#India – Operation Blue Star — the untold story


CHANDER SUTA DOGRA, The Hindu, Chandigrah, June 10, 2013 

A fortification used in Operation Blue Star on the sides of the parikrama abutting the Dukh-Bhanjani
Beri (tree) that covers the entrance to Shri Harmandir Sahib. File photo
The HinduA fortification used in Operation Blue Star on the sides of the parikrama abutting the Dukh-Bhanjani Beri (tree) that covers the entrance to Shri Harmandir Sahib. File photo

New documentary carries testimony that executions of Sikh youth did take place and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra refused to declare Khalistan

Almost three decades after Operation Blue Star — the army operation that cleared the Golden temple complex in Amritsar of Sikh militants in 1984 — a journalist has spoken to some of the surviving dramatis personae of the event to recreate almost hour by hour what happened during those fateful six days. The documentary Operation Blue Star — the untold story currently being aired by Chandigarh-based television station Day and Night News run by veteran Punjab journalist Kanwar Sandhu has uncovered startling new evidence about the operation and the conduct of the militants and the security agencies since then.

Perhaps the most significant disclosures are by Balwant Singh Ramoowalia, a former Union Minister for Social Welfare, then with the Shiromani Akali Dal, who was present in the Guru Ram Das Sarai along with then Akali Dal president Harchand Singh Longowal and SGPC president Gurcharan Singh Tohra.

He relates how at around 6 p.m. on 5th June, Mr. Longowal and Mr. Tohra were coerced almost at gunpoint to declare the formation of Khalistan and how they wriggled out of it.

“Five Sikh youth with self-loading rifles (SLRs) and a metallic box that was possibly a transmitter came to us and placed their SLRs with their barrels pointing towards all of us. They told us that the ‘box’ is connected with Gen Zia-Ul-Haq in Pakistan. They told Jathedar Tohra and Sant Longowal to declare the formation of Khalistan, so that the Pakistani Army can launch an attack. Both Tohra and Longowal are not alive today, so I am saying this under a solemn oath of allegiance to the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, because I want to speak the truth. Sant Longowal kept completely quiet. Then Jathedar Tohra said, ‘Dekho naujawano, eh jedi jang hai eh Hind-Punjab di jang hai. This is a battle between Sant Bhinderanwale and Mrs. Indira Gandhi and that since the former is leading the battle, it will be fair to ask him to issue the statement about the creation of Khalistan.’ He did not say that he will make the announcement for Khalistan. I don’t know how history will judge the Akali leadership but this is the truth. The youth then left the place and never came back.”

‘OUTRAGE BY ARMY’

Mr. Ramoowalia also sheds light on an alleged execution of some 30 Sikh youth by the army — the certainty of which has always been speculated. Talking about events in the wee hours of 6th June, when the army was combing through the complex, the narrative states that a Major of the 9 Kumaon regiment lined up some 20 Sikh youth and mowed them down with a machine gun. Recalling the incident, Mr. Ramoowalia says, “The captured Sikhs appeared to be from Kashmir and didn’t look like Punjabi Sikhs. An officer waved a handkerchief and they were shot dead by the Army men with bullets which were sprayed on them from left to right and then right to left. I have never seen people being killed like that, with bullets. I have been a farmer and I have cut the crop and made its bundles. The crests of these Sikh youth collapsed similarly. No one moaned or uttered anything. I know my statement will be called into questioning, but 28 years after it happened, I am going on record on this.”

“The Army men were very angry, very abusive, mad with rage. Maybe they had lost their fellow Army men in the battle elsewhere in the Complex. This happened between 3 a.m. and 3.30 a.m., after the grenade blast nearby and after that it was my turn next as a part of the next group of Sikhs which was being queued up for killing. I was also told to sit down cross-legged and said my prayers. By chance, I remembered that I had in my pocket my identity card as an ex-Member of Parliament, of Lok Sabha. I flashed it and raised my hand and said, I am Ramoowalia, a former Member, Lok Sabha. I and all these persons, who are under your custody, belong to Sant Harchand Singh Longowal. We are non-violent people, [have] nothing to do with the armed struggle, we are here, just as a part of Akali Dal’s peaceful morcha.’ He asked me, ‘what is your name?’ I said, ‘my name is Ramoowalia.’ He asked me once again. I told him, ‘I am not misguiding. Not misleading. This is my identity card. Please check it up.’ God knows, the Army man was so angry, he could have just shot and killed me. But he said, ‘stop’. The other Army men lowered their guns. And two to three of them came up to me… and pushed me to a side. Then the officer again asked me, ‘Are you really Ramoowalia?’ I said, ‘I am really Ramoowalia.’ He said, ‘how are you here? You are not supposed to be here.’ I said, ‘why’? He said, ‘you are supposed to be with Sant Longowal.’ I said, ‘Sant Longowal is sitting in the adjoining room. I have come out’.”

Brigadier (retd.) Onkar Singh Goraya, who was then Col Admn in HQ 15 Corps corroborates the incident saying that Bhan Singh the then SGPC secretary also told him something similar. “He said the Army men in Darbar Sahib have done something awful. He said that some Sikh youth were lined up against a wall in the Golden Temple Complex and killed with a machine gun. He also showed me the wall in the Complex which had the bullet marks, when I went back for the second time in the afternoon,” he is quoted as saying in the documentary.

Mr. Sandhu has pieced together the account with the help of interviews with some 100 eyewitnesses and officials, records from army archives, interrogation reports of captured militants and also the actual Op Instructions issued by Maj Gen Brar on the eve of the operation. Says he, “This is an honest attempt to put the events in perspective and tell the story as it happened. If in the process it upsets any one, it cannot be helped.” Already the television station is getting hate mail from the Sikh diaspora in particular which is angry with its portrayal of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale as a militant who fortified the golden temple complex with arms and ammunition.

MILITANTS STOCKPILED WEAPONS

In 2010 the BBC had done a one-hour documentary “1984- A Sikh story”, which was never shown in India. Speaking to The Hindu, Mandeep Bajwa a consultant for the BBC documentary said, “This is the most authentic and credible account yet and I can see that the passage of time has emboldened many eyewitnesses to speak the truth. It exposes many fallacies like the one about arms and ammunition being planted in the temple complex by the Army. Mr. Sandhu has not only provided a rough inventory of the military hardware stockpiled inside but also detailed some instances of how they were smuggled in.”

Another revelation is that Maj Gen Shahbeg Singh (retd.), the disgraced army man who joined Bhindranwale’s group and organized the defences died on the evening of 5th June, before the actual battle began. He was killed by a sniper’s bullet and quoting Balwinder Singh Khojkipur a close associate of Bhindranwale who survived the operation, the documentary states that he was taken to the basement of Akal Takht where he died with his head on Bhindranwale’s lap. His covered body lay in a room there for a whole day until the armymen entered and cleared it the next day.

As for Bhindranwale himself —the Sikh seminary Damdami Taksal that he headed refused to accept his death for many years — he died at 8.45 am on 6th June after being shot at from an armoured vehicle as he was moving towards the ‘Darshni Deodi’ to offer his prayers to Guru Ram Das. His body, contrary to reports of that time, was not identified by his brother Harcharan Singh Rode then serving as the subedar major in 61 Engineers Regiment in Jalandhar, but by the police and army doctors. Says Rode, “This is totally wrong. I did not issue any contradiction because I had got to see him and paid my last respects.”

Much has been written and said about the pilgrims trapped inside the complex many of who died in the crossfire. This series documents that they were actually discouraged from responding to the announcements being made by the district administration outside asking the pilgrims to come out. Apparently when five or six of them tried to come out with their hands in the air, they were shot down by militants from inside the temple complex. Their bodies lay near the ghanta ghar —where pilgrims wash their feet — on the morning of 5th June.

 

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases #WTFnews


Protests erupt inside & outside court, shoe flung at the judge

30 Apr 2013, , AGENCIES

Unhappy with acquittal of Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in an anti-Sikh riots case, a man hurled a shoe at the judge as protests erupted inside and outside Karkardooma court here today after pronouncement of the verdict, with police detaining several people.

