Thank you for wonderful articles you write and your blog. You are one of the few objective journalists who report events with a heart but also with a logical mind. I wanted to share some of my experiences.
I am not sure if you ever wrote about the heinous crimes in India in 1984 similar to what happened in 1983. I think you wrote a beautiful article about the horrible tragedy and the crimes against innocent people and the ugly incidents of 1983. I am ashamed of it but also ashamed to say that lot of us were afraid of the UNP regime and its thugs to never think of standing up against them.
But I also lived in Punjab when Indians attacked Golden Temple and the arrogant Indira (and then followed by the Rajiv Gandhi dynasty) played hell in India. When the Golden Temple was attacked we were under sudden curfew in the middle of hot summer and it was terrible. For 3 days we didn’t know what was going on. On the 4th day we were given a small 4 hour respite. We would rush to buy Tomatos and Karela and onions from the Sabji Walas on the roads. Our landlord supplied us milk from their cow(we were upstairs and they lived downstairs).. So the joke for days was “what will we have to eat today”. “dhal and karela today”, “karela and dhal tomorrow”… Those were terrifying days..
Suddenly the Sikh troops were withdrawn and we saw South Indian troop brigades taking control of strategic places in Punjab. They could neither speak Punjabi nor Hindi but because they were S.Indians , they were trusted to take over law and order in Punjab; what an insult to the most loyal of Indian ethnic groups. This is because a Sikh brigade in Bihar mutinied.. Sadly because of that foolish operation Sikhs were not trusted anymore. Here was a warrior race that stood up to the Moghuls in defiance. Here was the bravest of Indian soldiers who fought in all its’s wars against Pakistan with valour; the ones who served the British too suddenly becoming suspect in their own country. Sikhs usually used to laugh contemptuously about S.Indians including Tamils about their lack of fighting abilities in the Indian army.
After the Golden Temple attack by ordered by Indira Gandhi(to kill Bindranwale who was actually a creation of Congress-I to split the Akali Dal vote in Punjab because Indira wanted really badly to win the state elections by splitting the Akali vote; Tigers were their creation too for different geo-political reasons), even moderate Sikhs changed their attitude and became more openly defiant. A simple example; my major professor Dr. Surjan Singh was a quite polite Sikh. But he always wore a neatly wrapped beard and wore all sorts of different coloured turbans. After the Golden Temple attack by Indian forces, he immediately removed the beard netting and let it flow like how the Khalsa code says Sikhs should do; he started wearing his beard flowing and ONLY wore Blue and saffron turbans from then on. This was very common immediately afterwards. Previously secular leaning Sikhs suddenly wrapped themselves in their religion because they felt very strongly against the disastrous attack on their sacred Golden Temple(it is like the Vatican for you Christians and Mecca for Muslims). Luckily I left just when the Khalistan terrorist problem (1985)and India’s Hindu led government led the brutal crack down. On my campus, the feared but famous Indian Hockey star Prithipal Singh (and our Sports Director) was assassinated as troubles slowly started brewing. He was a member of one of the Khalsa factions that was anti-government and there was some internal squabble. Troubles were brewing fast and the call to separatism and arms was growing.
Then came the assassination and the gory aftermath starting on October 31st 1984. Beant Singh a Khalsa warrior who swore at Golden Temple to get revenge shot Mrs. Gandhi dead. This led to the worst ever government sponsored race riots in India. The stories are many but Hindi Indian goon squads led by Cong-I politicians like Jagdish Tytler set out to seek vengeance on innocent Sikhs in a planned pogrom similar to what was carried out against Tamils by the UNP led government at the time. It was horrible. To this date I wonder why JR failed to impose a curfew the day the riots happened. He was either afraid of the military or complicit. Similarly the Hindu raj led by Rajiv Gandhi was clearly complicit in the rape, burnings and massacre of Sikhs when thousands were killed. The raison d’ etre was the same..Rajiv shrugged it off the way JR did; but because India is such a big powerhouse in World affairs and strategically more important the world did not condemn nor judge them. There was no external force to invade or intervene or no hue and cry about state sponsored thuggery and massacres. India’s record of religious rights is far worse than Sri Lanka’s race riots.(not an excuse but putting a perspective because India gets away without a word of condemnation even for the Babri mosque massacres and attacks on muslims by right wing fascist Hindus. I lived in Punjab and remember how some of my Sikh friends from Delhi turned back and returned to Punjab from their trains. Some of them cut their sacred hair and removed their turbans to hide the fact that they were Sikhs. It was de’ ja vu, because in 1983 I was back in Sri Lanka when the horrible violence against Tamils in Colombo occurred. I was not able to fly back to Punjab via Tamil Nadu anymore(I used to take the train from Delhi and come to Madras and fly out because that was the cheapest way to get to Colombo) and flew to Delhi when my summer vacation was over. The call to arms and separatism became really big after the heinous anti Sikh riots by Hindu Cong-I led gangs.. Just like many Tamils who joined the Tigers, Thousands of Sikhs wanted revenge for the crimes against their people after Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated.
I will never forgive nor forget the Sri Lankan incidents of 1983 but neither will I forget nor forgive the ugly hypocritical behavior of the Indian government in 1984. Indians armed, trained and financed the Tigers to destabilize Sri Lanka because Sri lanka was veering towards western orbit. In both cases, the government of the day was fully in charge. It was JSS goons and I saw BMC double cabs going around with gangs who were clapping and singing as they came to Anderson Flats to terrorise Tamils. But in Sri Lanka’s case, the entire world judged it harshly(deservedly so) but India got away when their own Hindu Brahmin Kashmiri Raj Gandhis(Rajiv) allowed the heinous crimes in 1984 after Mrs Gandhi was assassinated on October 31st 1984. Some Sikhs lit fireworks and shared laddoo and gulab jamon mind you in the city I lived because by then they hated Indira Gandhi.Then the ugly Hindu Congress-I gangs committed heinous crimes and thousands of Sikhs(more than 5,000 by most accounts and possibly upward of 20,000) were killed, women raped by thugs who said “we will breed the Khalsa out of you”. Sadly in the State of Haryana, fellow Punjabi speaking Hindus were also committing crimes against Sikhs.
Now looking back I feel India has got away with far more crimes (in the North East and in Punjab and against Muslims) than they should have.. I hope you can research and write about that too..
I enjoy reading your objective descriptive and narrative style articles and opinions. You are one of the few objective journalists left. Those criminals who instigated riots in Sri Lanka are as evil as those criminals in India who occupy high posts in Cong-I governments. I have a sentimental respect for hardworking Sikhs. In India, you will never find a Sikh beggar. They work hard. Punjab is the most prosperous state in India.. Every summer thousands of low caste(from an Indian perspective because they are terribly casteist and backward in most parts of India to this date) Rajasthanis and Biharis come to Punjab and Haryana for agricultural field work.
I always said and will say so, If I am in a fight, and I am cornered, I will take a Sikh friend anytime over any other person as my flank and trust him to protect me. What India under the Cong-I Hindu regime did to fight Khalistani rebels was never reported but the excesses committed in Punjab also deserve world scrutiny but that will never happen now will it?