And The Struggle For Genocide Recognition
For nearly a hundred years the Armenian people have been waiting for the world to recognize the genocide Turkey carried out against their ancestors. The perpetrators of their holocaust are all gone now. Yet every year the Armenian people gather around the world to remember the 1.5 million lives that were lost to the brutality of the Ottoman Empire. The desire, the thirst, for justice never goes away. No matter how long it has been or how few of the criminals are left still alive, a people who suffer the horrific act of genocide never give up the hunger for justice... for recognition.
"When a big tree falls, the earth shakes..."
~ Rajiv Gandhi
With the death of Indira Gandhi extreme factions in India's government were given the excuse they had been waiting for. With the blessing of Rajiv Gandhi (Indira's son) the radicalized factions in Delhi, and across India, were given permission to seek out Sikhs and kill them with impunity. On October 31st of 1984 the Sikh Genocide began as India's government organized the slaughter.
"Whoever kills the sons of the snakes, I will reward them."
~ Sajjan Kumar
At the head of the massacre were members of the Indian National Congress political party. Members like Sajjan Kumar openly incited violence by offering bounties for every Sikh that was killed during the genocide. In violent speeches, Kumar vividly depicted where and when the murderers could pick up their "prizes" and just how much any given Sikh was worth... dead.
From the very night of October 31st the Congress party members began establishing meeting places where mobs could be assembled and weapons supplied. Party members who owned gas stations and other shops willfully handed over the primary weapon of the genocide... kerosene. Instructions and "prizes" were dished out by head members of the INC party as Delhi quickly became a war zone.
Police in Delhi (and the rest of northern India) were ordered to stand down as long as Sikhs were the ones being attacked. The government of India refused to send in military units to put down what the Congress party called (and still demands they be called) "riots". The pogroms were therefore supported by Indian police and military units that either refused to stop the violence or willingly participated.
Sikh soldiers in the Indian army were disarmed and imprisoned by their fellow soldiers. In some parts of India these Sikh soldiers were killed while still in uniform. Around 300 estimated Sikh soldiers were executed by fellow soldiers without trial or any form of justice served.
For the Congress Party this showed an even greater lack of ability to defend themselves once the military had neutralized the threat of Sikh soldiers. This emboldened the Congress Party as it ramped up its efforts. It had already begun supplying its angry mobs with voter lists, school registration lists, and ration lists that all showed where Sikhs homes and businesses were. In addition the Congress Party had provided guides that would show illiterate mobs where the Sikh homes were and what businesses to destroy.
With lists in hand the mobs made a habit of attacking a house and collecting the dead so as to receive their "prizes". When a Sikh family or individual managed to escape the initial attack they could then be tracked down since their names were not crossed off the attackers' lists. This showed a clear level of organization amongst what the Indian National Congress party called "unruly mobs".
Police, military, Congress party members, and mobs all participated and perpetrated rapes as a weapon against Sikh women. Sikh women who survived gang rapes were told explicitly that "the next generation will be loyal" after being raped repeatedly. Other Sikh women who survived were burnt alive as a result of their inability to be silenced by their attackers. This legacy of using rape as a weapon still lives on in India today. Sikhs and other minorities are still often the victims of rape since the Indian government does not punish the crime effectively.
By the time the fourth day ended the Sikh community in northern India had suffered an estimated 30,000 dead with around 2 million displaced. The government of India however only admits to 3,000 Sikh deaths as a result of what it persistently refers to as the "Sikh Riots". By using the term "Sikh Riots" the government of India not only infers that the genocide was caused by two Sikh soldiers who assassinated Indira Gandhi but also covers up the fact that Sikhs were the victims. This permits India to hide it's guilt and complicity in the killings. It is for this reason that the vast majority of the leaders and organizers of the genocide remain free to this day.
Almost 30 years later the Sikh community still seeks recognition from the world's most prolific democracy and the world's boastfully "largest" democracy. The White House only recently decided that it would recognize the killings as wrong, yet stopped short of calling them genocide. The Delhi High Court on the other hand only refers to the genocide as embarrassing so as to once again refuse to admit that the genocide ever occurred or that the government participated.
Sikhs, Armenians, Congolese, Ugandans, the people of Darfur, and victims of countless other genocides all remain in this struggle. Their history has been violated by the constant whitewashing of it by the rest of the world. In many cases their heritage is nearly erased as their homelands remain out of reach. Their only ability to recall the past remains in the memories that are handed down from one generation to the next. These are accompanied by the wound that time itself cannot heal.
The struggle of genocide victims never washes away. It must be addressed and recognized for the process of healing to begin. As long as the community that perpetrated the crime is allowed to deny that the crime ever took place, the victimized community will rise up to challenge our perception of history. Their voices echo the pain of their ancestors. Their actions, violent at times, show the world the injustice that we try so desperately to ignore. This is the struggle of a wounded people. It is the struggle to find peace in the blood of innocence. It is a struggle, unfortunately, without end.
"The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was... The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
~ Milan Kundera
(Note: Not All Sources Listed)
Sikhs For Justice.org