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Justice denied to Sikhs

October 5, 2007

On the 29th of last month I read that the CBI dropped charges against Jagdish Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riot case. From the start the case hadn’t gone well, and in fact in 2005, The Union Home Ministry had asked the CBI to re-open the cases against former Union Minister Jagdish Tytler, Congress MP Sajjan Kumar and senior Congress leader from Karol Bagh Dharam Das Shastri, all accused in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. Additionally, in May this year the High court admitted an appeal by the CBI against the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar, MLA Jai Kishan and eight others in the anti-Sikh riots case at Sultanpuri in North-West Delhi.

The CBI has now done an about-turn. Even before the hearings are over, they have absolved Tytler of charges, saying that “the witnesses in this case had either passed away or were not available to testify”!

One accused, Dharam Das Shastri has also passed away and the judgment against Sajjan Kumar is pending.

Sikhs are furious, and I doubt whether yesterday’s Delhi court notice to the CBI for letting Jagdish Tytler off before the hearing is over has made them feel much better. The next date of hearing is on November 29th.

I don’t know what will happen on November 29th but don’t feel very optimistic. Its clear that the CBI, which is a central government agency, is not operating in an objective manner. Its ironic that our Prime Minister himself is a Sikh but is watching helplessly…it is also clear that he has no voice. Someone else has…and we all know who it is.

For me, the anti-Sikh riots are a living memory. I was witness to them. I was young then, living in my parents house, and when we heard Delhi was burning we rushed up to the terrace. We saw fires dotting the skyline…and it was clear that there was deep trouble in the city. The very next day we had tickets booked to fly us to Pune, tickets which had been booked two weeks earlier.

My dad said things would probably quieten down by the next morning…but nothing prepared us for what we saw. Frenzied mobs running after Sikhs. My dad regretted the decision of taking us out that day…but it was too late to turn back. All he could do was keep saying…keep calm, keep calm. I was not calm, I was frozen with shock. Our car was stopped by a mob as we neared the airport. Crazy looking people with rods flung opened the door and shouted, ‘Koi Sikh Hai?’ (Is there any Sikh here?)

They stared at my short hair and then at the others…and laughed. ‘Sikh nahi hai…‘ (There are no Sikhs here) they said to each other. Then one of them stuck his face back in. ‘Dicky me chupaya hai kya?’ (Have you hidden them in the boot?) My father said no. But they checked. As they did I saw them catch a young twenty year old boy and set him on fire. As our car rolled by, for some reason I saw the scene in slow-motion…the boy screaming…till today I see that scene as vividly as if it were yesterday.

And now 23 years later justice has not been done. Even though it is well known who the culprits are. Two of my Sikh friends swore they would leave India forever…and well, they did. They are far away now. One is in the UK and the other in the US.

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29 Comments leave one →
  1. October 5, 2007 8:46 am

    I am a survivor of Delhi 84, in fact, the only survivor of my nuclear family. We were only visiting relatives in Delhi at the time, bad timing, I guess.

    I have sworn that only two events would bring me back to the subcontinent: The execution of Mr. Tytler or the establishment of Khalistan.

    BTW: NJustice has been denied not only to us Sikhs; justice denied one is justice demied all!

  2. October 5, 2007 9:23 am

    Yes you are right Mai. This was a crime against humanity. And I am awfully sorry…but words to you will seem empty but that is all that I have with me.
    But remember, its not the people who did this. The common people did come to the help of Sikhs. One has to remember that these riots were politically motivated and the rioters were goons. Not the representative of the people of India.

  3. October 5, 2007 9:54 am

    Justice Delayed and Denied as well.

    We are loosing our faith on our most important agencies like CBI & COD.. This is most serious issue in this country. In cases like Boffors where we have strong evidence they failed.. then what can we expect??

    This closure report from CBI is another most painful chapter in This country.

    Shame!

  4. October 5, 2007 10:09 am

    I echo your feelings Bharath. Shame on our government!!
    And as you are probably aware its a similar thing in Mumbai…many of those who took part in the Mumbai riots were from a particular saffron party. They were let off. Shame on them ALL.

  5. October 5, 2007 2:33 pm

    Don’t know what to say…evocative post…fully agree with Mai and Bharath.

