The November December 1984 issue of Manushi, a magazine published in India by a group of women carries on its cover a photograph of a 45 year old Sikh woman, Gurdip Kaur, whose husband, three sons and two sons-in-law were brutally murdered in front of her and who was gang raped by the Hindu mobs in Delhi in early November 1984 following the assassination of Mrs. Gandhi. Manushi asserts on its index page, ‘“‘We hope that an awareness of the vast dimensions of the inhumanity that confronts us will not demoralize us, but will strengthen’ our determination to struggle against the forces of oppression.”’ The Sikhs must also heed this advice; for only such determination will assure their survival.
The cover story of the magazine is entitled: “Gangster Rule.”’ The account is both detailed and heartrending. It dismisses the assertions by the Government controlled media and the Indian Governments that what happened in India following Mrs. Gandhi’s death was “spontaneous expressions of outrage.” It details three distinct and well organized patterns of attack on Sikhs, based on tape-recorded interviews and eyewitness accounts, by Madhu Kishwar, the author of the “Gangster Rule: The Massacre of the Sikhs”’:
- a) Looting and killing in Sikh houses, Gurdwaras and shops. .
- b) Systematic slaughter and rape that accompanied looting, burning and arson.
- c) Deliberate and premeditated slaughter of Sikh men and boys in the streets, trains, buses, markets and workplaces.
The attackers, for example, in Trilokpuri came in mobs of about 4,000 with lathis, steel rods and guns, burnt 2 Gurdwaras, and then went from house to house carrying the loot in trucks, burning the houses after slaughtering: all the male inmates, actively encouraged by the police and political officials. A police SHO told the attackers, ‘““You have three days to kill them. Do your job well. Do not leave a single man alive.” This is precisely what the Hindu mobs did. In addition jeep loads of women were carried away to be raped.
Madhu. Kishwar rates that “the attackers every Sikh male in sight, would leave for a while, but would return again to search Sikh houses and neighbors’ houses to finish off those men who were still in hiding.’ The account of Gurdip Kaur 1s typical. After the murder of her husband and two married sons, “they tore off my clothes and stripped me naked’ And as many as eight, 1416 year old boys gang raped her in her own house in the presence of her youngest son. When they had killed the three male members and satiated their lust, they dragged away Gurdip Kaur’s remaining and youngest son “to the street corner, hit him with lathis, sprinkled kerosene over him and burnt him alive. At that time I was completely naked. I had managed to get hold of an old sheet which I had wrapped around myself. If I had even one piece of clothing on my body, I would have gone and thrown myself over my son and tried to save him. I would have done anything to save at least one young man of my family. Not one of the four is left.’ She was an eyewitness to the rape of even 910 year old Sikh girls and “hardly any women in her neighborhood was spared the humiliation she underwent. The attackers first emptied the houses of men who were burnt alive. After that they dragged the women inside the ransacked houses and gang raped them.”’
Another woman, Indra Bai, living in another locality narrates, ‘“‘at about 4 p.m., after they had murdered all the Sikh men they could get hold of in our block, they (Hindu mobs) asked the women to come out of the houses. They began dragging off whichever girl they liked. Each girl was taken away by a gang of 10 or 12 boys, many of them in their teens. They would take her to a nearby Masjid, gang rape her, and send her back after a few hours. Some never returned. Those who returned were in pitiable condition and without a stitch of clothing. One young girl said 15 men had climbed on her. “Addition, several women were actually abducted and remain untraced Furthermore, ‘the rape made no distinction between old and young Rule By Dr. Karamjit Singh Rai”” In Nand Nagri anwas these rapes took placehile the bodies of the husbands; sons or brothers of these women were still smoldering 1n their presence, and their homes had thus been converted into cremation grounds.” Invariably all the women’s jewelry was taken away by the rapists.
The sociological problems that this carnage has inflicted on the multitudes of women who have survived are no less painful than the physical and psychological trauma they endured during those fateful days in the first week of November 1984. As published in a report entitled ‘“‘Only Widows and Orphans Left’’ in Indian Express by Professors Veena Das, R.K. Das, M. Mohanty and A. Nandy, hundreds of Sikhs had also ‘“‘to submit to the humiliating experience of having their hair and beards shaved many in police stations under the instructions — of the police officers.”
Madhu. Kishwar points out indignantly that “‘it is made out that anyone who does not support every action and policy of the Government automatically becomes an enemy of the nation. This way of thinking is based on authoritarian ideology which seeks to deny the people the right to differ with the rulers and the right to mourn the tragic consequences of the rulers’ actions.”