Protesters gave a tough time to police as they tried to enter the court complex this afternoon. A large number of people had gathered outside the court before the pronouncement of the verdict and tried to enter the courts but police prevented them.

Anticipating trouble, police had deployed personnel in strength and barricaded the area but some of the protesters managed to enter the complex. However, they could not enter the courtroom.As soon as the judge acquitted the Congress leader while convicting five persons, angry protesters shouted slogans against Kumar and tried to enter the complex. Complainant Jagdish Kaur sat on protest inside the courtroom saying she would not leave until justice is done.

One of the victims, who lost her son and husband in the riots after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, said there was “no justice” for them. “There is no justice for us. My son was killed, my husband along with his brothers were killed. There was reign of terror for three days (during the riots). People were burnt alive,” the victim said. Police detained several protesters, including the one who threw a shoe at District and Sessions Judge J R Aryan after the pronouncement of the judgement.

Sajjan Kumar acquitted in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases

Edited by Amit Chaturvedi | Updated: April 30, 2013 21:34 IST

New Delhi Sajjan Kumar, a former Congress MP, has been acquitted by a special CBI court of all charges in one of three 1984 anti-Sikh riots cases against him. He was accused of murder and of instigating a riotous mob that killed five Sikhs in Delhi’s cantonment area on November 2, 1984. Five other people accused in the case have been convicted, three of them of murder.

Here are 10 developments in the case:
  1. In court, the families of riot victims protested as the Congressman’s acquittal was announced. A man named Karnail Singh threw a shoe at the judge and has been arrested.
  2. An eyewitness in the case, Jagdish Kaur, who claims to have seen Sajjan Kumar leading a mob that killed her husband and father 29 years, broke down in court.
  3. Outside court, an elderly man said, “Where do we go now? How much longer do we fight for justice. It’s been 29 years. We have gone from being young men to old.” “Today,” he said, “is worse than 1984.” The families of the victims have said they will appeal against the verdict.
  4. In its concluding arguments in the case last week, the CBI had told the court that there was a conspiracy of “terrifying proportion” between Mr Kumar and the police during the riots 29 years ago.
  5. The Delhi cantonment riots case was registered against Sajjan Kumar in 2005 on the recommendation of the Nanavati Commission. The CBI had filed two chargesheets against him and the other accused in January 2010.
  6. Mr Kumar, who was then the Congress MP from Outer Delhi, is also accused of instigating a mob during riots in the Sultanpuri area. Six people were killed in the violence there.
  7. The Delhi High Court deferred a decision in that case yesterday and posted the next hearing for May 15. The High Court is hearing Mr Kumar’s petition challenging a trial court order to frame charges against him in the Sultanpuri case. He is accused of murder and rioting and spreading enmity between two communities in that case. He is also facing trial in another case related to anti-Sikh riots in the Nangloi area of Delhi.
  8. In 2010, the Supreme Court had refused to quash charges against Mr Kumar and said the trial would continue against him. It had also pulled up the CBI for failing to conclude its arguments and taking too much time.
  9. Earlier this month, a Delhi court reopened an anti-Sikh riots case against another Congress leader Jagdish Tytler. He is accused of inciting a mob that killed three men during the riots.
  10. The 1984 anti-Sikh riots broke out after the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. 3000 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone. In the 29 years since the riots, only 30 people have been convicted, none of them high-profile politicians, though several Congress leaders have been accused of inciting violence.

 

UK wakes up to caste bias


Shalini Nair : London, Tue Mar 26 2013, IE
FP

For a place that is only one-fifteenth the size of London, Coventry has a large number of gurdwaras. Even that might not have seemed so incongruous considering that Sikhs are the largest ethnic minority in this Midlands town — but for the fact that caste-based, dividing lines are drawn within and among these places of worship.

Earlier this month, Britain took the first step towards formally acknowledging that caste-based discrimination exists, with the House of Lords voting in favour of including the concept in the Equality Act of 2010. If it gets the approval of the House of Commons, it will become unlawful to discriminate on the basis of caste in areas of employment, education and the provision of services.

“Caste will be added to the list of nine ‘protected characteristics’ in the equality legislation which at present includes race, sex and religion,” said Lord Eric Avebury, a Liberal Democrat peer, who was among those instrumental in moving the amendment. “The government’s inadequate proposals so far only advocate education as a means of eradicating caste, without providing for legal safeguards.”

The amendment has tread a protracted path due to the government’s reservations in the face of opposition from two influential Hindu organisations, and denial among dominant Sikh groups about the prevalence of casteism.

Discrimination in the UK is the result of tenaciously holding on to a sense of caste-based identity in a new homeland, with the hostility continuing from one generation to the next.

Ram Lakha, former mayor of Coventry, explains how since the establishment of the town’s oldest temple, the Gurdwara Guru Nanak Parkash, in the ’60s, there has been a gradual alienation of the lower castes who soon set up their own temples. Thus emerged the two Shri Guru Ravidass Sabha temples and Maharishi Valmiki temple besides several others.

Lakha himself battled caste prejudices when he was first elected a councillor from an area with a sizeable South Asian population in 1989. “When the local Brahmin leaders got to know that I am from a Dalit community, they started lobbying against my candidature. The only option for me was to contest the next election from the predominantly white neighbouring constituency,” said Lakha, a Labour councillor for 23 years now.

Besides Coventry, UK‘s estimated 480,000 Dalit population is mostly concentrated across 22 areas including Birmingham, Leicester, Bedford, East London and Southall.

At work and at school

As the House of Lords debated the amendment this month, scores from most of these places gathered at Parliament Square to make their voices heard. Most were first- or second-generation immigrants from Punjab with stories to tell — about being denied the right to distribute prasad in a gurdwara or perform puja in a temple in the UK, about children facing bullying in schools, about people being singled out at the workplace despite having adopted caste-neutral last names, about businessmen who found that their success couldn’t protect them from prejudices.

Legal recourse has not been an option, for local officials or office managements often don’t even understand the connotations of caste.

Anita Kaur, 40, of Leicester was born in Britain and raised with a surname that doesn’t reveal much about her ranking in the caste hierarchy. Nonetheless, she faces brazen queries about her caste at community clubs and temples. Her attempts at shielding her daughter from all this have not been impenetrable either.

“Sikhism doesn’t recognise caste. Page 349 of the Guru Granth Sahib says, ‘Do not enquire about one’s caste’,” says Kaur. “Still my daughter gets asked about her caste at school by other children from the community. And when she replies that she doesn’t know, she is told, ‘Go home and ask your parents’.”

The first case of alleged caste discrimination to be reported in UK newspapers was in 2010, that of Vijay Begraj and his wife Amardeep, both 34. In the absence of any legal framework on caste, they are still contesting their case at a Birmingham employment tribunal. As a business and finance manager at a law firm, he had worked his way up for six years, the same firm where she was a solicitor. Born in Britain, they believed this alone was their identity until it was redefined for them the day they decided to get married. Since then, he has been a Hindu Dalit and she a Sikh Jat.

“Our parents had absolutely no problem with our alliance,” says Vijay, whose father had emigrated from Punjab four decades ago and thought the baggage of caste hierarchy was behind him. “But then my three bosses found out that a girl from their community was planning to marry someone from a ‘lower’ caste.” He says that from warning her that “these people are different creatures” to sending him emails with excerpts from the scriptures reminding him of his ascribed subordinate status, his superiors at work did everything to dissuade them from marrying. Their detailed account — harassment, snide remarks, denial of pay hikes and promotions, culminating in his dismissal after seven years in service and her resignation — has been placed before the tribunal.

Satpal Mumum of Caste Watch UK says a member of his group deposed as an expert witness in Vijay’s case to explain the connotations of caste to the court. “In the evening when he returned home, the windows of his house were smashed,” he said.

Foreign concept

The government’s reluctance over discrimination legislation for caste was largely based on the uncertainty over its prevalence in the UK. The Government Equalities Office commissioned a report to establish the extent of such discrimination if any. The report, released in December 2010, was emphatic in its finding that there is a need for both discrimination and criminal legislation. It notes that while the caste system had its origins in Hinduism, in the UK it is particularly entrenched in Sikh communities. It cites several cases of alleged discrimination, overt and subtle, against Ravidassias and Valmikis by Jat Sikhs.

