Revisiting The Gruesome History Of Anti-Sikh Riots Of 1984
“When a mighty tree falls, the earth is bound to shake”, this was the remark made by former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on massacre that broke out against the Sikhs after his mother, Indira Gandhi, the previous prime minister, was assassinated on October 31, 1984, by two of her security guards who were Sikh aftermath of the Operation Bluestar.
Operation Blue Star was the codename for the attack on the Akal Takhat and the Golden Temple complex during the period June 1 to 6, 1984. The Indian army invaded the Harmandir Sahib complex on the orders of the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi.
Mass Killing of Sikhs
Right after the death of Indira Gandhi, anti-Sikh sentiments brewed inside the hearts of a large mass of India and over the next three days, Sikhs were massacred in systematic riots allegedly planned by Congress activists and their sympathisers.
The government controlled media exerted a mass propagation against Sikhs to fuel the agitation against them.
A huge mob, assured of police non-interference, descended on various localities where mainly Sikhs were concentrated. Armed with iron rods, knives, clubs the mobsters, brutally killed people from the Sikh community and torched their houses after putting kerosene. Even women and children were not spared from the horror.
Congress Party leaders allegedly went on a rampage against Sikhs in Delhi and other cities. Over three days, a total of 3,325 people were killed in which Delhi alone accounted for 2,733 deaths, while the rest occurred in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and other states, their property looted and destroyed. Many women were raped in the capital. The authorities quickly blamed every incident of mass communal violence on a spontaneous public reaction.
Rajiv Gandhi’s widow, Sonia Gandhi, the President of the Congress Party, officially apologised in 1998 for the events of November 1984.
Commission of Enquiry
After the Sikh genocide, ten government-appointed commissions and committees have investigated the 1984 Delhi pogroms.
Survivors of the riots say the nightmare continued even when they were taken into refugee camps, meant to shelter and look after them.
The effects of the 1984 riots were felt long after the violence came to a halt. Survivors talk of the way the events impacted the future of children in the community, many of whom could not be educated since their parents had died or been robbed to such an extent that they could no longer afford to send them to school. Marriages, too, became difficult since people had been looted to such an extent they were struggling just to survive, they said.
Over 30 years have passed after the genocide, but justice has not been meted out. As many as 587 cases in connection with the 1984 riots were registered by the Delhi Police, of which 241 cases were later closed citing lack of evidence. Four of these cases, however, were reopened in 2006 and one in 2013, leading to 35 people being convicted in the cases. The remaining cases stayed closed.
After coming to power, the Narendra Modi government on December 10, 2014, approved a proposal of compensation of Rs 5 lakh to each kin of the victims of the 1984 riots.
Ahead of the Punjab Assembly elections in 2017, the Centre has now decided to reopen 28 cases relating to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and all these cases will be probed by a special investigation team (SIT).
The Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 remains to be one of the most gruesome incidents ever took place in the country in the 20th century.