The Long Search for Killers of 1984 Sikh Massacre
For last 34 years, on every anniversary of 1984 massacre of Sikhs, this author has been reminding the Nation how Indian State and judiciary did not bother to punish the perpetrators of this horrendous mass killing of the innocents of the second largest religious minority of our country. On every anniversary the author hoped that by next year, justice would be done and he would not have to write the painful story once again as reminder. Another year has gone by; the saga of the criminal betrayal by the Indian Republic continues.
Betrayal by Governments till 2014
After giving free run to the killer gangs, the government appointed a one-man Marwah Commission to find out the perpetrators of the 1984 ‘riots’. As this exercise was proving inconvenient, it was asked to disband itself within a short period of its existence and a sitting Supreme Court Judge Ranga Nath Mishra was asked to conduct an inquiry into the 1984 ‘riots’. He submitted his report in 1987. Shockingly, this fact finding (or fact-hiding) commission headed by Misra observed that “the riots which had a spontaneous origin later attained a channelised method at the hands of gangsters.”
The ‘apostle of justice’, Mishra, was not unable to find out from where these gangsters came! According to Jarnail Singh, author of the book I Accuse: The Anti-Sikh Violence of 1984, for this service to the State, Justice Mishra was awarded a berth in the Rajya Sabha.
Over the next two decades, not less than nine commissions of inquiry were instituted. For the Indian State it became routine to announce the constitution of some new commission or some more compensation to the families of the victims in order to deflect the mounting anger at the times of elections. Highlighting the anti-minority bias of such commissions, H.S. Phoolka, a renowned lawyer, commented that instead of getting convicted many of the political perpetrators get promoted as rulers.
In the latest development, the Supreme Court of India on August 16, 2017 ordered the constitution of a panel comprising two of its former judges to examine the justification for closing 241 anti-Sikh riot cases probed by SIT and give its report within the next 3 months. It is November 2018, 15 months have gone by since the order was passed, and these three months are yet to be over!
Betrayal by the Present RSS–BJP Rulers
The RSS claims to have always stood for Hindu–Sikh unity. It occasionally expresses its gratitude to Sikhism for saving Hinduism from Muslim aggression. It may not be irrelevant to note here that the RSS does not treat Sikhism as an independent religion which discarded casteism and Brahmanical hegemony, but considers it to be a part of Hinduism. The RSS–BJP leaders have repeatedly blamed the Congress for the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. While addressing a public rally during the last parliamentary elections in Jhansi, UP (October 25, 2013), Modi asked Congress leaders to explain who “killed thousands of Sikhs in 1984” and “has anyone been convicted for the Sikh genocide so far”. Modi during the Punjab elections and 2014 general elections kept on referring to ‘qatl-e-aam’ or genocide of Sikhs.
After becoming PM, Modi in a message (October 31, 2014) said that the anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination were like a “dagger that pierced through India’s chest. . . . Our own people were murdered, the attack was not on a particular community but on the entire nation.”
Hindutva icon, RSS whole-timer and PM Modi lamented the fact that culprits were yet to be booked and tried for this massacre. However, Modi did not tell the nation what NDA governments which ruled this country from 1998 to 2004 did to persecute the culprits. Modi also forgot to share the fact that as per the autobiography of L.K. Advani (page 430), it was his party which pushed Indira Gandhi to go for army action, infamously named as ‘Operation Blue Star’, which killed large number of Sikh pilgrims.
Renowned journalist Manoj Mitta, author of the book When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath straight forwardly says that:
Despite the BJP rule, there has hardly been any will to enforce accountability for the massacres that took place under the Congress. It’s as if there is a tacit deal between the sponsors of 1984 and 2002.
A perusal of contemporary RSS documents reveals that the major focus of the RSS in the days following the 1984 genocide was on condemning Sikh extremism, eulogising Indira Gandhi and welcoming the crowning of Rajiv Gandhi as the new prime minister after Indira Gandhi’s murder.
RSS Ideologue’s Dehumanised Attitude Towards Sikh Massacre
The most important proof of such a dehumanised attitude towards the massacre of Sikhs is a document circulated by Nana Deshmukh, a prominent whole timer and an ideologue of the RSS. This document titled Moments of Soul Searching was circulated by Deshmukh on November 8, 1984. In this document, Nana Deshmukh justifies the massacre of the Sikh community in 1984.
This document also shows the true degenerated and fascist attitude of the RSS towards all the minorities of India. The RSS has been arguing that they are against Muslims and Christians because they are the followers of foreign religions. Here we find them justifying the butchering of Sikhs who according to their own categorisation are the followers of an indigenous religion.
This document was published in the Hindi Weekly Pratipaksh (edited by George Fernandes, who later became the Defence Minister of India in the NDA regime) in its edition of November 25, 1984 under the title “Indira Congress–RSS collusion” with the following editorial comment:
“The author of the following document is known as an ideologue and policy formulator of the RSS. After the killing of Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) he distributed this document among prominent politicians. It has a historical significance. That is why we have decided to publish it, violating the policy of our weekly. This document highlights the new affinities developing between the Indira Congress and the RSS. We produce here the Hindi translation of the document.”
