November, 1984:5000 Sikhs slayed, 20,000 injured and 50,000 uprooted.
The unfortunate November of 1984 saw one of the biggest carnage in the history of India, which haunts the Indian race even 32 after the incident. Yes, even after this much time, because of the Sarkari-Quatl-e -aam, people are still suffering. And this, is where we are talking about 1984 Hindu-Sikh riots and Operation Blue Star.
The root cause of the 1984 riots was Indira Gandhi’s death by her Sikh bodyguards. Being warned against them, she still rejected the idea stating it against the secular trait of Indian democracy.
All of this began in 1973, when Akali Dal and other Sikh groups emphasized on ‘Anandpur Sahib Resolution’, demanding special status for Punjab and Sikhs. Punjab had already lost more than 50% of their river water share, and then Chandigarh was taken away from it. A section of Sikhs, led by Jarnail Singh Bhinderwala, turned to military in Punjab and aimed to create an independent state of Khalistan.
By 1983, the situation in Punjab became highly volatile.There were almost 298 deaths in Punjab before Operation Blue Star. Congress-led-government dismissed Punjab State Assembly and imposed President’s Rule in the State.
With increasing call for action, PM Indira Gandhi ordered an operation to be carried out by Indian army. The motive was to flush out militants from the Harminder Sahib complex in early June 1984, where Bhinderwala and his followers were amassing weapons for uprising.
Operation Blue Star led to 492 civilian deaths and 136 military fatal casualties, along with major damage to temple complex. It also led to protests by Sikhs all over the world, and it was their call for revenge that led to assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi on 31st October 1984. This was further followed by 1984 Sikh Riots also called ‘Teesra Ghallughara‘.
The question that arises in mind first is that, who was at fault? But the bigger question remains, who has actually suffered? In this power game, poor men lost their wifes, daughters, sons, mothers, fathers, occupation and life’s earning.
Here’s a detailed chronicle of 1984 Anti-Sikh riots, explaining it all.
“Thirty two years ago, when the violence broke out on the streets of that town, I was all of 30, married, with a little girl.
Three years earlier, the year my daughter was born, I had felt the need to stand up on my feet, and I had opened a shop of automobile spare parts in Daltonganj’s busiest area.
In its anonymity thrived its innocence, until October 31, 1984. I clearly remember it was a Wednesday. One India-Pakistan cricket match had been abruptly canceled midway, and people huddled around their radios began spreading the message: ‘The BBC said that Indira Gandhi was assassinated this morning.’ Not until 4:50, when the Urdu news report was transmitted via All India Radio, did we know that it wasn’t a rumor. The Prime Minister had been murdered.
It was the last day of Chhath Puja, so I was expecting one of my Hindu friends to visit me. This friend—let’s call him Ashok—came every year to give me holy prashad..
When Ashok arrived, I was preparing to leave . ‘Don’t go home tonight. It’s not safe,’ he told me. A medical shop close to the hospital run by a Sikh had apparently been looted. Another Sikh laundryman had been attacked.
I somewhat panicked. A couple of my Hindu friends got together and suggested that I should stay the night with my friend Kamlesh, who lived right across the street.
The next morning, mayhem broke out. As I peeped through the windows of my friend’s house, I saw a mob of some 600 people break into the wooden door of my shop and loot it. They carried rods and kerosene. The inhumanity was frightening. Some people who I would often sip tea with in the evenings were right there, in front of my eyes, devastating my livelihood. My brother’s shop next door was looted and set aflame.
I did not know about my family’s whereabouts for hours. Eventually, the telephone lines improved and I could use my friend’s phone to find out that they were being protected by one of our neighbors.
Later that day, my friend Kamlesh received a threatening phone call; people were saying he had hid a Sikh in his house. Kamlesh’s neighbor, a fearless Hindu, offered to help. The same night at 11, I removed my turban, opened my hair, covered myself in a white sheet and moved over to his neighbor’s house.
On Nov. 2, a curfew was declared. The looting and the killing continued. Another day passed. The army arrived. On Nov. 4, the curfew ended, but the army men stayed on for several days afterward.
For two hours, when the curfew was lifted, I joined hordes of other Sikh men at the police station, and told a cop: ‘I am one of the victims and I want to have a look at my shop.’ The cop who had been patrolling the areas asked me: ‘Which one was yours?’ I told him—only to be informed the shop was completely emptied. I insisted on seeing it for myself.
Instead of returning home, I went with the cops to my shop. I opened what was left of a broken door. Three or four stray dogs greeted us, huddled inside the tiny space, looted of my once simple life.
I somehow got rid of them, sat right there, and cried and cursed endlessly
After four days, I returned home. My wife and mother, who had little hopes of seeing me again, cried and cried–as they would for many days to come..
The loss all around was unprecedented. The nearby Gurudwara was strewn in blood—and those marks have barely rubbed off to this day. The head priest was slashed to death—and his young children were beaten and harassed.
In Daltonganj, countless Sikh men were beaten up. A dozen died. Some houses were stoned; others set ablaze. Some local Sikh who were traveling out of the town were dragged out of trains and killed. The hospital refused to admit the injured, unless men cut their hair. Turban-wearing Sikhs had to make a choice: cut your hair or not get medical care. In the wake of the rampage, several Hindus, too, could not leave their homes.
Thirty two years have passed, but the memory of the riots doesn’t fail me. In some ways, I have put it behind and moved on. In some ways, I have not. I still feel vulnerable to be living among many of those people. The pain, the trauma, the betrayal of the government, the suspicion of my friends, and the mistrust in justice—these cannot be taken away from me. It isn’t easy to forget. And so, I never will.”
And so I ask, who was really at fault? And who actually suffered?
Sometimes, things don’t seem the way they are.
About The Author
I am doing psychology hons from MCMDAV College.
I love travelling and cooking.
I am DIY enthusiast.