Mr. B. M. Tarkunde, a retired judge of the Bombay High Court, in his introduction to Mr. N. D. Pancholi’s book, “Oppression in Punjab,” has described the Indian army’s image in Punjab as that “of a communal, corrupt, cruel and ghostly insensitive force.” He further describes the police and army actions in Punjab as “a terrible tale of sadistic torture, ruthless killing, fake encounters, calculated ill-treatment of women and children.”

Mr. Tarkunde’s description of the scene is in sharp contrast to Indian government’s claim that the army and police were acting only against alleged “extremist” and “separatist” elements. Mr. Tarkunde is not a party propagandist or a yellow journalist. He is a retired judge and his scathing indictment bears the judicious stamp of a man trained and experienced in the difficult task of sifting truth from the chaff of falsehood. He is also a great champion of Human Rights whose sense of justice must have been outraged at the atrocious behavior exhibited by army and police in dealing with the innocent citizens of their own country.

Mr. N.D. Pancholi also deserves to be honored for his daring act of truthfully recording the grim events. Government of India promptly arrested him and banned the book in a vain bid to stifle the truth.

It is true that no government ever reveals the whole truth. Distortion or even suppression of truth more often than not becomes inevitable and expedient to steer clear of potentially sensitive situations. But resorting to blatant lies or attempting to thrive purely on falsehood is something that is peculiar only to the Indian Government outside the communist and totalitarian regimes. In its anxiety to mislead the world and to cover up its heinous crimes against the Sikhs, the government has been weaving fictional stories and painting the Sikh problem in altogether false colors. But truth, like smoke, has a way of stealing out in the open through the least expected fissures. It can never be totally obscured. The reports of organizations like PUCL and PUCR as well as the forthright commentaries of journalists like Rajni Kothari and Madhu Kishwar laid bare in their entire monstrosity the gory details of anti-Sikh madness of November ’84.

Indian government did not take action against these reports as it considered them helpful in further polarizing the Hindu voters in its favor. For the vast majority of Hindus, army invasion of the Golden Temple and anti-Sikh riots were events to be celebrated in the same manner as they celebrate Dussehra or Diwali. Sikhs were taught the long contemplated lesson and Rajiv deserved all the accolades, emerging as a sort of Ram fighting the Ravanas symbolically in Punjab and literally in Sri Lanka.

The Sikhs, who still refuse to see reason, would do well to read these reports and books like ‘oppression in Punjab’ before exonerating the real villains and condemning the imaginary ones.

Article extracted from this publication >>  September 27, 1985