As the handful of days commemorating the 1984 Genocide come to a close, back we go to the rigmarole of celebrity gossip and idle chit-chat. Attention turns to Thanksgiving in North America, whilst the build-up to Christmas has already begun in Europe. On the sub-continent though, as the nights draw-in and the cold starts to bite, Punjabis will be concerned with how the coming months affect crops and cattle in the largely rural economy, whilst tradesmen and professionals elsewhere too will be keeping a close eye on the bread-basket of the nation’s resources that is Punjab’s fields. Living so far away and removed from daily exposure to what life is like in Punjab, it is not surprising that many Sikhs in the West have been unable to make the connection between the events of 1984 and the socio-political economy that has been built in modern India. Perhaps if we did, more of us wouldn’t content ourselves with the sloganeering and political grandstanding that has become synonymous with Sikhs at this time of year.
Whilst anniversaries provide moments for reflection and are occasions where people can share their emotions and thoughts collectively with others, they should just be instigators to change the way we live. The commemoration of the 1984 Genocide is an important date on the Sikh calendar, but because we have not learnt what caused it and how it is but one moment in a series of events that are still unfolding today, our search for justice has been unsuccessful. So what is one expected to do all year round to seek justice for that which took place 29 years ago? What substantive change can an individual in full-time employment or education, with an active social life and familial considerations, hope to make and more importantly, how can they fit that into their everyday lives? In my opinion, our time would be best spent engaging in a process of learning about what took place and on a wider scale learning how to analyse the events that are taking place around us right now.
- Join a book club or study circle that reads written work together and discusses the issues in a supportive environment;
- immerse yourself in an exhibition such as ‘A Candle in the Dark‘ currently touring in Canada;
- attend seminars and events where you can hear research from human rights bodies like ENSAAF and Khalsa Aid;
For those who wish to contribute more actively:
- support professional organisations like the People’s Union for Civil Liberties or Amnesty International in India;
- consider volunteering or performing at events like When Lions Roar, Lahir or Saffron Mic;
- join companies like our own Naujawani.com where we have produced videos and articles around this subject matter, or other media outlets like Sikh Siyasat or The Langar Hall.
Whatever skills you have might be needed by some of those mentioned above. Whether you are a web designer, accountant or restaurateur – I am sure they will be pleased to hear that you want to get involved. Take some time to research who you want to work with, look through their social media accounts and where relevant their official annual reports, so you can make an informed decision.
What took place in November of 1984 in Delhi and across India was not an isolated incident or reactionary violence. It was a planned operation for which an opportune moment was being awaited. The fall-out too was planned and is still an ongoing action in all manner of areas from withholding selected media coverage to influencing regional commemorative events. This was never a duel between two religious groups; those who advocate that the events of 1984 were a clash between Hindus and Sikhs are either misinformed or dancing to the tune of a hidden agenda. This was a fight that has been fought for centuries now between the universal ideals of the House of Guru Nanak and the oppressive ruling classes who wish to maintain the status quo of a class/caste-ridden society. Sikhs are just one group of people whose culture and very existence is being eroded by the modern nation State. Other such people come from all over the place, with some sharing a geographical kinship and others of a particular religious denomination including those who would class themselves as Hindus. Years of preparation preceded the invasion of Amritsar and the Delhi Genocide in 1984; overnight campaigns and half-hearted activism cannot compare. There is a wider struggle for autonomy and self-preservation that is going on here and as Sikhs we should make ourselves aware of it.