Kids Corner

1984

Remembering 1984

by ANGAD SINGH

 

 

I am the child of a 1984 survivor.

They meant for me not to be alive and here today, but I am.

They came to kill my mother and her family and intended to destroy all our future generations.

She was 15 and, with my grandpa, helped her family barely escape the hands of torture and death.

Her three cousins were not that lucky. All three of them were burned alive before the very eyes of their widow mother, their young wives and a two-year old daughter.

We were told that nobody knows what happened to the wives ... but we can all guess.

The day before, all day long, there had been threats on the phone to do awful things to my family.

The silence and fear that they lived in is unimaginable. They had nowhere to go.

The police wouldn't help them and their neighbors shut their doors on them ...

That long and fearful silence was broken by a mob of a thousand armed men with intentions of the devil.

This was the story of not one, but hundreds of thousands of Sikh homes in India in November of 1984. Not just in one particular city but in cities around the country.

It reminded me of the book I read in my school about the Jewish Holocaust.

And although I hopefully won't ever have to go through the same experiences my mom did, I wonder a quarter of century, after all of this why don't many people remember or know about this. How could something like this happen without the world noticing?

Search the Internet for 1984. All I see is about how 600 or so "terrorists" were removed from the Golden Temple, and how after Indira Gandhi's assassination there were anti-Sikh protests.

Why is it that Indians brush away the subject of 1984 as an inconvenient area to talk about?

Why is it that many Sikhs still  shy away from talking about 1984 andrepeat the line given by the government - "Move on"?

Most people, including Sikhs, do not know of the magnitude of these "protests".

They were really just one big Genocide.

We ourselves have diminished the scale of the state- sponsored terrorism, torture and murder by repeating rthe state label of them as 'riots' .

My mom told me that it wasn't just the fact that we wanted to forget this episode. It was also the government that sent false information to the international media.

They didn't allow any foreign reporters or even aid groups in to help us or document our stories.

So we became portrayed as separatists from the land that my ancestors defended for centuries.

So by using the evidence that we have, the fact that tens of thousands of innocent Sikhs were murdered, the fact that no one was allowed to help our people and the fact that no one was ever told the truth, we can only conclude that their intention was clearly to cripple the mindset our forefathers gave us, and to destroy the Sikhs as a people.

But today, 26 years later, things are different.

We have now healed and stand tall, after the large scale genocide and years of intimidation and manipulation.

We have survived. We are stronger, more educated about the enemy's intentions, more aware, more connected and more organized.

Young people my age in this country are already starting to make a difference. For example Gunisha Kaur, the author of ‘1984 Reconstructed' does an excellent job of explaining 1984. She started her part in the responsibility we all have of getting 1984 known to people.

It is time to write our own history - fully and accurately - and let the facts be known to our community and the world.

Why ?

Because 'moving on' from 1984 means forgetting that "intention": the intention to wipe out the Sikhs, to break their spirit, to make them ashamed of their heritage ... to change the landscape of Sikhi and Punjab.

If you have been to India and Punjab recently, you know what I am talking about. You know that they have started to succeed and it is our job not to let our people be ruined.

1984 was a question, a challenge: "How long can you stand tall?"

"Forever" is our answer.

If the memory of that question is erased, the answer shall disappear as well.

This is why it is now our responsibility to tell others what happened to us, not so we can pour salt on our wounds but so we will remember and learn from what has happened.

There is an Egyptian saying: "I have learned from the past, therefore I know the future". It tells us why it is important to know our history.

We can never soar high on our wings until we acknowledge our roots. Our roots are grounded strongly in the stories of survival, of strength, of resilience and of remembrance.

Remembrance will inspire us now and in the future to walk like our ancestors did, with confidence courage and purpose.

It is time to get started in our quest to let 1984 never be forgotten.

 

 

P.S. - My mother has taken the time to record her story on CNN ireport as part of their documentation of 30 most important events of the last 3 decades. Please document your stories too so they can be known to the world.

Please visit http://ireport.cnn.com/docs/DOC-494135?ref=feeds%2Ftopics%2Foncnn%2F491706 for more information.

 

[Angad Singh is a 17-year old high school student and world-renowned film-maker based in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.]

November 1, 2010

 

Conversation about this article

1: Gurjender Singh (Maryland, U.S.A.), November 01, 2010, 8:54 AM.

