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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 50 New Delhi December 1, 2018

Thirtyfour-year Mockery of Searching for the Perpetrators of 1984 Sikh Massacre

Sunday 2 December 2018, by Shamsul Islam

Inssan abhee tak zinda hae,

zinda hone per sharminda hae!

Human beings are still alive,

they are ashamed to be alive!

[Shahid Nadeem’s couplet on the silence of civil society against communal violence]

For the last 30 years, on every anniversary of the 1984 massacre of Sikhs, this author has been reminding the nation how the 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 this author hoped that by the next year, justice would be done and he would not have to write the painful story once again as a reminder. It has not happened in the last one year also, the saga of the criminal betrayal by the Indian Republic has no end and this author continues to cry before the deaf and dumb Indian state.

Betrayal by Governments till 2014

After giving a 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, Ranganath Mishra, was asked to conduct the 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, a champion of spontaneity, was 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 he was awarded a berth in the Rajya Sabha.

In the next two decades, not less than nine commissions of inquiry were instituted. For the Indian state it became a 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 time 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 the SIT in the next three months. It is November 2018 (15 months 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 the Brahmanical hegemony, but a part of Hinduism. The RSS/BJP leaders blame the Congress for the anti-Sikh violence. Modi, while addressing a public rally during the last parlia-mentary elections at Jhansi, UP (October 25, 2013), asked the Congress leaders to explain who “killed thousands of Sikhs in 1984” and queried: “Has anyone been convicted for the Sikh genocide so far?” Modi, during the Punjab elections and the 2014 general elections, kept on referring to the ‘qatl-e-aam’ or genocide of Sikhs. After becoming the PM in a message (October 31, 2014) Modi said that 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 the culprits were yet to be booked and tried for this massacre. However, Modi did not tell the nation what the NDA Governments (which ruled this country from 1998 to 2004) did to prosecute 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 forced Indira Gandhi to go for Army action (infamously named as Operation Bluestar) which killed a large number of Sikh pilgrims. Renowned journalist Manoj Mitta, author of the book, When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath, straightforwardly tells 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.”

This is not what outsiders or critics of the RSS have been telling. The perusal of the contemporary RSS documents show that the major focus was on condemning Sikh extremism, eulogising Indira Gandhi and welcoming the crowning of Rajiv Gandhi as the new Prime Minister.

RSS Ideologue Nana Deshmukh’s Dehumanised Attitude towards Sikh Massacre

The most important proof of such a dehu-manised attitude towards the massacre of Sikhs is a document circulated by Nana Deshmukh, a prominent wholetimer and ideologue of the RSS [now deceased]. This document, titled as ‘Moments of Soul Searching’, was circulated by Deshmukh on November 8, 1984; this may help in unmasking the whole lot of criminals involved in the massacre of innocent Sikhs who had nothing to do with the killing of Indira Gandhi. This document may also throw light on where the cadres came from, who meticulously organised the killing of Sikhs. Nana Deshmukh, in this document, is seen outlining the justifi-cation of 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 it is 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, happened to be the followers of an indigenous religion. In this document we will hear from the horse’s mouth that the RSS, like the then Congress leadership, believed that the massacre of the innocent Sikhs was unavoidable.

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 titled ‘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 the 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 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.”

Deshmukh in his document, ‘Moments of Soul Searching’, is seen outlining the justification of the massacre of the Sikh community in 1984. His defence of the carnage can be summed up as in the following:

1. The massacre of Sikhs was not the handiwork of any group or anti-social elements but the result of a genuine feeling of anger.

2. 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.

3. Sikhs themselves invited these attacks, thus advancing the Congress theory of justifying the massacre of the Sikhs.

4. He glorified the Operation Bluestar 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 defence of those killings.

5. The Sikh community as a whole was responsible for the violence in Punjab.

6. Sikhs should have done nothing in self-defence but showed patience and tolerance against the killer mobs.

7. 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 the nationalist Indians. Moreover, he treated all Sikhs as part of the same gang and described the attacks on them as a reaction of the nationalist Hindus.

