Thursday, July 12, 2012

1984: "History" brushed under the carpet?

I recently watched this very moving film, Amu, which is based on the 1984 riots in Delhi, India. The movie is available for free on YouTube. Here's the link. I strongly recommend each one of you to find time for this 1 hr 45 minute eye-opener so that we realize the atrocities and the inhumanity that our current generations of people are capable of. It is a very simple tale but the stark reality of the events slaps you so hard in your face that you wish you didn't belong to these times. 

My belief that genocides and pogroms ended with the closing chapters of the history books on World War II was shattered when the Godhra riots happened in Gujarat in 2002. I was too young to make any sense of the Babri Masjid violence in 1992. The incident did come up every now and then on the mainstream media, and hence, I have some knowledge on the issue. 

However, I am ashamed to admit that being a Delhi-ite, in Delhi for so many years, I had absolutely negligible information on the anti-Sikh riots following the assassination of the then prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. All that was ever discussed, told, was that she was assassinated by her own body guards who were Sikhs, and then there was some obvious back lash. The extent of the brutality and political support with which this "obvious" backlash was carried out has escaped history books, and almost all other kinds of media and even journalism. 

After watching the movie, I tried to dig up more information and was astonished to find out that politicians had openly - on the streets and on national TV - instigated and encouraged the genocide. Apparently, no cases were filed in police stations, a few that reached courts were never judged, and those three days of macabre have been blacked out from the consciousness of most Delhi-ites. Nobody talks about it. I read some of the most disturbing accounts where whole families of Sikhs were uprooted. I also went back to history to read about the separatist movements in the Sikh community and the ongoing tension during the time. However, nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify state sponsored violence. 

I spoke to my parents about this. We all were in Delhi at that time. I was all of 1! Mom and dad tell me that there was fear among everyone, not just Sikhs alone. Mob violence is blind - it spares no one. Only a couple of hours later, when they saw truck loads of Sikh families being dropped off at the nearby gurudwaras, did they realize that it was the Sikh community that was being singled out and targeted. They told me how everyone knew it was state sponsored, voters' lists were circulated, kerosene provided from state pumps and how mobs used to come back for Sikh families hiding with the neighbors. This all went on for three long days. Mom tells me how all the neighborhood women used to prepare food to smuggle to the gurudwara without being noticed; and the men in the society guard the gates all through the night to ensure none of the Sikh neighbors were hurt. She said they often used to wonder if neighbors are helping and strangers are feeding, then who are these people who are killing?

This particular movie was never allowed to be released in India - we all know why. For those very reasons, apparently, no reasonable literature exists on 1984. Talk about democracy, freedom of expression, and then brushing "history" under the carpet. Since no such chapter exists in history, we will never learn from it. That is my greatest fear.

[Image source: Google Images]


  1. Very well written. Writer Khushwant Singh aptly described this as a "pogrom".

  2. This was a really nice read. I have heard stories of the riots - mostly from my relatives & family - some of whom fleed the country as well. I was less than a yr when it happened, so I obviously, have no memories of it. Have you watched "Shanghai"? You might like it. It is a good window into how our politicians operate and how corruption actually stems from the top - no matter what our leaders say..

    1. Thanks. Will check out SHanghai.

  3. True story and many are still alive to tell it. The sad part it nothing has been done , none of the people were brought to the book.

    So many died , I have some very personal stories to tell on this, it was a planned murder in delhi where Hindu's were got together to kill any SIKH visible on the street or in their own house ..

    same happened in gujarat where muslims were made the target ..

    lot has been written-said-video's but end of it NO ONE gets punished that is the hard truth..

    It is sad, but the govts wish and all its force could not get rid of the sikhs and they never will, even the mughals could not do that..
    whats more sad is that if we look at history, sikh gurus gave their life to save others always and the khalsa was created for the same reason .. YET politics is such a dirty game that it has made everyone a foe of each other ..

    1984 was a genocide..

    Dangiyaan ch ujjad gaye jihne de suhaag
    sut dindiyaan sandookan ohle oh paraandiyaan
    uchiyaan imartaan de supne na dekh
    jadon aunda hai bhuchaal eh gir jaandiyaan


    1. It definitely was a genocide. and agree with you on how politics has ruined so many lives and relationships and continues to do so...

  4. Nice review...

  5. Awesome! I'm checking your blog after a long break and found some wonderful pieces.Thanks for the movie link.

  6. Hey,

    You write pretty well, and am sure u must have heard a lot of this :P

    I agree that its sad enough to have a genocide, more sad was that it was state sponsored and worse is that no one was and will be prosecuted.

    Infact, most of the genocides happened in India have the tag of government's sponsorship, Some or the other.


I appreciate you taking out the time to share your valuable opinions! They mean a lot!


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