Kids Corner


Jarnail Singh's 'I Accuse ...'

A Book Review by JAYA JAITLY


"I Accuse ..." by Jarnail Singh has been selected's Book of the Month for December 2009. 

This Review is being presented as the 72nd piece in's "1984 & I" Series, which is being brought to you through the 12 months of this year to commemorate the 25th anniversary of India's crimes of 1984.    


"I ACCUSE ...", by Jarnail Singh. Penguin Book, India, 2009. Hardback, Rs. 350.00. 208 pages. ISBN # 9780 67008 3947. 



The vicious pre-planned slaughter of Sikhs in 1984 following Indira Gandhi's assassination did not just leave every Sikh traumatized. It also deeply affected their psyche, their faith in their neighbours, in the system, in the state, in the very idea of justice itself.

For many of us non-Sikhs, it was a defining moment in our lives. On October 31 that year, I saw Sikhs being killed on Lodi Road; the police told us to move on and not bother about it since we were not Sikhs. We saw trucks loaded with white-capped men shouting khoon ka badla khoon se lenge. We saved two Sikhs from being thrown over the Safdarjang flyover, hiding them in our car and ensuring they reached home safely. We kept their two-wheeler for over three months till they had the courage to come back for it. On the afternoon of November 1, we found slashed, shattered, blood-covered Sikh families in Trilokpuri.

With a team of university students, I ran a relief camp at Farash Bazaar Police Station for three months, fighting for their rehabilitation. When we went to the Lt. Governor on Nov 2 to ask for relief, he told us that colour TVs would be provided in the camps to watch Mrs Gandhi's funeral. Three days later when all the killing had stopped, I was stopped by army men with guns.

"Where were you three days ago?" I shouted.

That was when I discovered the by-lanes of Trilokpuri, Nand Nagri and Kalyanpuri colonies. The capital was strewn with molten flesh, burning tyres, tresses of hair. The devastation was worse than any wrought by a natural calamity. It was certainly the day that I, a mother of two children and an IAS officer's wife, finally grew up.

Reading Jarnail Singh's I Accuse brought the old anger and agony back.

Jarnail's book is excellent material for a study of the nature of festering injustice.

Khushwant Singh's Foreword speaks of the perpetrators and that "they still need to be brought to justice". Jarnail gives various examples of how "everything was done to prevent justice from taking its course". Those who were only children then must know that Sikh homes and establishments were targeted with voters' lists distributed to organised mobs. Survivors repeatedly mentioned kerosene, iron rods, burning tyres and some inflammable white powder as common methods of killing.

Policemen who prevented killings were summarily transferred; those who allowed and encouraged it or disarmed Sikhs who defended themselves were later promoted. No action was taken against the 145 police personnel mentioned in various reports. The first F.I.R. (criminal charge) was filed in 1994, 10 years later. Many local perpetrators became councillors, M.L.A.s, and even cabinet ministers in Rajiv Gandhi's time. No statements were taken, chargesheets were deliberately faulty and bail was given to murderers based on cyclo-styled application forms by lawyers close to Congress leaders.

Old men defending women and children were killed; some surviving youth became drug addicts. One of the many mass murderers was given life imprisonment. The CBI at one point claimed it had no time to investigate, but had the time to give a clean chit to another perpetrator after polls had been announced. This made home minister P. Chidambaram announce that he was "happy", provoking Jarnail to throw a shoe at him at a press conference.

Jarnail poignantly describes Delhi neighbourhoods that were innocent and fearless till that fateful day. His disabled older brother was roughed up by the mob and went into shock. "He had always been treated with consideration. That day he learned the only thing that mattered was that he was a Sikh," Jarnail writes.

Can the Sikhs put the events of 1984 behind them and move on, as the prime minister recently advised them to do? Jarnail writes: "If people have lost their lives in a storm, it is a different matter; but how can a massacre be forgotten? Especially when there's been no justice?"

Clearly, a shoe isn't enough to remind the cynical and insensitive Congress party of the elusive word ‘justice'.


[Courtesy: Outlook]

November 29, 2009

Conversation about this article

1: Simranjit Singh (Seattle, Wasington, U.S.A. - Barapind, Punjab), December 10, 2009, 4:41 AM.

This is a very good over-view of your book. Thank you for all that you have done for the community. I'll be honoured to read your book.

2: Kulwinder  (Mississauga, Ontario, Canada), December 10, 2009, 6:20 PM.

This is a great book. Jarnail Singh is such a courageous fellow who has sacrificed so much for others. Though his family survived the 1984 pogroms, he has not forgotten the other victims. I too am an eye-witness of the crimes of 1984. I was a child at that time but now, even 25 years later, it is very painful and I always think about it.

3: Amitoj Singh (New Jersey, U.S.A.), December 18, 2009, 7:08 PM.

I feel Jarnail Singht embodies the Sant-Sipahi concept of Sikhi. Not only is he fighting for justice as a soldier, but he also tried to uphold the Sikh traditions of maryada. This can be seen in the recent episode at a Faridbad Kirtan smaagam where he, along with Bhai Manpreet Singh Kanpuri tried to uphold the maryada of the Guru Granth Sahib while certain people were trying to disturb it. Please watch the video of this on YouTube with Bhai Manpreet Singh and Jarnail Singh.

4: Talwinder Singh (Mohali, Punjab), January 21, 2010, 9:50 AM.

History will always remember Sardar Jarnail Singh. I have grown up listening to all these traumatic stories of 1984 and its aftermath. Now I want that India should do something to correct the wrongs. Right now, I hate when I pay taxes to the Indian govt. I know they will use the money to oppress minorities. This book will make them answer all the questions ... provided the right people read it!

5: Parminder Kaur (Seattle, WA, U.S.A.), September 07, 2010, 11:43 AM.

This book is a "must-read" for all Sikhs, particularly youth, that need some insight into contemporary Sikh events and their applicability to the rich history of our Gurus. Based on the prescription laid out in the Guru Granth in support of 'Babaania Kahaania', all Sikh youth curricula should include this book.

6: Renu Raveendran (New Delhi, India), January 20, 2015, 12:51 PM.

This genocide is a collective and horrendous crime that every Indian should know about, not because it affected one community but because it impacts on the whole nation. Yesterday it was them, today it can be any community regardless of what background you belong to because today all that matters to these maniacs is politics and power. I believe standing next to what is right is very important because if we don't, justice will be delayed and denied ... then what will our teachings of satya dharma karma hold, what will be the value of these golden words? I guess they will be buried in books which will be read by none because humanity will be dead by that time.

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