    I’ve been caught in the midst of the 93 riots as well as the ensuing bomb blasts…witnessing riots on the big screen in a film is nothing like what it is in real life…

  6. October 5, 2007 4:09 pm

    This event is one of the reasons I am not very enamored of India. Not for me the rose-tinted ‘Mera Bharat Mahaan’ slogans. This is the real India. The country that symbolises hypocrisy. Where you can get away with mass murder or gang rape or infanticide if you have the right politicians or cops bankrolled.

  7. October 5, 2007 4:33 pm

    Nita: To me this is a great example of evil begets evil. Indira Gandhi cultivated Bhindaranwala, then he turned against her like the proverbial snake-in-the-sleeve, then things got out of hand with funding and help from separatists based in Canada and the UK, then she turned against him, then the army went into the Golden Temple, then Sikhs got pissed off, then two sikhs shot Indira Gandhi, then riots with some more political encouragement took place, then thousands of Sikhs died undeserved deaths.

    To treat something like this in isolation is no different from hunting for Bin Laden when the roots of terrorism are spreading elsewhere quietly. I hate to sound melodramatic and Mahendra is right movies are different. But it did remind me of a film called ‘Nasoor’. Rambodoc may know a corresponding angrezi term for this kind of wound…

    So whose fault is it?

    Will jailing Tytler or whoever bring back dead people?

    What should the common man really do? Punch the day lights out of politicians or sit at home, come voting time?

    We all remember our childhoods being punctuated by this shit. I wrote on Sept 11 this year about having learnt the word ‘assassination’ at the age of 6 or 7..

    If it bothers us all so much, how come so many educated people continue to spew hatred even now? I suppose we all think it will never happen to us. Then it does..

    Another stunning example of how to some, law and order is just a set of words in India.

    We did not learn enough from history so we repeat it, time and again.

  8. October 5, 2007 7:01 pm

    Hey Nita,
    It was only after coming to Canada that I realized how serious this issue was. Punishing the accused will not ensure that such acts won’t happen in the future, atleast thats what I believe. Mutual hatred and racism is sanctioned by Indian constitution. How far back into history do we want to go trying to make justice? I know I’m missing the point of your whole argument, (which is painful), but shall we think about the root cause of such riots?

    btw, I am bitterly opposed to the idea of Khalistan, its a trigger for disintegration of India. If it happens, I want a separate and exclusive Maharashtra.

  9. October 5, 2007 8:21 pm

    You are right Mahendra, its when you see something with your own eyes that it stays with you forever. I think of the anti-Sikh riots often, and have done so over many years. Initially I had nightmares. Specially as some other people narrated their horrifying stories to me…one of my hushand’s closest friends was chased…he escaped though and is now in the US. In fact I could easily have written some very graphic descriptions of what I saw personally in my post…but I deliberately avoided it.
    I don’t think of the mumbai blasts or the riots that much, because I just read about it in the newspapers.

    Rambodoc, can’t deny India’s evils….

    Shefaly, as you said evil begets evil and violence begets violence. A vicious circle…and somewhere someone has to break it. Sadly, it’s usually the victims who do!! And when you say that law and order is just a set of words to some…I would say politicians and criminals, both. Unless our police become autonomous this will continue.

    Priyank, I am bitterly opposed to Khalistan too…and so are an overwhelming majority of Sikhs in India. At one time Khalistan may have been the buzzword to some, now it’s a word people shun. At least in India.
    I wonder about Canada though. I believe Canada has a lot of Sikhs. But I think there too the Khalistan movement has been discredited, after that Kanishka bomb blast.

  10. October 5, 2007 9:00 pm

    On the other hand I have met many Sikhs here who live in the past, still harboring hatred against India (partly justified) and preaching independent Khalistan policy as if its a magic wand.😉

  11. amreekandesi permalink
    October 5, 2007 9:37 pm

    I too remember the 84′ riots. Was a young kid and didnt understand what was going on. In front of our house people’s houses were looted and there was all fire everywhere. Was lucky enough not to see anybody being killed though. It was a horrible incident, and its a shame that after more than 20 years we have done nothing about it.
    Of course, with the Congress running the show in Delhi it is no surprise that the CBI is not prepared to do anything. Having a government agency investigating political criminals is such a mockery of democracy.