A 2009 study by the Anti-Caste Discrimination Alliance, with academics from three British universities, found 58 per cent of the 300 people surveyed confirming they had been discriminated against because of their caste, and 79 per cent pointing out that the UK police wouldn’t have understood if they had reported such discrimination as a ‘hate crime’.

Another study, in 2006 by the UK Dalit Solidarity Network, went into caste prejudices in temples, the workplace, politics, health care and education. In a foreword to the report, Jeremy Corbyn, DSN chairman and MP, notes that prejudice “has been exported to the UK through the Indian diaspora. The same attitudes of superiority, pollution and separateness appear to be present in South Asian communities now settled in the UK.”

Corbyn told The Indian Express, “I represent a constituency in Central London where this is much less prevalent unlike in many other places outside where it is a serious human rights violation, one that is difficult to prove unless the legislation is in place.”

 

25th Anniversary of Paash – A Punjabi Poet who died for opposing Fanaticism #mustshare


SUNDAY, MARCH 24, 2013

The Most Dangerous – Poem by Paash

Most treacherous is not the robbery
of hard earned wages
Most horrible is not the torture by the police.

Most dangerous is
To be filled with dead peace
Not to feel agony and bear it all,

Leaving home for work
And from work return home
Most dangerous is the death of our dreams.

Most dangerous is that watch
Which runs on your wrist
But stands still for your eyes.

Most dangerous is that eye
Which sees all but remains frostlike,
Most dangerous is the moon
Which rises in the numb yard
After each murder,
But does not pierce your eyes like hot chilis

By Gurpreet Singh

Twenty-five years ago when leftists across the world were commemorating the hanging of Bhagat Singh—a towering revolutionary who fought against the British occupation of India—another progressive voice was silenced by the terrorist bullets in Punjab, India.

Paash, whose real name was Avtar Sandhu, was gunned down by Sikh separatists on March 23, 1988.

It was a sheer coincidence that his murder came on a historic day that commemorated the martyrdom of Bhagat Singh and his two comrades, Rajguru and Sukhdev, who were hanged together by the British government on March 23, 1931. But the political ideology of Paash, who was born in 1950, made him inseparable from them.


True to his commitment toward the secular and progressive ideology of Bhagat Singh and his comrades, Paash was assassinated for his writings, which opposed religious fundamentalism. 

Much like Bhagat Singh, Paash was opposed to religious fanaticism of every shade and pulled no punches while criticizing both Hindu and Sikh extremists.

Yet the terrorists, owing allegiance to the Khalistan Commando Force seeking a separate theocratic Sikh homeland, shot him dead. 

His death shocked secularist Punjabi scholars in B.C. where a Paash Memorial Trust is still active and continues to hold events in his memory once a while.

Although Paash lived in California, he never made it to Canada. He was visiting India at the time of his murder.

It was thanks to Maxim Gorky’s Mother that Avtar Sandhu came to be known as Paash. Born in a peasant family, he loved to identify himself after Pasha, the hero of the classic novel by the same name.

This pen name gave him a new identity which remained with him until his assassination. There were some striking similarities between legendary Pasha and Paash as both stood for the working class and opposed both the establishment and theocracy.


Paash started writing poetry during his early teens and was an ardent reader, who had a personal library that housed books on range of subjects including science, philosophy, and literature. Though he wrote essays and published two Punjabi journals, Haak and Anti 47, as well as a “wall newspaper“, he gained much prominence as a poet. 

His poetry was so popular that its translation from Punjabi into other languages attracted attention widely, both outside Punjab and all of India. Even some Bollywood stars were among his admirers.

In the late 1960s he became involved in the youth wing of the Communist Party of India, but slowly he became fed up with its politics and instead joined with supporters of the ultra-leftist Naxalbari movement. It believed in an armed struggle for the sake of landless farmworkers.

He borrowed the idea of publishing a wall newspaper from Chinese revolution. It is a separate matter that he was not a sectarian leftist and remained critical of the flaws within Communist parties and groups.

Paash was briefly jailed for being a Naxalite but this did not deter him from writing for poor and against state repression. His poems were frequently smuggled out of prison and published. His rebellious poetry was widely circulated among the youngsters. Even a section of police and bureaucracy was influenced by his poetry.

It is not surprising that the BJP, a Hindu nationalist party of India, opposed an attempt to include one of his highly provocative poems in the school curriculum. 

Paash also opposed the state of emergency imposed by the Congress government from 1975 to 1977, and expressed his anger at the then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in his poetry.

He even returned a paycheque to a Hindi newspaper that censored lines about Gandhi in his poem as a mark of protest.

It was his journal Anti 47 that provoked the Sikh separatists. Since he studied a lot, he questioned and denounced their separatist ideology by quoting from Sikh scriptures. He shamed them by arguing that the real Sikhism was all about equality and compassion—and not fascism.

The title of the journal symbolized a challenge to another attempt to divide India on religious lines like in 1947, when Muslim Pakistan was separated from India.

As a result, he was gunned down by the extremists in his native village Talwandi Salem. As one says, you can kill a person but not an idea. Paash may have been murdered physically, but his rebellious rhymes will continue to live.

Gurpreet Singh is Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He’s working on a book tentatively titled Canada’s 9/11: Lessons from the Air India Bombings

House of Commons debate on the #DeathPenalty and Human Rights violations in India


By , http://www.sikhsiyasat.net/

Published: March 2, 2013
    • London, United Kingdom (March 02, 2013): According to a press release by the organizers of the Kesri Lehar, a petition asking for the Abolition of the Death Penalty in India was debated in the Main Chamber of the House of Commons on Thursday, 28th February 2013.

The two and a half hour debate, started with an opening speech by Rt. Hon. John McDonnell, MP for Hayes and Harlington, who said that the national Kesri Lehar campaign urged the UK government to press the Indian Government to sign and ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which encompasses the death penalty.

Amongst the many issues on Human Right’s abuses raised during the debate, two prominent cases, currently on death row in India, that of Balwant Singh Rajoana, and, Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar were discussed at length.

Rt. Hon. John McDonnell referring the cases of Balwant Singh Rajowana and Prof Davinder Pal Singh Bhullar, said, “These two cases carry immense significance around the world, the Rajoana case for its historical context and the Bhullar case because it is almost now a symbol of the injustice meted out to so many Sikhs in recent decades.”

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana (quote from Will)

Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana (quote from Will)

“If Balwant Singh Rajoana symbolises the suffering of the Sikhs in that period, Professor Bhullar symbolises the injustice meted out to Sikhs, over the years at the hands of the Indian police and the judicial system.”

Parliament was told that, “Balwant Singh was party to killing Beant Singh, the chief Minister of the Punjab. We now know that Beant Singh personally commanded the police and security forces in the killing and disappearance of possibly more than 20,000 Sikhs—men, women and children. Faced with the failure of the Indian authorities to take action against the former chief Minister for his crimes against humanity, Balwant Singh and a co-conspirator took the law into their own hands. Nobody, including Balwant Singh, claims that he is innocent of the killing, but Sikh organisations, human rights lawyers and human rights groups are urging the Indian Government to take into account the context of his actions, the scale of the human suffering that the Sikhs were enduring at the time, and the anger that young men such as Balwant Singh felt at the failure of the Indian state to bring to justice the chief Minister responsible for the atrocities against the Sikhs in the Punjab. On that basis, they plead for understanding and mercy on Balwant Singh’s behalf and that the death penalty is avoided at all costs.”

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

Free Professor Devender Pal Singh Bhullar

It was also pointed out to Parliament that, the German courts have now ruled that that deportation of Professor Bhullar was wrong. He has been convicted of involvement in an attempted political assassination solely on the basis of a confession, which he retracted, with not one of more than 100 witnesses identifying him at the scene, and on a split decision of the court judges. In split decisions in India, the practice of the courts is not to impose a death penalty, but Professor Bhullar has been sentenced, held in solitary confinement for eight years and, despite his deteriorating health, his plea for mercy has been rejected.

