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Jyoti Basu: Sikhs Remember and Honour a Friend




Jyoti Basu (July 8, 1914 - January 17, 2010) was the Chief Minister of West Bengal, India from 1977 to 2000. He passed away at the age of 95 in Calcutta last Sunday.  Our deepest condolences to his family and loved ones, and our sincerest prayers for lasting peace for his soul.


Jyoti Basu's good deed of the day a quarter century ago helped quench the thirst of those waiting for hours on Tuesday, January 19, 2010, to catch a last glimpse of him.

"This is our way of paying our respects to him for the way he saved the Sikh community in Calcutta during the 1984 pogroms," said Indrajit Singh of the Guru Singh Sabha, busy serving water opposite Citizens' Park in Calcutta (West Bengal, India).

Indrajit and a batch of 20 members of the Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara and the Punjab Sevak Sabha offered water to anyone who asked for it while waiting for Basu's body to be brought to the patch of green opposite Rabindra Sadan.

The Sikhs came with a 9,000 litre capacity water tank and over 10,000 plastic glasses. The spontaneous act drew a smile, even from the teary-eyed. "Even his harshest critics would admit that Jyoti babu was a secular leader. And this gesture from the Sikhs symbolises that," said Pranab Adhikary, a Congress supporter.

"Sikhs were killed in every other state in 1984, but not in Bengal" said Indrajit, recalling how Basu had rushed back to Calcutta from Delhi after Indira Gandhi's assassination.

As Basu's body headed for SSKM Hospital, many of his followers who had walked miles with their leader on his last journey made a beeline for the water counter. They all went back relieved and thanking the volunteers.


[Courtesy: The Telegraph]

January 21, 2010

Conversation about this article

1: Natalee Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), January 21, 2010, 3:49 PM.

If this is true, Mr. Basu should be given the Sikh equivalent of "Righteous amongst the Nations" award as well as Ram Narayan Kumar!

2: Gurpal Singh (Wolverhampton , U.K.), January 21, 2010, 4:27 PM.

It is indeed true, as I've heard from friends and relatives from Kolkatta. It was the first thing that came to mind when I heard of his death; the Punjab Tribune had reported that the Punjab Government had declared an official holiday (the only other state to do so) but omitted to mention his great act of saving Sikh lives. I has always raised the disturbing question: If Jyoti Basu could put the army on alert, why couldn't the other states?

3: Dr.Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), January 22, 2010, 6:43 AM.

A secular leader is for all ... from this read alone (as I do not know the man well enough) I pray: "May his noble soul rest in peace!"

4: Devinder Pal Singh (Delhi, India), January 25, 2010, 3:34 AM.

We as a community never forget the good one does to us. Jyoti Basus's act exemplifies very mature thought and action during 1984. It also highlights the fact that there did exist a very immature leadership and a vacuum created by the then political idealism. It would be good if the present leadership can pick up a leaf from this towering personality. Sadly the current Bengal leadership is totally drawn into gamesmanship without any social agenda albeit theirs is the sole agenda of winning by hook or crook. May his soul rest in peace.

5: Santosh Satpathy (Bhubaneswar, Odissa), April 28, 2010, 11:14 AM.

It's not true that Sikh were massacred in every state of India. We have several thousand Sikhs living in Odissa. There were no pogroms here. Now, we even have a Sikh as member of the Legislative Assembly of Odissa. To the best of my knowledge, the horrific anti-Sikh pogroms of 1984 were confined to North India, especially Delhi. [Editor: There were pockets of violence all over, though in a few places, such as Odissa, Bengal, etc., the authorities did do their job. Madhya Pradesh is one example where the mobs were active; Bihar is another example.]

6: Herminder Singh (Kanpur, India), April 14, 2011, 8:59 AM.

Jyoti Babu was a real friend of the Sikh Community.

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