Date: 8/16/2005


Anti Sikh Riots 1984: -/// Nanavati Report and recalling the gloomy and gleamy memories of anti Sikh riots in Calcutta. (Gian Singh Kotli, Canada) /// The Sikhs and relatives of the victims of the riots feel badly let down after twenty years and several enquiry commissions including the recent Justice G.T. Nanavati Commission Report on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Sikhs all over the world are again raising their strong voice against this injustice as to why the attackers and the instigators behind the brutal murder of at least 4000 innocents Sikhs have not been punished. The Sikhs and every right thinking person thinks the present Nanavati Commision Report is sufficiently unfair and incomplete. In downtown Vancouver also about 500 Sikhs organized a meeting on Sunday, August 15, 2005 against the unfair Nanavati Commission Report and expressed their resolve to seek justice for the Sikhs and the victims of the anti Sikh riots./// In 1884 about 4000 Sikhs were publicly hunted, butchered and burnt on the roads by pouring kerosene oil on them or putting tyres around their necks. To kill four thousand Sikhs, at least eight thousand, 12 thousand, 16 thousand or even more miscreants are required. One miscreant cannot kill one person on the road by putting a tyre around his neck. What I mean to say is that the attackers and the instigators were quite in large numbers everywhere to commit the heinous crime openly. The authorities could have easily arrested several thousand “sponsored killers” of the Sikhs if they had the intention to do their duty honestly. Moreover their timely action could have saved many costly Sikh lives. After all it is not for nothing that Sikhs have been called the ‘sword arm’ of India. /// The Nanavati Report says that "either meetings were held or the persons who could organize attacks were contacted and were given instructions to kill Sikhs and loot their houses and shops."/// Interestingly enough the attacks organized were simultaneous and similar in nature in different localities and different cities including Calcutta, which was deemed relatively a safe place. There were no recorded immediate deaths in or around Calcutta but the humiliation of Sikhs and the damage to property was quite distressing. Buses, taxies, trucks and shops were broken or burnt openly. Sikhs had to shut themselves inside their homes, Police Stations or Gurdwaras for three days. /// The news of Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s assassination had spread like wild fire in Calcutta in the morning of 31st October and by 11 AM, Sikhs began coming home anticipating danger. But high brains of Police and Intelligence failed miserably to anticipate this and took no preventive measures. I tried to contact Bhowanipore Police Station but there was no response for the whole day. The evening belonged to the hordes of hooligans and they attacked and damaged whatever and wherever they could. Several places were attacked shops were broken and set on fire. Hooligans had created a sense of complete insecurity all around. /// Sitting in my nearby house I could hear that the gate of my office on Dr Rajendra Road was being knocked ruthlessly and the hooligans were singing the national anthem of India “Bande Matrim, Bande Matrim” to break it. They also wrote on the wall of my house with black paint “Sardar Gaddaar Hain” (Sikhs are traitors). /// I felt extremely humiliated and upset. I did no wrong. Why somebody should attack, insult, call us traitors and write something most abusive on my wall /// That day police was nowhere and the Police telephones were dead. Late in the evening I came to know that military had been called to control the situation. Next day on the evening of 1st November, some young men came to me and conveyed the message of a Military officer. I accompanied them to Dr. Rajendra Road where military personnel were standing near their truck. A Punjabi officer wished me Sat Sri Akal Ji and said, “Sardar Ji don’t worry now. If any one tried to create mischief, I will roast him with bullets” /// For the next two days we had to stay home. The only contact with the outside world was through telephone. But the Parha (locality) youth began going to Sikh houses to assure them that government has controlled the situation. /// My ex-student Mohan Singh Grewal and the only international Sikh player of football to play in the most prestigious Mohan Bagan, East Bengal and Mohammedan clubs of Calcutta, also came to my house to tell me not to feel scared of anything. Be it known to all that such Football players are worshiped like gods in Calcutta. But the sense of insecurity prevailed for few days. My immediate Gujrati neighbour Mr. Himansu Duve and his wife Meena Devi advised me to keep our ornaments and other valuables in their house in case some fire or attack is there. “We are not afraid of this. That is why we did not move to any Gurdwara,” said my wife Surinder Kaur. Anyhow on their much insistence and surprise I handed over to them a plastic bag containig my poems and articles and all the academic certificates, telling them they are more costly than the gold. /// On October 4th a peace procession by artists, players, doctors, and intellectuals of all communities was taken out from Desh Priya Park (Neta Ji Subhas Chandar Park) in South Calcutta to Minto Park in Central Calcutta. Sisir Kumar Bose nephew of Neta Ji Subhas Chander Bose, Chuni Goswami former Captain of Indian Football Team and one of the greatest footballers of Bengal, Ranjit Malik popular Bengali film star, and myself walked in front of the procession to give it a varied color of peace and unity. It was a full-fledged sigh of relief for the Sikhs to shed fear and come out to join this peace march./// The Punjabi daily newspapers Desh Darpan and Navi Parbhat, which were closed, resumed their publication on 5th October. When I wrote in Navi Parbhat about the ordeal the Sikhs have to go through, I was confronted by some volunteers of a political party blaming me for writing against Congress Party. I made it clear to them that I did not write against Congress or any person. The Punjabi translator has done the wrong translation for you. I have written in my article, “The locks of my shutter were being smashed and hooligans were singing the national anthem of Bande Matrim, Bande Matrim. Hearing this I was feeling very much ashamed that the National Anthem of India was being used to break my locks.” /// The Deevali, the festival of lights, came. I cleaned and white washed my entire house leaving the outside space untouched where the stigma “ Sikhs are Traitors” was written much to the astonishment of all. I kept this wondrous certificate intact for three years. /// The most memorable and sweet memory in my mind is that of my friend O.P. Shah, Editor of The Parlance, Calcutta and member of Press Trust of India. He did most commendable and untiring service of providing food to Sikhs in Gurdwaras and Police Stations. All these days he was on the road with his team of volunteers. Afterwards he also offered his services including his Jeep and other resources to highlight the atrocities committed on Sikhs by visiting Tata Nagar, Bukaro, Kanpore, Delhi and other cities by holdings press conferences. Press releases of this program were published in daily Desh Darpan and daily Navi Parbhat Calcutta. But the number of required volunteers did not come forward fearing the risk of travel by road. Only O.P. Shah, Bachan Singh Saral representative of daily Ajit Jalandhar in Calcutta and myself were left. The program had to be cancelled at last. /// To my extreme surprise a Police officer from Bhowanipore Police Station came to my house in 1987 to give me compensation for the 1884 loss. I told him I did not file any complaint or application for compensation and refused to accept it saying, “Thank God I am safe. I felt extremely dishonoured and I don’t want to take anything in lieu of my honour. /// 000000000