Here is a brief summary of Deshmukh’s defence of the 1984 carnage:
- The massacre of Sikhs was not the handiwork of any group or anti-social elements but the result of a genuine feeling of anger.
- Deshmukh did not distinguish the action of the two security personnel of Indira Gandhi, who happened to be Sikhs, from that of the whole Sikh community. According to his document, the killers of Indira Gandhi were working under some kind of mandate from their community.
- Sikhs themselves invited these attacks, thus advancing the Congress theory of justifying the massacre of the Sikhs.
- He glorified Operation Blue Star and described any opposition to it as anti-national. When Sikhs were being killed in thousands, he was warning the country of Sikh extremism, thus offering ideological defense of those killings.
- Sikh community as a whole was responsible for violence in Punjab.
- Sikhs should have done nothing in self-defence but showed patience and tolerance against the killer mobs.
- Sikh intellectuals and not killer mobs were responsible for the massacre. They had turned Sikhs into a militant community, cutting them off from their Hindu roots, thus inviting attacks from nationalist Indians. Moreover, he treated all Sikhs as part of the same gang and described attacks on them as a reaction of the nationalist Hindus.
- He described Indira Gandhi as the only leader who could keep the country united, and stated that following the assassination of such a great leader, such killings could not be avoided.
- Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded Mrs. Gandhi as PM following her killing and justified the nationwide killings of Sikhs by saying, “When a huge tree falls there are always tremors felt”, was lauded and blessed by Nana Deshmukh at the end of the document.
- Shockingly, Deshmukh equates the massacre of Sikhs with the attacks on RSS cadres after the killing of Gandhiji, and so he goes on to advise Sikhs to suffer silently. Everybody knows that the killing of Gandhiji was inspired by the RSS and Hindutva ideology, whereas the common innocent Sikhs had nothing to do with the murder of Indira Gandhi.
- There is not a single sentence in Deshmukh’s document demanding from the then Congress Government at the Centre remedial measures for controlling the violence against the minority community. Remember that Deshmukh had circulated this document on November 8, 1984; it was during the period November 5–10 when the maximum killings of Sikhs took place. Deshmukh was just not concerned about these killings.
- It is generally believed that Congress cadres were behind this genocide. This may be true, but there were other forces also which actively participated in this massacre and whose role has never been investigated. This could be one of the reasons why the actual perpetrators remain unknown.
The circulation of this document by Deshmukh did not happen in isolation. It represented the real RSS attitude towards the Sikh genocide of 1984. It may be relevant to know here that RSS cadres did not come forward in defence of the Sikhs. The RSS is very fond of circulating publicity material, especially photographs of its khaki shorts-clad cadres doing social work. For the 1984 violence they have none. Deshmukh’s article also makes no mention of RSS cadres going to the rescue of Sikhs under siege.
The RSS English organ, Organiser in its combined issue dated November 11 & 18, 1984 carried an editorial titled “Stunning Loss” which praised Indira Gandhi in the following words: “It will always be difficult to believe that Indira Gandhi is no more. One had got so used to hearing her myriad voices for so long, that everything looks so blank without her. The violent manner of her death is the most shocking horror story, giving the nation the creeps. . . . It is a case of treacherous fanatics stigmatising the whole nation by butchering a remarkable specimen of Indian womanhood. . . . She literally served India to the last drop of her blood according to her own lights.” The same editorial ended with the words supporting newly installed PM, Rajiv Gandhi, who according to it “deserves sympathy and consideration”.
Organiser also carried the statement of RSS supremo, Balasaheb Deoras, titled “Balasaheb condemns assassination, Delhi carnage” in a single column. He mourned and condemned the carnage but not even once referred to the fact that Sikhs were under attack. For him it was “infighting in the Hindu Samaj”. According to this statement, “swayamsevaks have been instructed to form or help in forming Mohalla Suraksha Samitis” for restoring peace and rehabilitation of the sufferers. However, there are no documents available in contemporary RSS archives to show how these Samitis functioned. It is a fact that RSS which is fond of displaying photographs of its cadres doing social work has not published any visuals of the activities of these Samitis.
In the above mentioned statement, Deoras reacts to the assassination of Indira Gandhi in the following words, “It is shocking beyond words to express the feelings at the murder of PM Mrs. Indira Gandhi by some fanatic elements. She had been carrying on almost the entire burden of the country since 1966. She was loved and respected not only in this country but all over the world. Her passing away at this critical juncture will create a void in India and also in the world.”
The same issue of the Organiser also says: “RSS Sarkyavah, Rajender Singh issued instructions to all the branches in the country to hold a special meeting in Shakha condemning the dastardly murder of the PM and paying homage to the departed soul. He also issued instructions to cancel all public functions to be held by RSS during the period of mourning.” Of course, RSS archives do not contain any instructions from RSS top brass ordering RSS cadres to mourn the Sikh martyrs.
So, the search for finding the perpetrators of the Sikh massacre of 1984 continues endlessly. The present RSS–BJP rulers who claim to be co-religionists of Sikhs have proven no different from the Congress. The only hope is that those Indians who have a stake in continuation of democratic–secular Indian polity will come forward to force the Indian State to identify and punish the killers.
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