Thanks to Angad singh for 'Remembering 1984'. 1984 teaches us a lesson. We know that some of the film makers have tried to tell the story of 1984. Their films were not allowed to be screened to the public by the Indian Film Board. Some democracy! The blame also lies with our own leadership which has remained silent for 25 years and has not sought justice.

2: Mlle S. (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), November 01, 2010, 10:08 AM.

Angad, every time I see your "matching" turbans or hear a high school kid say, "That kid Angad is so cool", I think about how much it means to keep your heritage in spite of all the other outside forces that would like you to just assimilate, or worse, just go away. India did not win. You are here, and you wear your heritage well. May you always be in Chardi Kalaa and continue to teach people like me about Sikhi.

3: Inni Kaur (Fairfield, CT, U.S.A.), November 01, 2010, 12:31 PM.

Sikhs want to forget and toe the Government line for these and many other reasons: - Economic (many have usinesses in India); - Cheap photo ops with visiting Indian officials; - Imagined power (to flaunt) that they are connected with the Indian Consulates and Embassies. But, I also know that so long as we have young Sikhs like you, 1984 will never be forgotten.

4: Bibek Singh (Jersey City, U.S.A.), November 01, 2010, 12:52 PM.

Today I attended a rally organized by 'Sikhs for Justice' on this very subject. It appears to me that they are doing good work.

5: S. Singh (U.S.A.), November 01, 2010, 3:48 PM.

Is the idea of working to build a better India that is capable of remembering and apologizing and never repeating 1984, possible? Is it thinkable? For the future of all people in India, I sure hope it is.

6: Kamaldeep Singh (London, United Kingdom), November 02, 2010, 6:17 AM.

This is an issue close to my heart - I too lost family members (albeit, in "Operation Woodrose"). I am of the belief that this should have been dealt with swiftly. On our part, is holding protests and vigils enough? I travel to India quite regularly and have noticed a general sense of apathy. In the Indian milieu, someone's grief and misery is looked upon in a matter-of-fact way, hardly registering, if at all. Sadly, from where I stand, this event seems to have been tackled with the same mindset. Whether actively or passively, we generally opted to limit their response to repairing the Akal Takht, and neglected helping our brethren who faced the brunt of the attacks. Had we helped these Sikhs, then we would be holding this up for all, showing how Sikhs look after their own. Please note, it not my objective to go against the flow for the sake of it, rather articulate an alternative that I believe is better.

7: N. Singh (Canada), November 02, 2010, 3:54 PM.

I find it absurd that a) anyone would suggest that any group, including the Sikhs, should 'forget' crimes of genocide against them; b) that this is even possible to do. Not only would that be the height of stupidity and self-delusion, but when I was talking to a psychologist who specializes in the treatment of survivors of genocide in other communities, his take on the situation was that any major trauma on the scale that was inflicted against the Sikhs, or other communities for that matter, becomes part of its collective consciousness. These traumas are then transmitted from mother to child. The community never forgets, nor can it ever forget, but instead these acts shape the character of that community. The important thing to remember is that even though we can, and must, mourn, we must not let this define us but only make us stronger. Each generation has its burden to bear, and this has been ours. How we handle this and how we emerge from it will shape the future of our children and nation. We must therefore be strong, move forward but never forget ... however, that is only possible if we provide some form of justice and healing to those left behind.

8: Mohan Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada.), November 03, 2010, 6:32 AM.

I would recommend an article in Punjabi by Amarjit Singh Chandi dated Nov 1, 2010 at www.sikhmarg.com on the Nov 1984 pogroms.

9: Kamaldeep Singh (London, United Kingdom), November 04, 2010, 3:34 AM.

Forgetting is never the correct course of action. We would be setting themselves up to make the same mistake again. As we know, attaining justice in India is never a quick, simple or even fair process. A bitter pill to swallow but that is the way it is, especially since Sikhs are yet to become a majority in any region outside of Punjab. I am of the belief that it would be more effective to financially assist and work on a grass-roots level by giving jobs to families, education to children as well as counseling and improving their immediate environment so that the psychological trauma is minimized to the greatest degree possible. As a result, people who were effected can return to normalcy quicker and actually heal for real. God forbid, but if we were caught up in this situation again, I believe that the vast majority, if not all, would want the 'grass-roots' approach as opposed to petitions, vigils and so forth, especially after 26+ years.

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