A public meeting was held on November 1, 2023, at the Press Club of India to mark the 39th Remembrance Day of the genocide of Sikhs. It recounted the utter horror of the days and nights following the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Marauding mobs massacred Sikhs in Delhi and elsewhere in the country. This was justified by the next Prime Minister of India Shri Rajiv Gandhi at a mass rally in Delhi saying “when a big tree falls, the earth shakes!”
The meeting was jointly organised by the Lok Raj Sangathan, Jamaat-e- Islami Hind, Communist Ghadar Party of India, Welfare Party of India, The Sikh Forum, Lok Paksh, United Muslims Front, Citizens for Democracy, Students Islamic Organisation, CPIML (New Proletarian), Mazdoor Ekta Committee, Purogami Mahila Sangathan and Hind Naujawan Ekta Sabha.
The objective of the meeting was to oppose state-organised communal violence and all forms of state terrorism, to demand the recognition of command responsibility, to demand punishment of the guilty and to create conditions for the establishment of a society where people can live in peace and harmony with the State guaranteeing protection for all without exception.
Sucharita of LRS conducted the proceedings. She pointed out that it has been the bitter experience of our people that acts of communal violence are carried out at the behest of the rulers, the perpetrators never get punished and the victims never get justice. LRS thinks it is important to discuss what happened, why it happened and how to stop its recurrence – how to hold those guilty responsible and punish them.
Mr S Raghavan, President of LRS, then addressed the meeting. We – all organisations gathered here today – wanted to take out a rally on the occasion. But the government is not even allowing rallies condemning the ongoing massacres and bombing of the Palestinian people which is being done all over the world! The observation of the 39th anniversary of the Sikh Genocide is a reminder that we have to keep on struggling for justice and for our rights. Many books have been written upon and movies made about the Sikh Genocide, recounting the utterly dark and despicable days from Oct 31 to Nov 4th 1984 during which over ten thousand Sikhs were killed in Delhi, Kanpur and elsewhere.
The victims haven’t got justice because the state machinery did not protect them. He recounted the words of Justice Muralidhar, who said that it is not true that “Hindus killed Sikhs in riots”, because it was clearly a large-scale pre-planned massacre. The authorities facilitated the marauders; the police firstly was complicit in the violence and then refused to register complaints, later did shoddy investigation and ensured that evidence against the criminals was destroyed and justice could not be delivered. Nevertheless, due to the dogged efforts of some of the victims, a few people have been convicted. He concluded by emphasising the necessity for laws on command responsibility in cases of such violence, and the need to be able to prosecute and punish those in positions of authority guilty of organising genocide. He concluded with the need for people to have political power in their hands to put an end to state-organised communal violence and to ensure justice and progress.
Mr Salim Engineer of the Jamaat e Islami Hind deplored the fact that after 75 years of independence, we cannot take out rallies in protest of genocide! LRS, ourselves and other organisations have been consistently protesting against the Sikh Genocide and the Demolition of the Babri masjid every year. On this occasion, we need to also condemn the ongoing bombing and massacre of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Israeli forces – over 9,000 killed so far!
There have been many communal massacres in India even before and after 1984 – Nellie in Assam, Gujarat, Kandhamal in Orissa where Christians were targeted, among others. We must understand the ideology of those who perpetrate these crimes and other well-planned and organised violence against this or that section. Now such people are also occupying high posts in the government and administration!
Advocate Shahid Ali of the United Muslim Front said that Sikhs have always defended our country! If the perpetrators of the horrors of the Sikh Genocide of 1984 had been punished appropriately, then the violence targeting Muslims in 1992 – 1993 and 2002 in Gujarat would not have occurred. For the last more than 15 years, we have joined LRS to protest against the Sikh Genocide and the Demolition of the Babri Masjid every year. He recounted that in many instances of so-called communal violence, the administration and police were directly involved in killings. We also need a law against communal violence and mob lynching in addition to the law against genocide and for command responsibility.
Mr Lalli Sahni of the Sikh Forum said Sikhs, who are known as the sword arm of India, were themselves viciously targeted 39 years ago. He himself was then only 15 years old – and his father, who lost his possessions in the carnage, was undaunted. History will not spare those who organised the massacre 39 years ago. There is a need for justice, punishment of the guilty and a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to move forward.
Com Krishan Kant Singh of Lok Paksh spoke of the need to maintain the unity of the people to counter dangers. The criminal forces responsible for the 1984 carnage must be punished. The monopoly capitalist system is at the root of all problems faced by people today. He upheld Bhagat Singh as an example to follow – one who wanted the end of all exploitation along with the expulsion of the colonialists from our country.
Com Prakash Rao of the Communist Ghadar Party of India said that communalism and communal violence was aimed at smashing the unity of the people. He described what happened in November 1984 on the streets of Delhi and what the situation was which led to the Sikh Genocide. For three years preceding these events, a concerted campaign was going on, spearheaded by the Central government, to accuse Sikhs of being terrorists and separatists. It was a time various sections of the people of Punjab including the peasantry were fighting for their demands. This included sharing of river waters, return of Chandigarh to Punjab, and increased powers to state governments. In order to smash the unity of the people, the ruling class falsely accused Sikhs of being separatists. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was killed by her own security men. When assassination of a Prime Minister takes place, it usually indicates very sharp contradictions within the ruling circles. Attention was diverted by blaming Sikhs for the assassination, and organising the genocide of Sikhs.
People must demand and ensure command responsibility for state terrorism including state organised communal massacres. There is need to fight to force the repeal of UAPA and other such laws. He hailed the unity forged by various organisations in the struggle against state terrorism and state organised communal violence over several decades. Today, it’s important for all of us to maintain and strengthen our unity to face the challenges ahead, he concluded.
Mr Mohammed Arif of the Welfare Party of India said it was good that LRS was organising such an event every year. We must raise our voices in support of democracy and justice. Our fight is against the system which tries to criminalise us. The actual hate mongers and criminals are allowed to roam around freely, spreading their venom! We agree with LRS that we must fight against state-organised terror. Today the Government of India doesn’t even allow us to show solidarity with the people of Palestine! We will fight unitedly against injustice.
Com Munna Prasad of the Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra pointed out that while some say that the BJP government is communal, many worse things happened when Congress was in power, such as Nellie massacre, 1984 Sikh genocide etc. Since the time of the British colonialists, the policy of the rulers is to divide and rule and use communalism as a tool. It is the monopoly capitalists who are ruling and doing this today.
Mr Abdullah of the Students Islamic Organisation also addressed the gathering and conveyed his support for the demands raised by the other speakers.
Summing up the proceedings, Sucharita hailed the spirit of all those who participated. Justice is being denied and we are powerless. People must have political power in order to ensure an end to state terrorism including state organised communal violence. We must ensure that the guilty are punished, in accordance with the principle of command responsibility. Hence the need for people to wield political power, to be able to demand accountability, to be able to initiate legislation and so on. The meeting ended with the spirit of continuing the struggle for justice unitedly.
By our correspondent