She has concluded based on the evidence, that ‘fone is left in no doubt that the whole affair was masterminded and well organized and that the killers and looters seemed to be pretty confident that no harm would come to them. They seemed to be in no hurry. They came, went back, and came again and again. Each time they returned with reinforcements. The fact that all over the city (Delhi) the attacks started simultaneously and the pattern of violence was identical indicates that this was no Spontaneous outburst. Almost everywhere males were singled out and slaughtered.” The masterminding and preplanning of the whole carnage 1s amply proven by an eyewitness account which described that on October 31, 1984, the day of Mrs. Gandhi’s assassination,
“The large crowd outside AIIMS between 1:305 p.m. had no resemblance to a frenzied mob. At about 2 p.m., two truckloads of men from neighboring villages were brought to AIIMS. They dismounted from the trucks in a calm and orderly fashion. They behaved like soldiers waiting for orders. The trucks were followed by a tempo full of lathis and iron rods. There were no men in the tempo besides the driver. At about 3 p.m., a Congress corporate addressed the gathering and was the first to raise the slogan: ‘Khun ka Badla, Khun se Lenge.’ The mob took their cue from the Congress leader. From the AIIMS this gang soon went in different directions looting, burning Sikh men alive and raping their women. A vast number of investigative reports have pointed out that high officials of Congress (I) masterminded the whole operation. They rounded up antisocial elements from their constituencies. These elements routinely receive Congress (I) patronage. On this occasion, they were incited to rape, loot and burn and were assured that no one would interfere with them.”
Sure enough, the law enforcement. Agencies did an not ‘interfere’ with the “work” of killing, burning, looting and raping by important constituency of INDIRA Congress. The irony is that if Mr. ‘Clean’ Rajiv Gandhi reads any of these Indian newspaper accounts, he knows the truth behind the tragedy. Yet he refuses to allow any judicial inquiry using such a transparent and flimsy excuse as ‘“‘that an inquiry would only stir up hostility towards Sikhs among Hindus’ (New York Times 2/21/85). Even the distinguished world journalists, like for example, Steven Weisman, have pointed out that “there has been testimony that the police, with the encouragement of certain political leaders, stood by and in some cases took part in the violence. Yet Mr. Gandhi also continued to reject Sikh demands for an impartial inquiry into what happened. Critics say this refusal is the biggest blemish of his time in office’? (New York Times, 2/21/85).
Obviously the Government’s policy of callousness against the Sikhs, receives’’ its ‘‘sanction’’ from’ the behavior of the majority community. Madhu Kishwar has very perceptively diagnosed the reasons for the estrangement between Hindus and Sikhs: “‘unfortunately, an overwhelming majority of people in Delhi seem to feel that all the killings and arson were, in some way, justifiable. They believe this because they have been convinced by years of vicious chauvinist propaganda that a purging operation was necessary in order to ‘save the nation’ and ‘keep the nation united.’ The ruling party has made itself the arch symbol of a so-called united nation. Its opponents are invariably accused of “‘weakening the nation’’ in the face of the dangers of the ‘foreign hand.”’ Once such a chauvinist, nationalist fever infects the brains of people there is little hope that rationality or humanity will prevail. The vision of the nation begins to act as a monster devouring its own people. Sikhs as Sikhs were “they’’ pitted against “us.” Sikhs became another species altogether, who needed to be sternly dealt with, perhaps even, exterminated, for their ‘otherness.’ ”’
Even reputed journalists and/or scholars who dare to call attention to such gross inequities against the Sikhs are quickly arrested and tried for sedition. For example, the Associated Press reporter Mr. Brahma Chelleney who ‘quoted police and medical sources as saying some Sikhs had been shot with their hands tied behind their backs” during the Golden Temple attack by the army, is being tried for sedition, his passport has been impounded and his press accreditation not renewed. The Government has similarly threatened to prosecute the publishers of ‘‘Who are Guilty,’ a report by two civil Liberties Groups about the anti-Sikh riots. These actions by the Government of India have been strongly condemned by the Editors’ Guild of India. It passed a resolution at its annual meeting on February 15, 1985, saying that the Guild was “compelled to protest in the strongest terms possible against certain actions by the officialdom which are a threat to freedom of expression … The criminalization of politics and the desire to avoid or evade public accountability have made journalism an increasingly risky profession. ..
Resort to the law of sedition to curb journalists for carrying out their professional duties, is becoming infectious and must be ended.” (New York Times, 2/17/85).