8. He described Indira Gandhi as the only leader who could keep the country united and and thus for the assassination of such a great leader such killings could not be avoided.

9. Rajiv Gandhi, who succeeded Mrs Gandhi as the PM 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.

10. Shockingly, the massacre of Sikhs was being equated with the attacks on the RSS cadres after the killing of Gandhiji and we find Deshmukh advising Sikhs to suffer silently. Everybody knows that the killing of Gandhiji was inspired by the RSS and the Hindutva ideology whereas the common innocent Sikhs had nothing to do with the murder of Indira Gandhi.

11. There was not a single sentence in the Deshmukh document demanding, from the then Congress Government at the Centre or the then Union Home Minister Narasimha Rao (a Congress leader dear to the RSS who later silently watched the demolition of the Babri Masjid by the Hindutva goons as the PM of India in 1992) remedial measures for controlling the violence against the minority community. Don’t forget that Deshmukh circulated this document on November 8, 1984, and from October 31 to that date Sikhs were left alone to face the killing gangs. In fact November 5-10 was the period when the maximum killings of Sikhs took place. Deshmukh was just not bothered about all this.

12. It is generally believed that the Congress cadres were behind this genocide. This may be true but there were other forces too which actively participated in this massacre and whose role has never been investigated. This could be one of the reasons that the actual perpetrators remain unknown. Those who witnessed the genocide were stunned by the swiftness and military precision of the killer/marauding gangs (later on witnessed during the Babri mosque demolition, burning alive of Dr Graham Steins with his two sons, 2002 pogrom of the Muslims in Gujarat and cleansing of Christians in parts of Odisha) who went on a burning spree of the innocent Sikhs. This, surely, was beyond the capacity of the thugs led by many Congress leaders.

The Deshmukh document shows that what happened in October-November 1984 was not an isolated occurence. It presented the real RSS attitude towards the Sikh genocide at that time. It may be relevant to know here that the 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. In fact, Deshmukh’s article also made no mention of the RSS cadres going to the rescue of Sikhs under siege. This shows the real intentions of the RSS during the genocide.

The RSS’ English organ, Organiser, in its combined issue dated November 11 and 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 words supporting the newly installed PM, Rajiv Gandhi, who “deserves sympathy and consideration”.

Organiser also carried a statement of the 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”. He also overlooked the fact that it was not only in Delhi where the Sikhs were butchered/burnt but in many other parts of India. 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 the contemporary RSS archives to show how these Samitis functioned. It is a fact that the RSS, which is fond of displaying photographs of its cadres doing social work, did not publish any visual of the activity of these Samitis.

In the same statement Deoras, reacting to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, stated, “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.”

According to the above mentioned Organiser, “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 the RSS during the period of mourning.” Of course, the RSS archives do not contain any instructions from the RSS’ top brass ordering to mourn for the Sikh martyrs.

RSS against former PM Manmohan Singh’s Apology for 1984 Massacre

That the RSS continues to downplay the 1984 Sikh massacre will be clear by the perusal of the charter of demands submitted to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) last July. The senior RSS ideologue, Dina Nath Batra, on behalf of RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas, submitted five pages containing the list of items to be removed from the school textbooks. Batra demanded that any reference to violence against minorities in the textbooks should be removed and this included references to a simple apology tendered by the former PM Manmohan Singh over the 1984 violence. It is to be noted that in an apology in Parliament on August 12, 2005, Manmohan Singh, the then PM of India, stated:

“I have no hesitation in apologising to the Sikh community. I apologise not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution.”

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, prove no different from the Congress. The only hope is that those Indians who have stakes in continuation of the democratic-secular Indian polity will come forward to force the Indian state to identify and punish the killers.

Shamsul Islam, a well-known theatre personality, is a former Associate Professor (now retired), Department of Political Science, Satyawati College, University of Delhi. For some of the author’s writings in English, Hindi, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Punjabi, Urdu and Gujarati see the following link: http/du-in.academia.edu/Shamsullslam

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