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→
By SHIVAM VIJ: Which Indian or Pakistani premier has not desperately wanted to be the one to clinch peace between the two countries? Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reportedly been keen, for years now, to go on a state visit to Pakistan.
Before the political climate could be conducive to Manmohan’s visit to Islamabad, 26/11 took place. Pakistan’s refusal to give Dr Singh even breathing space on the 26/11 investigations, followed by the LoC tensions in January and August this year, means that in his 10 years of prime ministership, Manmohan Singh will never have visited the country of his birth. Continue reading Manmohan Singh must visit Pakistan→
GAURI GILL writes: This pamphlet contains photographs of the ongoing impact of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in New Delhi – taken by me for Tehelka magazine in 2005 (after the release of the Nanavati Commission report) and Outlook magazine in 2009 (to mark the 25th anniversary of the event); in Trilokpuri, Tilak Vihar and Garhi, as well as at protest rallies in the city. The captions that appear below them are as they were inscribed in the media then. Last month, I decided to ask some artist friends, who were living in Delhi at the time, or have since or prior, or see themselves as somehow participants of the city, to write a small comment alongside each photograph. It could be about the image or a more general observation related to the event; it could be abstract, poetic, personal, fictional, factual or nonsensically true in the way that were Toba Tek Singh’s seminal words on the partition. Continue reading 1984: Gauri Gill→
You can divide a piece of land but you cannot divide a belief. This was my first impression when I reached Kartarpur, a historic and sacred place, located just three kilometres away from the Indian border in the north-eastern city of Narowal, in Pakistani Punjab.
The recent attack on the head of Dera Sachkhand Ballan in one of their gurudwaras in Vienna and the ensuing shoot-out between Dalit and non-Dalit Sikhs, spilling over in India into angry street demonstrations in Jalandhar by followers of Dera Sachkhand and other Dalit bodies, forces us to confront the question of caste in contemporary Punjab. We asked SURINDER S. JODHKA, sociologist and Director, Institute of Dalit Studies, who works in this area, to give us a background note.
The Dera Sachkhand Ballan is one of the most important Guru Ravi Das Deras in Punjab today. Ravi Das was a 15th century saint of the Chamar caste whose message is constructed by his contemporary followers in a modern language that foregrounds questions of caste oppression and the fight against the prevailing structures of authority and the Brahmanical moral order. In his piece here, Surinder gives us a historical background to the emergence of this movement, and brings us to the point of the 1990s, when the “diasporic energy” of Ravi Dasis who had emigrated to the UK and Europe, gave a boost to the movement both at home as well as in the diaspora, where Ravi Dasis had found things to be no different. In the alien context, with no systemic justification for caste ideology, the Punjabi Dalits did not expect to be reminded of their “low” status in the caste hierarchy, says Surinder, but facing systematic discrimination from wealthy Jat Sikhs, were forced to set up their own autonomous organizations and their own gurudwaras. Continue reading Making Sense of the Ravi Dasis: Surinder S. Jodhka→