Kids Corner


An Explosion of Talent & Activism





The first time I went to a 1984 event was in the early 1990’s. It was held in a little hall in Gurdwara Dasmesh Darbar in my home town of Birmingham, England.

A handful of people attended, listening to a lone barrister tell us of the horrors of 1984 and the subsequent killings.

I knew very little. ‘The Information Age’ had not yet materialised then. The only source of information was the ‘Des Pardes’ Punjabi newspaper which on a weekly basis published horrific pictures of the mass murders of Sikhs in India.

The local community, from the little I knew, did not talk much about it with young people. At that time there were no Sikh camps, retreats or networking groups.

The Sikh university associations only offered Bhangra events to cater to the young people looking for a place to socialize.

Then, years later, in the mid­1990s while on a plane back from Punjab, I sat next to a young teenage boy. I was in my mid­twenties. The young boy was passionate about 1984 and eager to fill me with info about the events and all the goings-on around 1984 … his mission, it appeared, was to shatter the illusion or delusion I was in.

I was really surprised that a teenage boy had such an enormous passion and vision. He was clean shaven and I asked him about how his parents felt about his involvement. He said they were not too happy, but that did not deter him and his goal.

The young boy dutifully took my address and later posted me tapes and other information about 1984.

The much predicted and forecasted ‘Information Age’ dawned and then the ‘voiceless’ found a ‘voice’ and the education and information began to spread rapidly. The years of quiet discontent turned into networks organising talks, videos, books. Social media appeared and suddenly we were all connected with lost relatives and friends from the past.

The events commemorating 1984 mushroomed with Sikh activism going global. Since then my young kids have been to numerous events and have been exposed to full graphic scenes of fellow Sikhs’ bodies tortured and mutilated. They have grown up not with quiet discontent but listening to concern and frustration over the genocide.

So, last weekend we went to see the ‘Safforn Mic: Shattering the Illusion’ exhibition, focusing on the events of 1984 and other social issues.

The live performances by young people were truly astounding. These ranged from poetry readings on 1984, female genocide, songs of love and peace. Young people sang beautifully, using a variety of classical instruments as well as western musical instruments and touched upon the issues and truth about 1984.

One young man in particular stood out for me. The lead singer of ‘Golden Roots’ sang in a Punjabi Dharam Geet melody style about 1984.

Jaspreet Kaur Sangra talked about female foeticide. Her stories were deep and touching. Finally, it was good to see a a fellow woman with a mission to highlight the deeply entrenched inequalities and violence faced by women even today.

Sikh rapper and youtuber ‘Narvision Singh’ sang of the ‘war outside’ and the illusion that hit it. Surprisingly, he sang about domestic violence. For me the illusion was that the Sikh community did not address the issue well, let alone have such young ones rap about it before a Sikh audience.

Again, surprised by the young man, just as I was twenty years ago by a young man talking about 1984 passionately. I hope that in the next 20 years the issue will be more openly addressed and networks formed to tackle the issue.

There was no more quiet, fearful discontent. The event was an explosion of talent. I was not sure if there is an illusion any more in the ‘Information Age’; my kids are not under any illusion about 1984.

A new media industry is being built around 1984. Despite the attempts to destroy Sikhi in India, it is heart-warming to see a new generation of artists growing proud to be carriers of the Faith.

For within Sikhi are also the tools to heal the pains of 1984.

In East London every year for the past 30 years, around the time of the 1984 genocide, women recite Sukhmani Sahib for 7 days and nights to heal the wounds and pray for peace for all communities.

Thus, within the art of Sikhi itself lies the solution, not just reflections and creative outbursts of reality. That is the divine art that can never be destroyed in any genocide and will continue for centuries as our legacy.

December 3, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), December 03, 2014, 3:30 PM.

I would like to make a comment in regards to the aspect of this article which links 1984 and the information age. If it was not for the internet, my generation would not know about 1984, that is a simple fact. My parents never told me about what happened in Punjab during that period. We had even adopted one of my cousins during the early 90's because his father was worried that as a young Sikh boy with a turban he would be killed by the police. I don't think this had to do with my parents not teaching us on purpose, I think when you are living in a historical moment you do not recognize its importance, it's only with hindsight that you realize its momentous significance. I still remember how I learned about 1984. I typed the word Sikh into youtube as I was curious to see what would pop up, the rest is history. If it was not for the internet, Hindu India would have got away with white-washing its history. Sikhs have incorporated 1984 into our collective memory because the internet keeps those memories alive and continues to reveal new information. The internet however has also been utilized by Hindu nationalists and bigots who try to push their own view of 1984 and the subsequent period. However, these people do not have the same steam as those who are using the internet to show India's role in committing pogroms against the Sikhs. However, without the internet, I think their view would have become dominant and people such as myself would be completely in the dark and unable to counter even the simplest of lies that they try to push.

2: Kaala Singh (Punjab), December 04, 2014, 12:08 AM.

This is absolutely true, modern information technology has made a huge difference. Even a mobile phone of today is a marvel of technology, it can act as a video camera and connect to the internet and to the world. During the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide, technology was not as advanced as it is today and Sikhs were massacred in many places that nobody knows about. These are being discovered only now but in many cases we do not have visuals and other data from these heinous crimes. But, if we look at the Gujarat genocide of Muslims in 2002, there is actual footage and countless visuals available of the carnage and they were posted on the internet. The world came to know about it and was appalled and the Indian state was forced to control the murderous attacks. Had it not been for information technology, the Muslim genocide would have surpassed even the Sikh genocide. Also, the 50 Muslim countries of the world threatened to cut-off energy supplies and played a role in ending the attacks. During November 1984 in Delhi and many other places, it was only after the US satellites picked up the mob attacks and mass-murder of Sikhs and the footage was shown on US and other Western TV networks and the foreign missions started relaying the news of these massacres to their home countries, that the attacks were stopped as it hurt India's image. Similarly, 1984-style mob attacks on Christians in Orissa in 2008 were immediately brought to an end when the US and other Western countries started threatening India with sanctions. It must be borne in mind that the Indian economy is totally dependent on the US and Western countries, they earn more than 100 billion dollars annually from the US alone from low-tech outsourcing and they know that the Americans can turn-off the "gas" anytime. It is worth mentioning here that the Sikh genocide of 1984 is the biggest of all massacres carried out by the Indian state till now, the reason for this in my personal opinion is that we do not have any international support, unlike the Muslims who have the support 50 Muslim countries, and Christians who have the support of the West and that is the reason why the Indian state thought that it would be "easy" to mess with the Sikhs. We will have to rely on ourselves to protect our future and information technology will play a huge part in that.

3: Gurmit Kaur (Gants Hill, United Kingdom), December 09, 2014, 6:38 AM.

Thank you for the above comments. Information technology is changing our community. Knowledge of Sikhi is no longer the preserve of a selected few. I have seen many young children who have profound knowledge and commitment to the faith and have learnt primarily through Youtube and the internet. Many young people have even learnt to play classical musical instruments via youtube.

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