Nov 1, 2016 marked the 32nd year of the fight for justice for the victims of the 1984 state-sponsored Sikh genocide. More than twenty organizations including civil rights, religious and youth organizations marched in a rally from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar with banners and placards and actively participated in a public meeting at Jantar Mantar to demand that the perpetrators of all forms of state terrorism be punished.
The public meeting was opened with a speech by S Raghavan, President of Lok Raj Sangathan who emphasised that over the past 15 years, LRS had played a steadfast role in holding the yearly rally. He said “Some feel that the deliberate killings of Sikhs in organized acts of violence should be forgotten since more than three decades have passed but we will not forget. By that logic, attacks on all communities should be forgotten! That will only give the perpetrators more impunity. We must always remember the grave crimes that were committed against people and who was responsible for them. As an organization, when we first said that the Delhi genocide was state-sponsored, many questioned how the state could attack its own people. But after the Babri Masjid demolition, the 2002 Gujarat massacre and many more cases, the anti-people nature of the state was brought to light. No action was taken even though more than ten Committees and Commissions were formed. Only individuals were investigated and those in command responsibility were not punished.
“In such a situation, what should we do? Should we ask for yet another futile Commission or SIT to investigate the matter? No! We need to come together and demand that people should have power. Today people have no mechanism to demand investigation of those in command responsibility. They need to demand just such a mechanism. I urge everyone to participate in the panel discussion later today.”
Salim Engineer, Jamaat-Islami-Hind said, “We are here today to demand justice not only for Sikhs but for all communities. In Kandhamal, our Muslim brothers were killed. Now the strategy of the state has changed. Instead of large-scale violence, they instigate localized incidents and portray them as isolated cases so that people do not unite in protest against them. But this rally reminds us that we will keep raising our voice. We appeal to the people in this democracy to come together. People of all faiths are being targeted be they Dalit, Muslim or any other. Extra-constitutional organizations like the gaurakshaks are taking law into their own hands. For years, our brothers from Muslim and other communities have been languishing in jails. Encounter killings are rampant. The recent claims by the state around the Bhopal killings are not even legitimate. We must awaken the people and tell the government that until people get justice, there can be no progress.”
Advocate HS Phoolka congratulated LRS for consistently organizing the rally and public meeting every year to demand justice. He said that if the horrors of 1984 had not been repeated, they could have considered forgetting the crimes. But the killing of Muslims in Gujarat, of Christians, of Dalits showed that the attacks on people were regular and frequent. He said that he had been writing articles on these issues and took the firm stand that nobody should be considered above the law. He declared that those politicians who incite violence against people should be made to fear repercussions and that people would fight till this is achieved.
Inderjeet Singh from the Sikh Forum also joined in congratulating LRS for taking the initiative in organizing events to remember 1984 for the past 15-20 years.
Shirpal Singh from the Jan Sangharsh Manch pointed out that state violence has increased after 1984 and that LRS has always raised its voice to demand that the guilty be punished. He questioned the authority of the Supreme Court when it claims that the government has closed the doors of justice and concluded that the state machinery is set up to deny justice and not grant it.
From the Social Democratic Party of India, Aslam said that LRS had always been organizing such rallies and programs and while congratulating LRS urged it to continue its work. He criticized the fact that laws are applied in a discriminatory manner depending on whether one wears a turban or has a beard etc.
Mushwik Khan from the Association for Protection of Civil Rights reinforced what earlier speakers had said and stated that there has not been much improvement from 1984 till now. He narrated how many people had attempted to lodge FIRs during the 1984 massacre but only five FIRs had been lodged. He also clearly stated that Muslims and Dalits are being made the targets of state-sponsored violence.
Jagdeep Singh, MLA from Harinagar said “32 years have passed but LRS has kept the voice of justice alive! This is worthy of congratulations. But the voice which we should have strengthened is dying down. During ’84, I remember that we had to go to the police station to identify dead bodies. There is no justice for the victims of massacres. MLAs are jailed for the smallest of offences but there is no punishment for the perpetrators of state violence.
Kashif Ahmad Faraaz, Youth Awakening Movement, related the story of a woman in Trilokpuri who went to look for her two sons who had gone missing in 1984. When she approached the butcher’s shop, she saw that their heads had been hung in the shop. And yet, there has been no justice for the victims and their families while state mechanisms are continually used to suppress the people.
Com Santosh from the Communist Ghadar Party of India brought out the treacherous nature of the Indian state which awards those who organize acts of violence with the example of Modi who is now the Prime Minister of India after having perpetrated violence in Gujarat in 2002. He highlighted the hollow nature of our democracy which formed India and Pakistan on communal lines. He questioned whether people should expect justice from such a system since it is unrealistic to expect the guilty to punish themselves.
Com PK Shahi from AIFTU (New) said that riots have been organized consistently in India after 1947. He warned that people have to think and question as the masks have been removed from the faces of the perpetrators and urged everyone to move forward unitedly in protesting injustice or else things would worsen.
Parvez Ahmed from PFI congratulated LRS and said that justice delayed is justice denied. He too agreed that those who run the country organize state-sponsored terrorism while portraying people as being communal. People are locked in jail for years and unless the guilty are taught a lesson, such violence will be perpetrated again. He extended solidarity by saying that people from the Muslim community are with those who fight for justice.
Siraj Talid from the Welfare Party of India expressed his gratefulness to LRS for organizing the event. He described the brutality of the events of ’84 in which burning tyres were placed around the necks of people and women were beaten, raped and killed. 35,000 people died while the perpetrators walked away scot-free. He said “Remember justice is not given by the strong to the weak. It is only given between equals. We must come out and fight for justice.”
Chepal from the Bhagat Singh Ambedkar Students Organization said that communal violence is a black spot on any democracy. He said that such violence was a planned conspiracy and that the current atmosphere was like ‘an undeclared emergency’ in which students are thrown in jail for sedition when they fight for their rights. He brought forth the examples of Rohit Vemula whose university had declared him to be a terrorist, the raping of Dalit women in Haryana etc. He said that institutional impunity needs to be ended and narrated how students who fight for their hostels, against violence and for their rights are called anti-national. He said that Najeeb Ahmad had been missing for 14 days and they were fighting till date for investigation to the violence prior to his disappearance. He said that people could not expect anything from an unjust administration and that their organization supported the cause of the families of victims of 1984.
Poonam from Purogami Mahila Sangathan pointed out that acts of violence are committed to suppress the struggles of people. She said that when people stand up for their rights, they are suppressed and women are the most vulnerable. She expressed sadness that the widows of 1984 are struggling to make ends meet with no compensation having been received from any government. She said that the only way forward was for people to come together.
Mohan Singh from the United Sikh Mission said that he was grateful to LRS for supporting the struggle and that only the truth should be made to prevail.
Sucharita from LRS summarized the rousing interventions by the speakers and said that power is currently vested only in a handful of business houses. Terrorism is used to incite wars against the neighbours of India and against its own people and innocent people are killed. The media is owned by the big business houses. In such a state, demanding justice from the State is futile. We need to demand and fight for a system in which we will bring justice and not those who rule us.