Despite a further petition to the Supreme Court, the fear is that the Indian authorities could move to execute him at any time. This is a shocking miscarriage of justice waiting to happen unless we can intervene effectively.

There is also concern that India is expanding the scope of the death penalty, new laws passed in 2011 which provide for the death penalty include for the making and selling of illicit liquor.

Rt. Hon. Virendra Sharma, MP for Ealing and Southall, stated that, “We must kill the myth that we are anti-India or that we are interfering in India’s internal affairs. We are taking a matter of principle and fighting for the rights of the people living in India and abroad.”, he further stated that, “We cannot always assume that the judicial system is faultless. Therefore, using death, an irrevocable act, as a punishment for a crime, puts the system at risk of punishing the innocent irreversibly.

On talking on the issue of the judiciary in India, Simon Hughes, MP for Bermondsey and Old Southwark, said that, a Supreme Court bench said that people’s faith in the judiciary was dwindling at an alarming rate, posing a grave threat to constitutional and democratic governance of the country.

The house noted that “Amnesty International points out that the use of the death penalty in India is “riddled with systemic flaws”.

MP for Slough, Fiona McTaggart expressed her worries that the rights of religious, ethnic and caste minorities in India are not sufficiently well protected. It seems to me that we have a responsibility to say to India, “We expect you, as the largest democracy in the world, to promote the standards of democracy and human rights that we expect, and to recognise that if the death penalty is used in this way, there is a risk that you will deepen the divisions between ethnic and religious communities in country. There is a risk that you will make your country less safe and less peaceful for all who live in it.”

Concluding the debate, Labour MP John McDonnell said, “To add weight to the British Government’s representations, I urge them to raise the issue again with our European partners and to seek a joint representation from Europe on the subject. I urge the British Government, working with other Governments, to raise this call within the United Nations. With the UN Commission on Human Rights meeting imminently, this is an ideal time to put this back on the UN agenda.”

It seems to me that we have a responsibility to say to India, “We expect you, as the largest democracy in the world, to promote the standards of democracy and human rights that we expect, and to recognise that if the death penalty is used in this way, there is a risk that you will deepen the divisions between ethnic and religious communities in country. There is a risk that you will make your country less safe and less peaceful for all who live in it.””

Richard Fuller, MP for Bedford, added that, there will be consequences for our relationships with India unless the Indian Parliament looks at this issue very seriously again and makes the changes that Members are asking it to do.

Rt. Hon. David Ward, MP for Bradford East, stated that, “I believe that it is our intrinsic right and, more importantly, our fundamental duty to speak up for all people, and especially for minorities who do not have suitable champions for their cause and who face persecution, wherever in the world that might occur and no matter what entrenched views or self-interest they might be battling against. The oppressors often have powerful weapons at their disposal to stifle debate… I have touched on the necessity for India to uphold the basic human rights that are espoused in the United Nations convention against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. This is an important issue for my constituents, especially those in the Sikh community, who have long borne the brunt of judicial and societal discrimination in parts of India.”

David Ward, went on to state that, “Over the past few years, I have been approached by a number of constituents about the cases involving Balwant Singh Rajoana and Professor Bhullar. I know those cases well, and I am sad that those people are still on death row. I must be honest and tell the House, however, that on researching this issue more thoroughly, I was deeply shocked to discover the sheer scale of the human rights abuses that the Indian Government have not acted against, over many years. I am a member of Amnesty International, and I regularly receive the evidence that it produces. It is shocking to learn of the extensive use of forced evictions, the excessive use of force, arbitrary arrest and detention, and the fundamental lack of due process that are still prevalent in India. Amnesty states: “Impunity for abuses and violations remained pervasive.” The continuing existence of India’s controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act gives the Indian army arbitrary powers and near-immunity from prosecution.”

Seema Malhotra, MP for Feltham and Heston, said. “We participate in many debates in this House, but this one is literally about life and death. I have had a long-standing personal opposition to the death penalty in all circumstances and I am proud to live in a country where it has been abolished. This is a matter of humanity and, as someone once said, it is not for the state to kill people who kill people to show that killing is wrong”

The execution of Balwant Singh and others would not end terrorism or causes of concern, and would damage the image of India

Another great concern is the fact that in the world’s greatest democracy we have recently seen innocent people suffering and being killed in the crossfire when peacefully protesting for improved human rights. Last year, a horrific case that touched us all deeply was the death of Jaspal Singh. Jaspal was an 18-year-old Sikh college student peacefully protesting against capital punishment last March who was killed when police opened fire on a crowd of just a few hundred to make them disperse.

India is a nation with more than 1,500 languages and dialects and is a showcase to the world in business, culture, arts and crafts. The Sikh community in India and around the world leads in business and agriculture, where it blazes a trail. The work of the Pingalwara charity in the Punjab shows the deepest compassion for those in the community with the least and those with the greatest disabilities. It is also leading the thinking about how to deal with environmental issues so that we can have a clean environment and tackle the vital questions of quality of life and the supply of water and good food for so many. The Sikh religion has at its heart the principles and values of equality that many of us hold so dear.

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#Gujarat -Memorial to a Genocide: Insist on justice #NarendraModi


Would those who encouraged the victimisers to kill in Gujarat be willing to apologise or make a conciliatory gesture to the victims? That would be a confession of guilt and guilt is what Narendra Modi is constantly denying

Romila Thapar

In 1947, Partition was accompanied by massacres so gruesome that many said they would not allow this to happen again. But we have been through three genocides since then and the perpetrators of the violence continue to be powerful members of our society. The three I am referring to are the anti-Sikh genocide in Delhi in 1984, the anti-Muslim in Gujarat in 2002, and more recently, the anti-Christian Dalit in Orissa. Genocide seems to follow a pattern in India post-1947. In each case it is the majority Hindu community that targets and kills those of a minority community of a specific and different religion, and in numbers far larger than are killed in communal riots. The justification for the killings is said to be some action on the part of the non-Hindus that is said to have angered the Hindus who then seek revenge. But, apart from the accusation being true or not, does any such action justify genocide? The actual motive often lies in the politics of the region. Religious antagonism or conciliation is what gets discussed in the aftermath, while the political and economic motives get brushed aside.

This raises many questions. These are not irrelevant and we need to have clear answers.

Does this have to do with religion or with the way religion is mobilised politically with religious organisations becoming the agencies of political ideologies? Are Hindus by nature more given to killing, despite all the hype about belonging to a non-violent and tolerant culture? Or, why is it that the agencies of law and order — the police and administration — seem not to protect those attacked when they are members of a religious minority, or Dalits or women? Are they so infiltrated by religious extremist influence — Hindus in the main — that they do not bother to defend those attacked?

Or, does nationalism define ‘Indian’ now to mean ‘Hindu’, and therefore the Hindu has primacy as citizen? Does this make non-Hindus dispensable? One wonders what has happened to the earlier concept of being Indian, a category inclusive of all communities; a concept that my generation of Indians stood by? If the violence is spontaneous, and in the name of a religion, then it is a blot on the religion of the community that perpetrates the violence, be it Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. If it is orchestrated by the State, then a State resorting to genocide can hardly claim to be a well-administered State. Only an incompetent government is unable to control what turns into genocide. This negates claims of good governance.

Given the scale and type of violence, there is little doubt that in Gujarat the police and administration were ineffective, to say the least. These are agencies which, now, all over the country, see themselves not as those whose duty it is to protect citizens, but rather as primarily having to be subservient to political authority, their function being to carry out the orders of those governing. There are a few, but unfortunately too few, who still see themselves as protectors of citizens and defenders of the rights of citizens. Among these few, there have been some police officers and administrators who have suggested that the violence in Gujarat was orchestrated by those governing. Their views cannot be easily dismissed.

If the administration in Gujarat is as efficient as is projected by Modi and his supporters, then some questions still remain to be answered. Even on the specific issues linked to the genocide, there are gross inefficiencies. 

