I very clearly remember the day of October 31st 1984. One of the Schools Office staff member came into our class room and interrupted the lesson instructing my teacher with an announcement, “Indira Gandhi is killed, all students are to be dismissed immediately.”
My friends and I biked backed to our homes quickly. I noticed my both parents standing at the main gate of our home waiting for my arrival. I could still remember the expressions of relief on their faces after my safe arrival home.
Even living 400 kilometres away, in the city of Jalandhar located in central Province of Punjab, from New Delhi the fear of backlash towards Sikhs was hanging in the air. All because the individuals who assassinated the Prime Minister were Sikhs and did so to revenge the army attack on the Sikh holiest shrine namely Darbar Sahib, better know as the Golden Temple.
Starting October 31st the #SikhGenocide started with the first public attack on the then Sikh President of India Giani Zail Singh. So the violence against Sikhs started and the killings of Sikhs, burning Sikhs alive, raping Sikh women and burning the Sikh property continued for many days across India.
It was later know that the Sikh Genocide was not simply a reaction to Prime Ministers assassination but in-fact the assassination by Sikh body guards was used as an excuse to activate the plan already in place to eradicate Sikhs. The pre-organized mobs in a short time were equipped with weapons, army grade explosives and most importantly equipped with proper lists of Sikh homes and properties. In many cases mobs were led by well know political activists and leaders while armed forces stood on the side roads with orders not to take any action.
There is lot written and said as to what took place, but it is not much known fact that the killings of Sikhs were also planned in the parts of Punjab. The Sikhs in Punjab were saved due to their majority presence in the province. History is witness that the state systematically killed thousands and thousands of Sikhs in Punjab from 1984 to late 90’s which included human rights and political activists such as Jaswant Singh Khalra and my father Baldev Singh Ghuman. Many such individuals and families fell victim of the state sponsored terrorism which was executed by Police and its collaborative legal and illegal armed forces.
I personally know that burning down Sikh properties and Sikh murders were planned in the city of Jalandhar, specifically Bootan Mandi area. This area was known for the centre of Shiv Sena, a fundamentalist right wing organization, responsible for terrorizing the minority populations in India. They collected gasoline to burn homes and illegal weapons to be used for the Sikh killings. When the word of planning got out, the Sikhs became vigilant. At one point I saw our Sikh neighbour drive his white ambassador car back and forth on the Main Street while firing his 12 gauge gun into the air in show of power and to scare of any mobs planning anti Sikh violence.
So far Sikhs have not received any kind of justice or closure while the propagators were awarded political ministerial positions in the government. The individuals and mobs with the genocidal mindset were protected and never received punishments for their heinous crimes against humanity.
The Sikh massacre was well coordinated and a systematic execution of a pre-planned attack. Sikhism is a peace loving faith and they responded to the Blood shed by donating blood to save lives.
It is a moment of pride for all Canadians that the blood donation campaign against genocide started by Sikhs of Canada under the name of #SikhNation have saved over 120,000 lives since the inception of the campaign in 1999 which started in British Columbia.
Sikh values and Canadian values are interchangeable. Keeping to the spirit of Canadian values of human rights, the province of Ontario officially recognized Sikh Genocide in the legislature last year in 2016.
The horrific incidents of the past are sad but they also provide us with inspiration to stand against the genocide mindset no matter where the mindset resides in the World. Our actions which benefit humanity and create space for peace are truly Sikh values and Canadian values.