On April 15th, 2015 our family marked the 100th death anniversary of my great Uncle Sepoy Gurdit Singh (Ghuman). He was part of the British Indian army with the 24th Punjabi’s and died while saving his company commander at Basra, Iraq during the Mesopotamia campaign. I heard about my Great Uncle from my father as a child and found his grave information at Basra War Memorial during my college years in Toronto. I did not realize until now that Gurdit Singh fought and gave his life to end a genocide. This thought hit me last week when I was reading a Toronto Star newspapers article on 100th year of Armenian genocide, the Mesopotamia campaing by British forces was carried out against Turkish Ottoman Empire. This new gained knowledge have given me a renewed pride for my ancestral sacrifices to protect life and liberty.
The Armenian people who were the subject of the Ottoman Empire were eliminated in a systematic way, about 1.5 million Armenian people were killed. What horrified me the most about Armenian genocide was the magnitude of atrocities committed towards the children. The reason this horrified me the most was because I could relate to it, this brings back the memories of my childhood when the people of the Sikh faith in India, during 80’s and 90’s, were being eliminated in a similar systematic way.
According to one source Hundred Thousands of Armenian children were killed during this genocide which lasted till around 1916. A large number of Armenian’s in Ottoman Empire from five years of age and above were taken out of the cities, towns and villages to be slaughtered. Majority of these were children who were burnt alive, poisoned or drowned in the river Euphrates and the Black Sea. Armenians lost a few generations in the time period of this genocide. Some of the Children were picked and adopted by the Turks, Kurds and Arabs.
Each holocaust have its horrific magnitude. In last five some years I have come to an understanding, to my best abilities, of the word genocide. I have started to compare what happened to the Sikhs* in India and the atrocities of the Armenian genocide. The material evidence, the eye witness reports and the commission reports of the Sikh killings in India have all pointed towards a systematic elimination of a faith, of a culture and of a heritage. Armenians and many other communities around the World who are victims of a crime as heinous as genocide are suffering, living with a sense of loss and a sense of emptiness. The Sikhs home were identified, Sikhs were dragged out of their homes and burnt alive. Sikh women were raped and children were burnt alive in front of their parents. I believe this clearly constitute a “genocide”, the “Sikh Genocide” which the World have yet not recognized. Someone still need to be the voice of Hundred Thousands of Sikhs hacked to death, burnt and drowned.
I lost my house, I lost my education, I lost my childhood and I lost my father to the atrocities done against the Sikhs in India. But, I still cannot be considered a “genocide survivor” because the elimination of Sikhs is still not recognized as a genocide! I do not need some government to tell me that I am a survivor and that my family have suffered, but I understand that this is very important to many who survived the Sikh holocaust.
I am glad though that the state of California very recently recognized the Sikh killings in India as a genocide and I thank them.
I think about the 100 years of Armenian genocide and wonder if the Sikh genocide will ever be recognized at the International stage? I think about the irony of my great Uncle fighting to end a genocide not knowing that one day his own faith will fall victim to the crime of a genocide and he fought not knowing that one day his own near family will be a “genocide victim” and a “genocide survivor”.
They tried to eliminate Armenian’s but they are still here, alive and commemorating the 100 years of their dead and remembering them. They tried to eliminate Sikhs and I can say that we are here, still here alive and remembering our dead.
*Sikhs are a prominent but small religious group originated in the North-Western part of India called Punjab.