The assault on women is particularly vicious. Women are the most devastated victims because the attack on them cuts both ways 

Of those accused of setting fire to the coaches at Godhra, I am told that 84 are still awaiting judgement. Ten years is a long time for there to be no judgement on what is held to be a simple case of arson. Is it a simple case of arson? Why is it that almost 50 per cent of the persons said to be missing — over 200 persons — cannot be traced, and records are missing? As is usual in such incidents, the paying of full compensation has been delayed. This smacks of normal corruption in the administration from which the Gujarat administration is obviously not free.

Going beyond 2002, there is a need to understand why there was a genocide, particularly in Gujarat. The anti-Sikh and anti-Christian Dalit killings were concentrated in limited areas, but, in Gujarat, the killings were widespread. If Gujarat is a well-administered, prosperous state, where was the need for the killings?

The patedars lived off the rich income from their lands, there was money pouring in from Gujarati NRIs living in the West, and the corporates were investing in Gujarat. What is it that the rich Hindus feared and fear? Is it that there would be a loss of subordinated Muslim labour, employed by thepatedars, if the standard of living of the labourer improves? The import of unskilled labour from UP and Bihar seems to point to a problem with local labour. Is there a competition for employment, making it necessary to destroy skilled Muslim artisans? Is there a fear of the upward mobility of Muslim OBCs and Dalits, also asking for quotas? Why is the Gujarat government unable to bring water to parched areas to relieve the desperation of farmers?

From the print issue of Hardnews :

NOVEMBER 2012

 

#India- Ending the silence- 1984 anti-Sikh Riots


HISTORY

Ending the silence

VIKRAM KAPUR, Frontline

Many questions still remain unanswered about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Delhi. Unless we face them squarely to give the event a sense of an ending, its ghosts will continue to haunt us.

BEDI/ AFP 

NOVEMBER 2, 1984: A building belonging to Sikhs burning in Daryaganj.

WHY do you write so much on Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the anti-Sikh riots it spawned, I am often asked. Sometimes the question comes with the admonishment: What can such writing possibly do except open old wounds? After all, 28 years have passed. Punjab is peaceful and, moreover, the country has a Sikh Prime Minister. So why don’t you simply move on like everyone else and let all that be? At other times, the question comes accompanied by a genuine concern for my literary well-being. There is nothing to gain by writing about the events of 1984, I am told. No one remembers them outside India; so the chances of finding a foreign publisher are remote. Even in India, 1984 accounts for little more than a historical footnote. Certainly, it is nowhere near as prominent as the destruction of the Babri Masjid or the 26/11 attack on Mumbai. So why write about it?

Over the years, I have put the same question to myself. I am not a Sikh. No one I knew was ever targeted in those riots. The mob came nowhere near my home in South Delhi. All I saw of the actual devastation was a burnt vehicle that had not been removed from the road and a razed gurdwara awaiting kar seva. That too, after the riots abated. My abiding memory of the day of the assassination is a flag I saw flying at half mast in a foreign consulate (I cannot recall which one) while walking home from school. At the time, I had no idea what could possibly make a flag fly at half mast in a foreign consulate. Yet, I distinctly remember my chest tightening with the thought that something was not right. My abiding memory of the three days of rioting that followed is a TV screen showing dignitaries shuffling past the Prime Minister’s body lying in state, the propriety manifest in the scene contrasting sharply with the mayhem playing out elsewhere.

The most telling anecdote I have from those days that involved someone I knew occurred more than a month after the riots subsided. A school friend who happened to be a Sikh visited me at home. After he had left, our chowkidar, an ex-Army havildar from Haryana, told me, “These days you should keep your distance from Sikhs, baba. They are no longer good people.” Those words brought home the extent to which the world can change in a few days. I had known that friend for years. We sat next to each other in school. Now, a wall that we had no role in constructing threatened to come between us.

Yet, despite not being touched by it, it is in that madness that I have found a groundswell of creative inspiration. Writers do not select their material. Their material selects them. Thus goes the old adage. As the Israeli writer Etgar Keret reminds us, stories that matter are those that come from somewhere inside the writer. Anyone can pluck something out of thin air. But for something to have value, it has to come from something. On the basis of that, I can only conclude that even though my involvement was no more than that of a bystander, somehow those events became as much a part of me as my DNA.

Terrible cost

Two thousand seven hundred and thirty-three men, women and children were killed in the three days of rioting, according to official estimates. A sitting Prime Minister was assassinated for the first time in Indian history. There was incalculable damage to property and other assets. Furthermore, the riots served to radicalise thousands of Sikhs who otherwise would not have had anything to do with the Khalistan movement, and paved the way for an insurgency that not only terrorised Punjab for most of the next decade but cast a shadow that reached all the way to Delhi. There were also instances of members of a ruling party actively participating in the bloodletting of a section of the citizenry while the government, the police and the administrative machinery sat about doing nothing. Rather, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi attempted to explain away the riots with the now infamous statement: “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”

All these years later, however, it is not what happened in 1984 that rankles. It is the fact that the “corpse” of 1984 continues to show enough signs of life to play out, to the letter, what the American novelist William Faulkner said about the past. (Faulkner, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature for 1949, said, “The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.”) The recent stabbing of Lieutenant General Brar, who led Operation Bluestar which brought about the Prime Minister’s assassination, is merely the latest indication that 1984 is still alive and kicking.

RAVEENDRAN/ AFP 

THOSE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RIOTS, in which over 2,700 men, women and children were killed, have still not been brought to book. A Sikh woman widowed by the riots, during a protest near Parliament House in New Delhi on October 31, 2002.

A journalist engages with history as it happens. A historian deals with it in retrospect. A biographer concerns himself with the actions of its principal actors. For all three, facts form, or should form, their major stock-in-trade. A literary writer, on the other hand, is more concerned with the heart beating at the core of the body of facts. Like Salman Rushdie in Midnight’s Children, he or she is willing to compromise on accuracy to get at the essence of things by giving that passage of events a recognisable face. Hence, Partition has its Saleem Sinai, the Russian Revolution its Dr Zhivago, the First World War its Paul Baumer, the Victorian age its Pip….

For me, the most compelling face of the 1984 riots emerged more than 20 years after they transpired. In 2005, following a lecture at a Delhi college, I met a 20-year-old Sikh man who would later become the inspiration for a short story. As part of the lecture, I had read an excerpt from my first novel that deals with the 1984 riots. Maybe that was what made the young man come over at the end of the lecture and ask if he could have a word. He waited patiently until I had finished with everyone else. Then we walked over to the college canteen. Over a cup of tea, he shared his story.

Confronting the truth

He said he had been told by his mother that his father was working in the Gulf while he was growing up. As he grew older, he started to wonder why his father never phoned. Then he wondered why his mother was always scrounging to make ends meet. Other families where fathers worked in the Gulf never seemed to want for anything. Finally, one day he brought matters to a head with his mother and demanded to know what had actually happened to his father. His mother broke down in the face of incessant questioning and told him that his father had been murdered in the 1984 riots. She had concocted the story about him working in the Gulf to spare him the heartbreak.

After he had finished, I did not know what to say. Everything he had told me was as far away from my childhood as you could possibly get. For me, Dad had been a given while growing up; it was inconceivable to imagine growing up without him. For that young man, his father had existed in a lie. In order to sustain the lie, his mother would have concocted other lies. She would have authored letters and told him they came from his father. She would have bought presents and passed them off the same way. She would have built expectation by conjuring dates when the father was due to come home only to dash it later by saying he could not for some reason…. For the ruse to work for any length of time, members of the extended family had to be in on it. Were so many people participating in a lie in order to save their little one from heartbreak? Or was it part of their own desire to keep their loved one alive, if only in fiction?

Whatever else it did, such a childhood had clearly marked him. If he had not told me he was 20, I would have put his age closer to 30. I was reminded of the passage in the German author Erich Maria Remarque’s First World War classic All Quiet on the Western Front where the battle-scarred narrator, Paul Baumer, says about himself and his mates: “Young? None of us is more than twenty. But young? Young men? That was a long time ago. We are old now.”

In the end, I asked him how finding out the truth about his father felt. He told me it was hard at first. While he had sensed his mother was lying to him, he was unprepared for the brutal nature of the truth. (His father was set on fire and burned to death.) With the passage of time, however, he had come to terms with it. The truth helped give the matter closure. He no longer had to live wondering about his father.

