[30 Years ago today, Delhi, and some other cities in India saw the beginning of days of organized massacre of Sikhs, ostensibly as a response to the assasination of Indira Gandhi. In memory of that dark time, we present a documentary text-photographic project by Gauri Gill. Gauri revisits the survivors of the 1984 violence in Delhi, and invites artsits, writers, and others to consider their memories of that dark time. An earlier version of this project by Gauri Gill was uploaded on Kafila in April 2013 by Shivam Vij. We are posting an updated version of the project, with fresh material, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the November Pogrom. ]
In 2005, when I heard Nirpreet Kaur relate her story, she had to have a psychologist present in the room. For us, it was too much to fully absorb. I did not know what to do with the weight of her words. We urged her to write a book, I hope she does someday.
Delhi 1984 and Gujarat 2002 are among the darkest spots in India’s post independence history. Like all other communal killings in the country, they too were similar in the mechanics of their violence. Connivance of the top state authorities, active role of elected politicians, police and bureaucratic indifference, a cornered and hapless minority, and participation of ordinary folks in violence and looting, all elements of the process of communal killings almost reached the point of perfection in these two pogroms. So much so, that they indeed were not contained, but played themselves out fully, till the time killers and looters got tired, or when nobody was left to be killed, and nothing remained to be burnt and looted. All those who talk, think, write or make claims about civilisation in India, should take a few moments off to come to terms with these two events. Victims of these pogroms too, like of other communal killings in the country, continue to wait for justice. Collusion of investigative agencies, protective shadow of state power and judicial lethargy has meant that prime movers behind these killings have remained beyond the arm of justice. In fact, particularly in these two cases, the political fortunes of parties involved in killings witnessed an unprecedented boom. Congress party under Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 returned with the largest ever national mandate to Lok Sabha; and the BJP under Narendra Modi has successfully decimated all political opposition in Gujarat, and is now eyeing central power under his leadership. Continue reading Pogrom Politics from 1984 to 2002: Sanjay Kumar→
This guest post byAMANDEEP SANDHIis an extract from his new book, Roll of Honour, a novelset in the backdrop of the Indian Army’s Operation Blue Star in 1984
During the last summer vacation (from my military school), when I was at home in Patiala, the soldiers had taken away my friend Joga. The government had already censored the newspapers, but the airwaves sneaked in the news of what was happening elsewhere in Punjab. In our living room, Nanaji’s white beard had trembled when we listened to Mark Tully from the British Broadcasting Corporation on our Murphy radio:
The battle of the Golden Temple in Amritsar is being fought hard and constantly. At the height of the battle, there were three hours of hand-to-hand fighting. Weapons allegedly recovered from the separatist Sikh militants were displayed to the world. The fatalities are not… Unofficial estimates go into thousands… Continue reading Joga’s disappearance: Amandeep Sandhu→
The late prime minister V.P. Singh’s memoir Manzilon se Zyaada Safar has an interesting episode pertaining to Amitabh Bachchan’s political baptism in Allahabad in 1984. The episode is not so much an event as it is an image. An image, which by its very opacity, by its presentation of a mask where we would normally expect to meet a face, continues to exercise a certain strange power. V.P. Singh, who was at that time the president of the UP state Congress party, recalls seeing Bachchan (whom he did not know of, he says, as he did not watch films) for the first time with his face “…covered in a towel”. Ever since I have read this, I can no longer see Amitabh Bachchan, not even retrospectively, without his face-towel on.
Rajiv Gandhi and his close advisors had decided that fielding Bachchan in the Lok Sabha elections for the Allahabad seat was a winning proposition. Bachchan was a friend, an Allahabad lad who had a cathartic place on the national stage and a decisive influence on the hairstyles and angst of millions. Continue reading A Face Towel in Allahabad, 1984→