatment given to criminals is the index of morality of a
society. A society, which shows leniency to criminals—in this context
a very designed leniency—becomes a slave of criminals.