THE HINDU ARCHIVES 

A SIKH MAN who cut his hair and shaved his beard to hide his religious identity during the riots shows his identity card.

Closure is what the events of 1984 have lacked. Following the stabbing of Lieutenant General Brar, the airwaves have been rife with speculation about the ghosts of 1984 rising. Recently, a cache of arms was seized in Punjab. There have been claims that money is being collected in gurdwaras abroad to create mayhem in India, and jobless Sikh youth are being radicalised through incendiary rhetoric and doctored films. An Operation Bluestar memorial, which has raised the hackles of a number of Army veterans, is planned in Amritsar.

Will the ghosts of 1984 rise? I sincerely hope not. However, at the moment, that entire period resembles an erratic narrative meandering in the absence of inspiration. There is no telling where something so rudderless might go. If civil society and people of conscience continue to relinquish its stewardship, then its authorship may very well fall into the hands of those who wish to push it into retro mode, and we could find ourselves facing a tragic déjà vu.

As a nation, we prefer to use silence to deal with our historical mistakes. Hence, our ghosts hang around. In the immediate aftermath, silence has its uses. Then memories are too raw and wounds too fresh for a constructive dialogue. After a suitable amount of time has passed, however, silence is counterproductive. By letting the unresolved linger, silence allows resentment to fester. The events of 1984 have lacked the kind of rigorous reflection and self-examination that would give them closure. Many of the questions remain to be answered. Responsibility has not been affixed for the crimes. The decisions taken at the time have not been dissected in any great detail for their veracity. For instance, how and why were things allowed to deteriorate to the point where it became necessary for the army to enter the Golden Temple? That was, after all, the event that set the whole tragic cycle in motion. It demands to be placed under a microscope.

Political expediency

In part, all of that is the direct result of political expediency. Just like the Gujarat riots of 2002, what happened in 1984 was politically motivated and the political fraternity is understandably hesitant to examine or prosecute itself. The Bharatiya Janata Party has dragged its feet over the Gujarat riots. In the same way, the Congress has been reluctant to revisit 1984. It was 2010 before the Central Bureau of Investigation framed charges against the senior Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for his role in organising the riots. There are others who have escaped prosecution altogether.

When it comes to righting historical mistakes, we would do well to take our cue from others. The fact that there is no chance that the Holocaust will ever be reprised is not because what happened then is shrouded in secrecy. Rather, it is because it has been shouted so loudly from the rooftops that we are sick to the gut. By the same token, one big reason why Germany has been able to move on from the monstrosity that was Nazism and the crimes of the Holocaust is that it was willing to stare them in the face. (The Germans had no wish to repeat their mistake following the First World War, where they refused to take responsibility for their defeat and opened the way for Hitler to seduce them by blaming the entire debacle on the Jewish minority.) Hence, guilt was fixed where it needed to be fixed. In a number of cases, it was admitted with genuine remorse. Those guilty of the most heinous crimes were punished. The necessary apologies were made….

South Africa has attempted to do something similar with apartheid. While it has not been entirely successful, it has managed to emerge as a functioning multiracial democracy, a far cry from its troubled neighbour Zimbabwe. Even our much-maligned neighbour Pakistan came clean by making the Justice Hamoodur Rehman Commission of Inquiry report into their military failure of 1971 public. The same, however, cannot be said about the Henderson Brooks report dealing with our military failure in the 1962 India-China war. Even though 50 years have passed since the event, it remains classified.

The silence surrounding the events of 1984 has guaranteed that they have generated little reflection and practically no self-examination. A lot happened in 1984. Just the fact that a sitting Prime Minister was assassinated for the first time in Indian history is enough cause for discussion. President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, President Lincoln almost a hundred years earlier. To this day, the American press and intelligentsia debate those events. By comparison, the focus on Indira Gandhi’s assassination has been minuscule. In fact, the entire epoch seems to have leapfrogged the stage of reflection and stock-taking altogether and looks ready to enter the realm of contested history. The religious leadership of the Sikhs is hell-bent on declaring those who died for the Khalistan cause martyrs. Others view such attempts with a mixture of revulsion and shock.

After the beginning, possibly the most important thing in a story is its ending. A satisfying ending can salvage a mediocre story by making it memorable. If anything, the recent rumblings in Punjab should tell us the last thing we need with regard to the events of 1984 is more silence. By steadfastly remaining topical, that passage of history continues to prove how insufficient the sense of an ending we have provided for it is. Like the young Sikh man I met in 2005, it needs the kind of irrevocable closure that cannot be supplied by silence. The sooner we realise that and move to resolve the things that keep it topical, the earlier we will put it to rest.

Vikram Kapur is an award-winning novelist and short story writer. His website is www.vikramkapur.com






#India #Punjab #IndiraGandhi -Remembering A Dark Moment Of Our History


 

31 Oct 2012 | GOVERNANCE | By VBRAWAT, Halabol Blog

It was early morning of 31st October that Indira Gandhi was preparing herself for an interview to a foreign TV channel at her residence at Safdarjang Road and walking towards the office at Akbar Road.  As soon as she reached the gates of her house, the guards at duty, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh fired at her. Mrs Gandhi was rushed to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. The news of attempt on prime minister’s life spread like wild fire but unfortunately India under the strict government information control was just getting information through All India Radio and Doordarshan that Mrs Gandhi was attacked and doctors at AIIMS were trying to save her life.

There was no information and after some time people started spreading rumors. The BBC had declared that she was dead and this information had already been broadcasted by all the international radio stations but back home Doordarshan and Akashwani were just playing ‘bhakti sangeet’ and melancholy music.

The justification was that no senior politician was in the the capital. President Jail Singh was on an official visit to South Korea, while Rajiv Gandhi was campaigning in West Bengal. Vice Presidents and other senior leaders too were out of Delhi and hence no one was there to guide the government – resulting in total chaos that led to rumors in the street resulting in anti-Sikh violence. By the evening, the 6 pm news on the radio and TV officially announced that Mrs Indira Gandhi died in a terrorist attack at her residence around 9 am. By that time, the president and other senior leaders were back to Delhi.

In the late evening, President Jail Singh swore in Rajiv Gandhi the new prime minister of India along with a few other ministers. The fact is that there was no parliamentary board meeting that time but president Jail Singh fulfilled his loyalty to late Indira Gandhi by asking Rajiv to form the government. The anti-Sikh sentiments were running high during that period and slowly the country saw the worst ever governance at the Centre.

While Radio and TV were showing Indira Gandhi’s dead body over and over again, there was no constraint on the government not to broadcast the anti-Sikh sloganeering being raised by Congress workers. Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahega, Indira Tera Naam Rahega… Khoon Ka Badla Khoon Se Lenge’, were some of the provocative slogans on the air. The local political leaders of the congress party had already started whipping up passions and Sikh establishments and business institutions were targeted. By the evening the Sikhs became an alien in this country. The country was moaning for Indira Gandhi but the Hindus had decided to teach the Sikhs a lesson for their act. Reasoning was lost in the din of noise and as the governance remained completely lost; the people were allowed to die on the street by the hooligans.

Innocent lives were lost. Children became orphans; women became widows and parents saw their children getting burnt in front of them. This was the scene at the street at India’s capital. Shamelessly, the government had no time and it looked like that it was instigating the crowd to act. There was no governance for the next three-four days. Aakashwani and Doordarshan were dutifully showing the crowd and their anti-Sikh chanting.

This continued till the cremation of Indira Gandhi took place in which a large number of international leaders too participated. The only thing was that there were not many Sikhs in the entire programme except for President Jail Singh and Congress leader Buta Singh. It is ironical how Sikhs were kept out and completely isolated for so many days in the Indian political establishment.

Rajiv spoke to the nation that ‘Indira was not just my mother but the mother of nation’. He spoke of everything except the violence on the street. The sarkari news agencies never bothered to inform people about the violence on the street. “The situation is tense but under control”, was a trademark statement. It was not just Delhi – the anti-Sikh violence took place everywhere with police and administration allowing things to happen.

