Statement of the Lok Raj Sangathan, 27 Oct 2021
Thirty seven long years have gone by since the Sikh genocide that took place in Delhi and in many other cities over several days starting on 1st November, 1984.
Photo caption: A rally organised by Lok Raj Sangathan along with other organisations
On the previous day, the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi had been shot dead, allegedly by her own bodyguards. As if on cue, large-scale mayhem broke out in Delhi, Kanpur, and many other parts of India. Over three thousand people of the Sikh faith were killed in Delhi alone, and thousands more in the rest of the country.
Thirty-six years later, hardly a handful of criminals have been convicted for this horrendous crime – and more importantly, the criminal involvement of those in command of this entire operation, and the heinous role of the political masters behind this genocide have been kept under wraps.
Several governments have come and gone meanwhile, but those guilty of masterminding the carnage have not yet been punished! The demand to “punish the guilty” of those responsible for the genocide needs to be voiced as strongly as ever, not only by the near and dear ones of those who were victims of the carnage, but indeed by all freedom and justice-loving people in India.
It has become crystal clear in these years as to who benefited by the Sikh genocide. By the end of the 1970s and early 1980s the policy of a ‘socialist pattern of development’ had run its course. The big industrial houses and monopoly houses that required the state sector to bolster the basis of the Indian economy had grown rapidly and were now confident of striking it on their own. They were waiting to emerge as a major economic and political power.
Towards this end, the Indian ruling circles wanted to usher in major changes to the economy. The first wave of economic “reforms” that would attack the livelihood and rights of the working people was imminent; however, this meant that the resistance of the people to the inevitable attacks needed to be crushed. The ruling circles used the time-tested policy of dividing the polity to accomplish this.
In Punjab. state terror was used as the preferred method of crushing the youth, the unemployed, the farmers and others who were fighting for their rights. Under the banner of crushing “anti-national forces’”, “secessionists”, “Khalistan terrorists” and the like, the Central Government waged a war against the people of Punjab and India. “Operation Bluestar” launched in June 1984 with an attack of the over 500-year old Golden Temple in Amritsar, revered by all people of the Sikh faith, was indeed an attack on the all the people of Punjab and India. The angry response of the masses of the people to this attack was not only crushed with barbaric violence, but it was also used to whip up hatred against people of the Sikh faith and divide the people of the country. This went on for several months, until the assassination of the then Prime Minister Mrs Indira Gandhi on 31st October 1984.
In the immediate aftermath of the announcement of her assassination, many Congress leaders, including her son Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, made incendiary statements. They basically called for revenge against Sikh people because those who were considered responsible for her assassination happened to be Sikhs. Such a call for collective punishment for an entire community while being unprecedented also had all the hallmarks of pre-planning and pre-meditation.
The home minister at the time, Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao, who is supposed to have been responsible for the safety of common citizens in the city of Delhi and in the country remained characteristically silent while an orgy of violence took place in the streets of Delhi. Several reports have been released of targeted violence and also of mobs being directed by several senior functionaries of the ruling party.
The fact that the mobs were armed with electoral lists wherein people of the Sikh faith could be identified, the fact that the police was given orders not only to deny protection to members of the Sikh faith but also in many instances turned over those who had sought protection to the marauding murderous mobs, and that the carnage went on for over three days before the army was called in to quell the mayhem, all prove that the whole genocide was indeed pre-meditated and state organised.
This gives lie to the propaganda of the ruling establishment that it was the spontaneous act of people who were infuriated by the death of their leader. The systematic victimisation of Sikhs in the eighties actually establishes the fact that the ruling class would go to any extent to quell any opposition to their policies. It also established the fact that the genocide was the conscious act of forces at the highest level who used the entire state apparatus and the party in power to commit this heinous deed.
In the aftermath of the genocide, the Congress Party secured a thumping majority with 404 of the 514 seats for which the General Elections held in December 1984. The absolute majority meant that the hands of the Central Government to implement the anti-people economic program was strengthened considerably.
In the following years and decades, many Commissions of Inquiry set up by successive governments did not succeed in bringing any important persons to book or convict them. Hardly a handful of perpetrators were brought to book. These too were convicted not because of the efforts of the government agencies, but because of the dogged efforts of some of the survivors and human rights activists.
The fight for justice for the victims, their relatives and friends continues to this day. Several officials who obeyed the blatantly illegal orders to deny protection to victims of the Sikh faith were rewarded and promoted.
Since then, whether the governments at the Centre and the states in which the carnage took place were led by the Congress or other political parties like the BJP, none of them took steps that resulted in bringing the masterminds of the carnage to justice. This may be contrasted with the eagerness with which those fighting against unjust laws like the CAA and the recent Farm Laws are attacked by slapping charges of sedition and using draconian laws like the UAPA against them.
Human rights activists and the victims of the genocide have realized in these long years that no organ of the state – whether executive, judiciary or legislature – has the interests of the common people at heart or can be relied upon to protect them in times of need. The ruling establishment, together with the judicial system, has ensured that the perpetrators of heinous crimes against the people evade the punishment that is due to them. If the guilty had been handed out exemplary punishment, this would have certainly deterred others from carrying out similar crimes against the people in future.
Several attempts have been made by those in power and their apologists to silence the quest for justice by asking the people to “let bygones be bygones”. But the events of 1984 were unfortunately only a harbinger of several dastardlier attacks against people of one faith after another – a sinister continuation of the hated colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’. These include the successful conspiracy involving the central government and the state government of UP to permit the demolition of the historic Babri Masjid in December 1992 and the Bombay `riots’ which followed in early 1993; the 2002 Gujarat genocide and many more in between and thereafter.
From colonial times, those who have ruled India have used communal violence as a means of keeping the Indian people divided so that they remained ineffective in their fight against their common oppressor.
It is thus clear that the demand to punish those guilty of organising the genocide of Sikhs in 1984 can not only not be given up, but that it needs to be pursued with increased vigour. The principle of command responsibility should be applied and those responsible for acts of commission and omission with respect to the genocide should be severely punished. Laws should be put in place which can prevent powerful vested interests from using communal divisions and communal violence to divide and rule over the people.
The Sikh genocide of 1984 is a stark reminder that we need to unite to continue and strengthen our united fight against communal violence. We need to put forward the roadmap for the protection of the people of India against the fostering of communal divisions and suspicions by the ruling elite. We need to continue to fight for justice and for punishment to those guilty of organising the Sikh genocide and other acts of state-organised communal violence if we wish to prevent such atrocities in times to come.
The year-long united struggle of peasants from Punjab and other states against the imposition of Farm Laws and the demand that the state should ensure their security and livelihood is a sterling example that when people are united across religion, caste, language and location, they become a formidable force.
Lok Raj Sangathan, born in the aftermath of the demolition of Babri Masjid and the ensuing communal violence has been steadfastly fighting to unite the people against state-organised communal violence and state terror. Not a year has passed without a joint rally being held in the streets of Delhi on 1st November and 6th December at the initiative of the organisation. This year too, a joint rally will be held on 1st November at Mandi House, New Delhi. Let us come together on this day as a determined force to demand justice for the victims and punishment for the guilty.
Unite to oppose the politics of communal division and hate!
An attack on one is an attack on all!