  12. October 5, 2007 10:16 pm

    I am with Nita that mostly violent actions stem from political parties to save themselves. But during an election whom should an educated person vote for?If any of the present political party comes to power, they will try diving the country either on religion or on caste basis. The one thing they have learnt is to divide and rule. We cant always blame the legal system for setting the accused free for example, recently in a Bihar session court, murderer of an IAS officer was given death sentence although after many years of the crime.
    The political system is so dirty in India that educated youths shy away from bringing about a political revolution, i cant even encourage my dear ones into forming a political party. Until such a revolution, every religion is insecure in our secular country.

  13. October 5, 2007 11:16 pm

    Madhuri: Just clicked on your link (try it yourself!) and landed a website that did not gel with your comments I have seen…🙂

  14. October 6, 2007 12:09 am

    Thanks Shefaly, i think my blog just got hijacked by a radical organization (just kidding). let me see how to fix the problem.

  15. wishtobeanonymous permalink
    October 6, 2007 12:23 am

    Wow…don’t know what to say. To actually be in the middle of it all is a really scary experience, isn’t it? I have only had nightmares in my dreams and to actually be living through it is a very scary thought.
    I just can’t understand how a person can even so much as scratch a person not to speak of other violent things. We commit atrocities on our own people more than on others, not that we should!
    Wishing for peace, justice and tolerance for all some day.

  16. October 6, 2007 12:24 am

    Instead of blogspot, my link had blogpsot in it. Have rectified, thanks Shefaly.
    Extremely sorry Nita.

    Madhuri, I have made the change in your earlier comment. These things happen…

  17. October 6, 2007 12:57 am

    //I could easily have written some very graphic descriptions of what I saw personally in my post…but I deliberately avoided it.//
    NIta: somehow, I don’t know how, I knew this. Call it telepathy, call it whatever you want it, but I knew you were just offering a glimpse of the horror, in your post. I felt much, much more because I knew you’d experienced much, much more.

    I think you too state a core in your post and leave some additional but important stuff unstated in it, and leave it for the comments. Sometimes, especially when writing about stuff we’re extremely passionate about, we restrict our passion while writing the main post, and leave it to be left loose when we get empathetic responses to the main post. Is that right or am I completely wrong?

    I’m sorry that I cannot intellectually respond to this evocative post as others have. My personal experiences during Mumbai riots are too overwhelming. I admire your restraint and your ability to write about it.

  18. October 6, 2007 7:22 am

    amreekandesi, as you said its a mockery of justice and democracy to have an agency like CBI to report to the govt. The CBI ‘bungles’ up whenever its convenient. Remember Quattrochi?

    wishtobeanon, these people hired by the political parties are goons and criminals. Thats all. they do it for pats on the back, promise of jobs and money. all political parties in india have criminals on their unofficial payroll and they are used to create riots when the political parties want to make a point that the ‘people’ are upset. and all these criminals are promised immunity. can you imagine how much ‘fun’ these criminals then have? btw, hundreds of sikh girls were raped that day.

    Mahendra, the trick is to re-write!😉 I wrote this apparently simple post about 4 times! edit edit, chop chop. first let it all pour out though! And the writing helps one to deal with it better. And why do you have to ‘intellectually’ respond as you say? Just writing what you feel is enough.

  19. October 6, 2007 12:28 pm

    I wrote the first comment here and now I have something to add. In my personal blog, sometimes – 2, my sister/cousin Suni and I, who were together during the ‘riots’ in 1984, along with my mother-in-law, have written about our experiences. I realise asking anyone to read all 12 stories is too much, but please read one or two of them. We have put ourselves on the line here, totally exposed in an effort to help others understand what happened. We are just three ordinary Sikh women(although I am a professional writer), two of whom survived a horrible, extraordinary experience.

    http://mai-sometimes.blogspot.com/2007/08/our-stories-from-1984.html

  20. October 6, 2007 12:46 pm

    Thanks Mai for coming here again and sharing that link with us. I will go through each of those stories, though it is hard.
    Also I must mention that the India you left is not the India today. Sikhs are very much part of the social fabric of India. They are loved and respected as Indians. That is why the Khalistan movement died down so quickly here in India. If its alive in Canada, it does not reflect the true feelings of the majority of Indians here, and I mean Sikhs. And as Khalistan wants to carve out a piece of land from India, I think their sentiments need to be respected (those Sikhs who live in India and are not for Khalistan).
    It was accepted that it was a political party (Congress) who was responsible for Bhindranwale, the Golden Temple and the 1984 riots.
    I think the best thing the Sikhs can do is unite to throw the Congress out of power!! Make sure the perpetrators of the riots are punished, and this will only happen if the congress is not in power!! Jagdish Tytler should loose the election! Only then will he ever be punished.
    There is also a need to also boycott the Gandhi family, if the victims of the riots are ever to get justice.

