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1984 Pogrom

November 1984: Government Organised Carnage




Kill them. Burn them. Get all the bloody Sardars. Let no Sikh survive. Loot them and burn their houses. Let nothing remain of the community, not a trace. They killed our leader, let no child of theirs live. Burn their turbans.

Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Indira tar naam rahega Indira Gandhi amar rahe, Indira Gandhi amar rahe Bharat mata ki jai, bolo Bharat Mata ki jai Indira Gandhi amar rahe (Indira Gandhi’s name will live as long as the sun and moon live. Long live Indira Gandhi, salute Mother India) Neelie peelie rehne nahin deni, Sat Sri Akal kehne nahin deni Kachcha kara aur kirpaan bhej denge Pakistan.


(The reference here is to Sikh religious symbols including, their deep blue and saffron coloured turbans and the reference to Pakistan here is symbolic for ‘enemy’ territory. Don’t let any blue or saffron turban remain, don’t let Sikhs greet each other. Let their religious symbols be destroyed and let all Sikhs be banished to Pakistan.)

Let no Gurudwara remain. Burn them all. Get their (the Sikh) women and daughters and parade them naked in the streets. Khoon ka badla khoon, Khoon ka badla khoon Indira Gandhi amar rahe. (Seek blood for blood, long live Indira Gandhi.) Khatam kar do Pakistan ke agenton ko Khatam kar do desh ke gaddaron ko, desh ke gaddaron ko jute maro salon ko (Eliminate the bloody traitors. Eliminate these Pakistani agents. Beat them with shoes.)


These slogans echoed in every street and square of Delhi. There was violence everywhere. One could hear the cries of the Sikh victims coming from all directions. Smoke was billowing out of burning Gurudwaras and houses, shops, factories and other property of Sikhs. Sikhs were being dragged out of their homes to be butchered. Killings were carried out in various ways, each more spine-chilling than the other. Some victims were beaten with iron rods until all that was left of them were a few last breaths. Many were burnt alive after being garlanded with kerosene-soaked tyers, lit with much ceremony. No Sikh the mob could lay its hands on was spared, not even young children, old men and women.

After every killing, the killer crowds gathered around the corpse and danced and yelled with Joy. Jab tak suraj chand rahega, Indira tera naam rahega (Indira Gandhi’s name will live as long as the sun and the moon live).

Every time the mob spotted a Sikh, it burst into joy: Here comes a Sardar. We have found one here, another crowd would yell. The killers were combing the residential colonies and markets for Sikhs, a majority of whom were killed right in their homes. After killing the men, the mob raped their wives and daughters. There was nobody to rescue Sikh men from the massacre and Sikh women from gang-rape. Some Delhi police men were also among those involved in the carnage.

Sikh women begged the killers to spare their men and children. The more they begged, the more savage did the killers become. Sikhs were killed with knives, iron rods, petrol and kerosene and a strange, white chemical which did not need a match to burn. Dragged out of their homes, pulled out of public and private transport, Sikh men were killed savagely and then abandoned to be eaten by dogs, cats, pigs and crows. Nature’s scavengers, the vultures, never got a chance to feast on these dead bodies because they are vary of descending down to busy roads and squares.

The lucky ones got a mass funeral. Truckloads of corpses were unloaded and burnt with kerosene oil. Thousands did not need cremation because they were burnt alive. The killers carted away televisions, videos, clothes, cupboards full of household goodies and refrigerators. Among them, those who grabbed cash and jewelry looked most content.

The air was thick with rumours. One rumor had it that Sikhs of Punjab were sending train-loads of dead Hindus. Another rumour was that Sikhs had poisoned Delhi’s water.

Doordarshan, the official electronic media, had its own story to tell. The focus of the film footage on Mrs, Indira Gandhi’s assassination was on her dead body and mobs around it, chanting,, khoon ka badla khoon (seek blood for blood).

It was apparently the government’s way of instructing the nation what to do, of justifying the savagery displayed towards the entire Sikh community. Five thousand Sikhs were brutally killed in four days. Thousands of others were wounded. Many more rendered homeless. Hospitals were not closed but nobody dared to take the victims to hospital. The police had already made clear whose side it was on.




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