Why innocent Sikhs should be punished by criminal mobs because a prime minister was assassinated by people who happened to be Sikhs. There was no sane voice who could tell the nation that entire community couldn’t be held for the crime of two individuals. There was no one in the government who could speak that the first thing for the new government to do was to restore law and order. Even when army was required, it looked, it was delayed deliberately. And at the end of the three days, India had debris of human masses – killed by the political people for their political purposes.

And as it happened, justifications were ready from the criminals. “The Sikhs need to be taught a lesson,” they said. They were celebrating and distributing sweets, when Mrs. Indira Gandhi was shot, said the others. “If we do not teach them a lesson, they will destroy India,” said many. And the pattern was similar to what the forces of Hindutva do. The fact is that they too participated in this whole exercise.

It needs to be understood that Indira Gandhi became a ‘Hindu’ leader when she was shot by her Sikh security guard and Rajiv became the aspiration of Hindus who were being threatened by the Sikhs. He was a son, an obedient one, who needed to be supported and it was that reason that during the subsequent general elections, the country gave a huge mandate to the Congress Party. It was an election which was built up on a hate campaign against a community and if I dare say a completely communally mandated one at that. The fact was that the Congress had realized the popular sentiments and communalized atmosphere in the country, and they felt it was the right time for them to strengthen that further and hence they promoted anti-Sikh sentiments and violence in different parts of the country.

The victims of the communal violence instigated by the political goons of the Congress Party have not yet got justice. Court proceedings are delayed while the criminals roam freely in Delhi. Some of them were awarded as key ministries in the subsequent cabinets as well as in the party. The scars of those pogroms are still in the hearts of the people because of the deliberate delays and attempts to save the criminals by the power elite of the country.

In fact, Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi tried to justify anti-Sikh violence by, “Jab Ek Bada Ped Girta Hai Toh Aas-Paas Ki Dharti Hilti Hi Hai” [When a huge tree falls, it’s natural that the surrounding earth shakes]. It was not a speech of a seasoned political leader but a politician who was playing politics with the dead bodies. And a massive mandate does not justify the killing and violence. The Congress’s game was replicated by the BJP in Gujarat and the victims belonged to another minority this time.

It has to be understood that in the schemes of things of our major political parties, the value of a majority community is important and for that they are ready to dump the minority voices and their rights. Hence, Rajiv Gandhi and his Congress did not care for the Sikhs when the matter was communalized and the Hindus felt that the Congress needed to be strengthened. In the similar case of Gujarat, Modi sidetracked all the criticism of justice to Muslims and went on his tirade against them.

A similar pattern is being witnessed now in Haryana when no party is ready to take on the Khaps for their anti-constitutional statements and violence against Dalits. It effectively shows that the Indian state is primarily a Brahminical state that just works on the sentiments of the so called upper caste Hindus and only stereotypes the minorities. The difference between an act of violence by an individual is actually painted as the voice of the community and then punishment is given by the ‘people’ and is justified by the power elite as the sentiments of the ‘majority’.

It is not for nothing that when we see the pattern we find strange similarities of violence against minorities in Delhi and Gujarat. One shudders to think what would have happened if Gandhi was killed not by Nathuram Godse, a Brahmin but by some Muslim or Dalits?  But a Brahmin killing Gandhi did not result in violence against them in the country. In fact, there was justification of their theory of killing Gandhi.

India cannot become a truly democratic society if she fails to protect the people who do not practise the same religion or values as the power elite do. The rule of law must be applied in all circumstances and political deaths should not be used as hate propaganda against one community to get the political benefit for the other. The threat of communalism looms large on the country and can take it back to primitive age of horror and terror. It is time that Indians rise above their narrow communal mindset and behave as citizens of the country. All the citizens of the country need protection and failure to protect them by officials needs to be punished severely including formation of special courts for their trials.

The criminals of Delhi’s anti-Sikh riots must be punished at the earliest and all those innocents who lost their near and dear ones need to be rehabilitated and protected so that they continue to have faith in the constitution of the country and their hopes are not totally belied in the politicization of a crime.

 

 

 

Reddit Users Attempt to Shame #Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled #gender


Reddit Users Attempt to Shame Sikh Woman, Get Righteously Schooled
Lindy West, http://jezebel.com
A Reddit user going by the handle “european_douchebag” posted a surreptitious photo of a Sikh woman with the caption “i’m not sure what to conclude from this.” The user’s apparent confusion stems from the fact that the woman—bound by her religion not to cut her hair or alter her body—has an abundance of dark, untrimmed facial hair. The mind of european_douchebag was SO INCREDIBLY BLOWN by the fact that women have hair on their bodies—and, yes, faces—and that some women are bold, self-assured, and pious enough not to cave to western beauty standards (and gender expectations), there was nothing for him to do but post her photo online and wait for the abuse to flood in.

But then something totally lovely and unexpected happened. The woman in the photo responded:

Hey, guys. This is Balpreet Kaur, the girl from the picture. I actually didn’t know about this until one of my friends told on facebook. If the OP wanted a picture, they could have just asked and I could have smiled 🙂 However, I’m not embarrased or even humiliated by the attention [negative and positve] that this picture is getting because, it’s who I am. Yes, I’m a baptized Sikh woman with facial hair. Yes, I realize that my gender is often confused and I look different than most women. However, baptized Sikhs believe in the sacredness of this body – it is a gift that has been given to us by the Divine Being [which is genderless, actually] and, must keep it intact as a submission to the divine will. Just as a child doesn’t reject the gift of his/her parents, Sikhs do not reject the body that has been given to us. By crying ‘mine, mine’ and changing this body-tool, we are essentially living in ego and creating a seperateness between ourselves and the divinity within us. By transcending societal views of beauty, I believe that I can focus more on my actions. My attitude and thoughts and actions have more value in them than my body because I recognize that this body is just going to become ash in the end, so why fuss about it? When I die, no one is going to remember what I looked like, heck, my kids will forget my voice, and slowly, all physical memory will fade away. However, my impact and legacy will remain: and, by not focusing on the physical beauty, I have time to cultivate those inner virtues and hopefully, focus my life on creating change and progress for this world in any way I can. So, to me, my face isn’t important but the smile and the happiness that lie behind the face are. 🙂 So, if anyone sees me at OSU, please come up and say hello. I appreciate all of the comments here, both positive and less positive because I’ve gotten a better understanding of myself and others from this. Also, the yoga pants are quite comfortable and the Better Together tshirt is actually from Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that focuses on storytelling and engagement between different faiths. 🙂 I hope this explains everything a bit more, and I apologize for causing such confusion and uttering anything that hurt anyone.

And then, THEN, something even more miraculous happened—the original poster apologized:

I know that this post ISN’T a funny post but I felt the need to apologize to the Sikhs, Balpreet, and anyone else I offended when I posted that picture. Put simply it was stupid. Making fun of people is funny to some but incredibly degrading to the people you’re making fun of. It was an incredibly rude, judgmental, and ignorant thing to post.

/r/Funny wasn’t the proper place to post this. Maybe /r/racism or /r/douchebagsofreddit or /r/intolerance would have been more appropriate. Reddit shouldn’t be about putting people down, but a group of people sending cool, interesting, or funny things. Reddit’s been in the news alot lately about a lot of cool things we’ve done, like a freaking AMA by the president. I’m sorry for being the part of reddit that is intolerant and douchebaggy. This isn’t 4chan, or 9gag, or some other stupid website where people post things like I did. It’s fucking reddit. Where some pretty amazing stuff has happened.

I’ve read more about the Sikh faith and it was actually really interesting. It makes a whole lot of sense to work on having a legacy and not worrying about what you look like. I made that post for stupid internet points and I was ignorant.

So reddit I’m sorry for being an asshole and for giving you negative publicity.
Balpreet, I’m sorry for being a closed minded individual. You are a much better person than I am
Sikhs, I’m sorry for insulting your culture and way of life.
Balpreet’s faith in what she believes is astounding.

Holy shit, internet, I don’t even know you anymore! I never thought something would come out of the seeping necrotic abscess that is Reddit that would actually make my day better, but wow. MY HEART GREW THREE SIZES THIS DAY.