  21. October 6, 2007 2:27 pm

    Some uncharacteristic ‘loose’ spelling, Nita!?🙂

    admit I am foxed by this comment.

  22. prax permalink
    October 6, 2007 2:33 pm

    The incident was killing sanctioned by the upper echelons of the party

    This all stems from the Congress party culture and their attitude of I am right -i can do no wrong right from Nehru’s times Gandhiji was right congress needs to be disbanded..

    First they fill all prominent posts with Yes men or women
    be it post of President, Governor, Intelligence agencies or CBI. Come on if they can get Soren and laloo and q out of the muddle this was nothing…..and almost time bar case
    plus Tytler is in the inner rung of Sonias gang of trusted…

    Second is their dependence on radical vote bank politics
    Be it Binderwala then or the Mullahs of the Tablighi bareilvi or deobandi clans now. Look at how they treat Madhni and the Northeast .(something a full post will elucidate )..
    Modi may be blamed for Godhras aftermath but mind u Sonia was torridly silent for quite a while after the Godhra incident fearing vote loss plus her statement was rather ambiguous.

  23. October 6, 2007 2:52 pm

    Prax, yes you are absolutely right. The gandhi family is guilty, as guilty as all of the others in this issue! If Tytler is trusted by the Ganhis today, its because he engineered the killing of so many Sikhs! In her heart the gandhis love him for that. In any case tytler was heard saying by a witness something to the effect of kill more people otherwise my loyalty to the Gandhis will not be proved. Well, he has proved his loyalty, and now he is a trusted man, a Union Minister!!

  24. October 6, 2007 3:01 pm

    Nita: Rambodoc was referring to ‘Tytler must LOOSE the election’🙂

    I can be pretty dense at times huh! btw I am going to publish a meme tomorrow on what makes a good writer and am going to tag several people, one of them is you, and Rambodoc too. Guess I don’t need to tell you to put your thinking cap on, coz its always on!

  25. October 7, 2007 5:42 am

    I get the feeling the everyone here – except for myself and Nita – is speaking in theory when you speak of the events of 1984. And I am the only one who was on the receiving end of the violence. But I may be wrong.

    For me, I thought Khalistan was just something a bunch of testosterone-filled, overly macho Khalsa males with too much time on their hands had come up with – until I found myself, about 90% dead, in premature labour with twins (who were born dead, of course), stumbling over the corpses of my husband, my son, my brothers and my cousins. Such an experience does tend to change one’s perspective on things.

    Had we had our own country, or even a semi-autonomous region, as promised by Mohandas Gandhi and Mr. Nehru, this could not have happened. (I know, I know, ‘The situation has changed.’) In fact, the root causes of it would have been mostly eliminated.

    I have many relatives living in India now. They tell me that being Sikh is often to be the punchline of someone’s Sardar or Santa/Banta joke. Respect? LOL. One Prime Minister does not a culture make, any more than does one President.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t vent at you good people like this, but I really doubt if anyone who was attacked has really laid it out clearly to you before. It is getting close to the memorial date, and even after all these years, the wounds have not healed. My family is still dead and nothing will bring them back. But justice in the form of a few hangings would help in the beginning of the healing process.

    This is my personal statement; I speak only for myself. (But I know a lot of people who agree with me!)

  26. October 7, 2007 8:23 am

    Mai, I understand. I understand why you feel that way. I don’t want to give you empty words right now, in fact I feel sad that I have nothing to give.
    But I do believe Sikhs in India are respected…a lot of people have grown up without horrific memories. Whether that is wrong or right, I cannot say.

  27. October 8, 2007 6:18 am

    Nita, words are never empty. Words are powerful. Whether for good or evil, comfort or pain, words carry an ineffable power. They can build up; they can tear down. You are a writer, as am I. We forget, sometimes, how powerful are the tools we work with.

    The Indian government wants everyone to forget what happened to us. The censor board showed that in their review of AMU…“Why should young people know a history that is better buried and forgotten?”

    I have dedicated my life to not letting people forget. Words, full, visceral words, are my tools. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give out a reminder.

  28. October 8, 2007 7:24 am

    Thank you Mai. I can only hope that you get the justice you need and the peace you are looking for one day soon.

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