Indira’s Sikh assassins met swift justice, but the murderers of 3,870 innocent Sikhs still roam free a quarter of a century later. In addition to the Sikh pogrom, the year 1984 also saw a deadly gas leak in a factory owned by Union Carbide in Bhopal that killed over 2,000 people and left permanent injuries for many more for life.
In reaction to the Sikh killings in Delhi and other places, Indira’s successor and son Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared at a massive rally in the capital that “once a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it shakes”.
One of the worst massacres took place in two narrow alleys in India’s capital New Delhi’s poor Trilokpuri colony where some 350 Sikhs, including women and children, were casually butchered over 72 hours, according to media reports.
The charred and hacked remains of the hundreds of dead in Trilokpuri’s Block 32 on the smoky and dank evening of 2 November 1984 were stark testimony to the unimpeded and seemingly endless massacre, according to the BBC.
Soon after news of Mrs Gandhi’s killing by her Sikh bodyguards spread, Hindu mobs swung into action – like they did elsewhere in the city armed with voters’ lists – in Trilokpuri against the low caste Sikhs inhabiting one-roomed tenements on either side of two narrow alleyways barely 150 yards long.
With local police connivance they blocked entry to the neighborhood with massive concrete water pipes and stationed guards armed with sticks atop them.
For the next three days marauding groups armed with cleavers, scythes, kitchen knives and scissors took breaks to eat and regroup in between executing their bloodthirsty mission.
The history repeated itself in Guj arat in 2002, only the pretext and the victims were different this time.
According to Pankaj Mishra, the author of Temptations of the West: How to Be Modern in India, Pakistan and Beyond, the names of the politicians, businessmen, officials and policemen who colluded in the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat in 2002 are widely known. Some of them were caught on video, in a sting carried out last year by the weekly magazine Tehelka, proudly recalling how they murdered and raped Muslims. But, as Amnesty International pointed out in a recent report, justice continues to evade most victims and survivors of the violence. Tens of thousands still languish in refugee camps, too afraid to return to their homes.
People like Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, BJP leader L.K. Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi represent the ugly underbelly of Indian democracy and a threat to India’s secularism. Modi is currently in power in Gujarat, in spite of overwhelming evidence of his participation in 2002 anti-Muslim riots resulting in the massacre of thousands of Muslims. Mr. Advani has been held responsible for the destruction of Babri mosque and subsequent anti-Muslim riots. Mr. Thackeray is considered responsible for major anti-Muslim riots in Mumbai and continues to terrorize any one who disagrees with him.
While the India’s western supporters and government leaders paint a very rosy picture of India’s prospects, it is important for Indians and others to understand that there are significant risks in India. For example, the extreme Hindu Nationalists are continuing to stir up trouble in many parts of India. According to All India Christian Council, the 2008 violence has affected 14 districts out of of 30 and 300 Villages in the Indian state of Orissa, 4,400 houses burnt, 50,000 homeless, 59 killed including at least 2 pastors, 10 priests/pastors/nuns injured, 18,000 men, women, children injured, 2 women gang-raped including a nun, 151 churches destroyed and 13 schools and colleges damaged. The violence targeted Christians in 310 villages, with 4,104 homes torched. More than 18,000 were injured and 50,000 displaced and homes continued to burn in many villages. Another report said that around 11,000 people are still living in refugee camps.
SM Mushrif, the author of “Who Killed Karkare?” and former police chief of Maharashtra state, has raised some very serious questions about the role of the Indian intelligence in the increasing violence committed by Hindutva outfits against India’s minorities, and how India’s Intelligence Bureau diverts attention from it by falsely accusing Indian Muslims and Pakistan’s ISI, as was done in Malegaon and Samjutha Express blasts.
Mushrif alleges the involvement of both Police Chief Raghuvanshi and Col. Purohit with Abhinav Bharat in Maharashtra, whose hand was evident in a series of blasts across the country. It has old connections with men like Veer Damodar Savarkar (whose relative Himani Savarkar leads the Abhinav Bharat movement), Dr Munje, who led the Hindu Mahasabha, and other Hindutva luminaries. It is at the Bhonsala Military Academy run by these groups that Purohit trained police officers, including Raghuvanshi. Mushrif asks a pertinent question: Will Raghuvanshi pursue the investigation against Purohit, his guru? A plausible answer is, perhaps no. Already charges have been dropped by a special court under MCOCA against 11 accused, including Purohit, on the grounds of insufficient evidence produced in the court by the prosecution.
The violent Hindutva extremists represent a very serious threat to India’s secular democracy, peace and stability. It is important for Prime Manmohan Singh’s government to take seriously the warnings from patriotic Indians like S.M. Mushrif, Pankaj Mishra, Yoginder Sikand and others. Delhi needs to act by ordering a high-powered and comprehensive investigation into the allegations of the involvement of Intelligence Bureau and other Indian state officials in persecution of minorities in India.