Wade Michael Page and the rise of violent far-right extremism


 

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 8 August 2012 20.00 BST

The man who opened fire in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin was not just a crazed loner, but a vocal neo-Nazi – in fact, his white supremacist ideology reflected a growing form of extremism that expresses its strength through violence rather than at the ballot box

o   Matthew Goodwin

Wade Michael Page

Wade Michael Page performing with white power group End Apathy. Photograph: Reuters

On Saturday 28 July 2012, Wade Michael Page walked into the Shooters Shop inWisconsin to buy a 9mm semi-automatic handgun, and ammunition. Eight days later, the 40-year-old military veteran arrived at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek and began shooting at members of the congregation who had gathered to prepare a meal. During the shooting, six members of the Sikh community, one police officer and the attacker were killed.

Within hours of the shootings, the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC) revealed that Page was a known white supremacist. He had links to networks including the Hammerskin Nation and was involved in an underground music scene often referred to as “white power music” or “hate rock”. Influenced strongly by earlier bands in England such as Skrewdriver, white power music is seen by those who study extremism as one of the most important recruitment tools for the modern far right. Page’s involvement appears to have been deep: in an interview with online music magazine Label56.com in 2005, he claimed to have sold all of his possessions so that he could travel around the country attending white power festivals such as Hammerfest. The next year he formed a band called End Apathy recruiting bandmates from the other groups such as Definite Hate and 13 Knots. Asked in 2005 to elaborate on the meaning of the band’s lyrics, Page replied: “The topics vary from sociological issues, religion, and how the value of human life has been degraded by being submissive to tyranny and hypocrisy that we are subjugated to.”

Page’s body also contained references to white supremacism. A tattoo of the number “14” was a direct reference to the so-called “14 words” that occupy a central role in neo-Nazi vocabulary: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.” This passage, a reference to a section of Mein Kampf, was popularised byDavid Lane, a member of white supremacist terror group The Order. Another tattoo of the Odin or Celtic cross represents one of the most popular symbols among neo-Nazis, seen as the international symbol for “white pride”. Those who had been close to Page confirmed his ideological affinity to the extreme right. Reflecting a wider belief within the movement, an old army friend of Page claimed that as far back as the 90s he had talked about “racial holy war”, and would rant “about mostly any non-white person”.

As with the aftermath of the attacks by Anders Breivik in Norway, it was not long until sympathisers surfaced online. “Take your dead and go back to India and dump their ashes in the Ganges, Sikhs,” wrote one neo-Nazi. Others praised their “brother”: “All I feel is loss and sympathy for a brother that was overwhelmed by pain and frustration. I could [sic] care less though for those injured and wounded other than Wade.” Another warned of future attacks: “There are thousands of other angry White men like Page, the vast majority of them unknown … When will they, like Page, reach their breaking point…?”

The threat of violence from disgruntled rightwing extremists is not lost on the security services, or analysts. In 2009, Daryl Johnson, an analyst at the Department for Homeland Security, authored a report that explicitly warned of the growing threat of far-right violence. Pointing to the economic downturn, the election of Barack Obama and evidence that some military veterans were struggling to re-integrate into civilian life, the report was one of the first to flag the growing importance of the extreme right – a movement that was routinely overlooked after 9/11. Few, however, took the warning seriously. Rather, Republicans and rightwing commentators openly criticised the report. Some saw it as an attempt to discredit the insurgent and right-wing Tea Party movement while many viewed it as an unfair attack on military veterans. Others said it focused unnecessarily on domestic rather than foreign manifestations of terrorism.

But Johnson (who was later shunted into a different department) was not wrong. Following Wisconsin, some analysts reminded commentators that the far right is responsible for as many – if not more – attacks on US soil than religious-based extremists, and now poses the most significant domestic security threat. Indeed, prior to 9/11 the most damaging act of terrorism within the US was the bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma by militia sympathiser Timothy McVeigh, which resulted in 168 deaths and more than 800 injuries. Between 1990 and 2010 the far right committed 145 ideologically motivated homicide incidents in the US. Of these incidents, excluding the bombing in Oklahoma City, far-right extremists killed 180 people.

The data suggests that American far right groups have grown “explosively”, which is attributed to a potent combination of public anxieties over the financial crisis, the growth of conspiracy theories, the exploitation of fears over non-white immigration and the prospect of Obama securing a second term in office.

According to the SPLC, in 2011 the number of “hate groups” active in the US reached 1,018, 69% more than in 2000. The most striking growth has been within the “patriot” scene, which contains anti-government groups that cling to conspiracy theories and view the government as enemy number one. There were fewer than 150 of these (mostly inactive) groups in 2000. By 2011, there were almost 1,300. In fact, since 2009 this particular variant of the far right has grown at a rate of 755%.

While it is difficult to compare across borders, similar warnings have been voiced in Europe. Last year, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution in Germany noted that while the number of people in far-right political parties had contracted to 22,000, the number of those involved in more combative and confrontational forms of far-right politics was on the rise: the number of rightwing extremists with a propensity to violence had increased to 9,800; the number of followers of more violence-prone neo-Nazi groups had risen to 6,000; and the number of street-based demonstrations had reached an all-time high.

Though less affected than other countries, from 2001 onward, authorities in the UK have similarly voiced concern over a rapidly evolving far-right scene. In recent years, at least 17 individuals who committed or planned acts of violence or terrorism, and who were linked to the far right, have been imprisoned. In 2009, the discovery of a network of rightwing extremists in England with access to an arsenal of weapons prompted London Metropolitan police to warn that far-right militants might attempt a “spectacular” attack. In the same year the English Defence League (EDL) was born, introducing a new form of far-right politics that is less interested than its predecessors in elections, and more focused on rallying support through street-based confrontation and networks that transcend national borders.

A candlelight vigil following the shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, Photograph: Chris Wilson/AP

Though often dismissed as alarmist, these warnings were partly validated in July 2011, when Breivik launched his politically motivated attacks in Oslo and on the island of Utøya. Shortly afterward, authorities in Germany discovered that a violent neo-Nazi cell – the National Socialist Underground (NSU) – had been responsible for at least a dozen murders. Then, in Florence, an activist connected to the far-right group Casa Pound shot dead two immigrant street traders in an unprovoked attack. While it might be tempting to treat the attack in Wisconsin in isolation, it is actually the latest in a series of acts of violence from individuals linked to far-right groups.

The perpetrators of these attacks are often dismissed as crazed and psychologically flawed loners. Perhaps this is because we have grown used to the security threat from religious extremists and tend to view their far-right counterparts as a loony fringe, rather than rational agents who are using violence to achieve certain goals. WhatBreivik in NorwayGianluca Casseri in Florence, the “London nailbomber” David Copeland and Michael Page all share in common is that they arrived at violence following a longer involvement with far-right extremism. For more recent examples – such as Breivik – their attacks followed an almost total immersion in online “virtual communities”. These perform a crucial role in cultivating a set of narratives that are often later used to justify violence. These include emphasis on the perceived threat of racial or cultural extinction, belief in an impending and apocalyptic conflict (a “race war” or “clash of civilisations”), belief that urgent, radical action is required and that followers have a moral obligation. In short, only by engaging in violence can they defend the wider group from various threats in society.

This preference for violence or terrorism reflects a viewpoint within the far right that has long prioritised “direct action” over a ballot-box strategy. For much of the past two decades in Europe, the strength of the far right has been measured through its number of votes at elections. But it is important to note that – for some within this scene – strength is measured as the ability and willingness to engage in violent action against “enemies” that are seen to threaten the racial purity and survival of the native group. These enemies can beimmigrants, minority groups, future leaders of mainstream parties or the state.

Identifying and tracking the Breiviks and Pages of this world will always be extremely difficult. But the reality is that – at least for the past 10 years – western democracies and their security agencies have focused almost exclusively on only one form of violent extremism. The far right may still pose less of a threat than al-Qaida-inspired groups, say, but our ignorance of this form of extremism is striking.

Wisconsin teaches us that the challenge that now presents itself is to understand what “pushes and pulls” citizens to commit violence in the name of rightwing extremism, and to develop an effective response. To do this, we must first start taking violence from the far right more seriously.

 

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