Giving blood to save human lives is my response to the repression of Indian state

This past Saturday, November 9 was one of those gloomy days that brought together the Sikhs and Muslims to jointly grieve the highhandedness of the Indian establishment.

Sikh Genocide

Exactly 35 years ago, around this time in 1984, thousands of Sikhs were murdered all across India following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The massacre was orchestrated by the ruling Congress party that claims to be secular with the connivance of police to polarize Hindu majority to win the forthcoming general election in the name of national unity.

The Hindu mobs were incited to kill Sikhs, as a result of which in the national capital of New Delhi alone close to 3,000 people had died. Many of the top senior officials, including the succeeding Prime Minister and Indira’s son Rajeev Gandhi remained unpunished in spite of their complicity in the crime. The judiciary also failed to deliver justice, barring the conviction of a single former Member of Parliament Sajjan Kumar and that too 34 years after the mass murders. 

Every year, Sikhs all over the globe remember the dead. In Canada, they hold annual blood drive which has saved more than 1,40,000 human lives since 1999. On Saturday, I donated blood as part of this campaign for the very first time. As I sat on the chair with my blood dripping into the pouch, the memories of those dark days came back haunting.

I was fourteen when the massacre happened. Although I was lucky enough as we lived in Punjab, the Sikhs in most parts of India outside the state were being hunted down by the Congress led goons. The TV imagery of Congress supporters chanting “Blood for Blood” as the body of Indira Gandhi lay in state is permanently etched on my mind. While the Indian state machinery was after Sikh blood, here the Sikhs are trying to save human lives by giving their blood. But that wasn’t the only tragedy I have not been able to forget. Many more bloody incidents were yet to come. 

Eight years later, Hindu mobs demolished Babri Masjid – a 16th century mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh as the police stood by. Hindus claim that the mosque was forcibly built by the Muslim emperor Babar after removing a temple that stood at the birthplace of Hindu God, Lord Ram in Ayodhya. At the behest of currently ruling right wing Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the mobs had razed the mosque to the ground in December, 1992. 

Whereas, the BJP ruled the state of Uttar Pradesh, the Congress ran the national government led by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao back then. Notably, Rao had served the country as Home Minister when the Sikh Genocide happened. Although he was the in charge of law and order, he did nothing to protect the Sikhs. And now, he failed to stop an assault on the mosque as a Prime Minister.

Much like some BJP supporters participated in the Sikh massacre as foot soldiers; some Congress supporters were also among those who wanted to see the mosque replaced by a temple. A makeshift Hindu temple has remained on the controversial site since then. In fact, when Sikhs were being killed a movement for Ram temple was picking up. The BJP had started mobilizing people against Babri Masjid. Rajeev Gandhi too did not leave any stone unturned to pander the supporters of this campaign. His government started TV serial based on the epic of Lord Ran. Most of the actors who played lead role, including that of Ram later joined the BJP.

In 2002, more than 50 passengers had died after a train bringing Hindu pilgrims from Ayodhya caught fire in Gujarat. The then-Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi who is the current Prime Minister had blamed the incident on Pakistan sponsored Islamic extremists after which the state of Gujarat went up into flames. Thousands of Muslims were slaughtered by the mobs led by BJP activists in the state. Thus, Modi repeated 1984 in Gujarat to win the upcoming assembly election and much like Rajeev Gandhi, he mustered a majority in the legislature. 

The most recent Supreme Court verdict ordering for the construction of Hindu temple at the disputed site and giving a separate piece of land to the Muslims for building a mosque is like rubbing salt on the wounds. Instead of punishing those who were responsible for the demolition of the mosque and restoring back the place of worship to a minority community, the courts have clearly sided with the mandate of the BJP. It is no secret that the BJP always wanted to build Ram temple in Ayodhya and has remained steadfast on its promise to the Hindus. 

It would be more appropriate to put the blame on the Indian state rather than one party or the other to understand the pattern of impunity and systematic violence against minorities in India which has become a majoritarian democracy under the garb of secular democracy. 

As of now, I stand with the organizers of annual blood drive and its Campaign Against Genocide to send a strong message to the Indian government that continues to patronise violence against religious minorities. It is no surprise that under Modi, who first got elected as Prime Minister in 2014,attacks on minority communities have sharply increased. The Supreme Court verdict that came close to this year’s blood drive only indicates how Modi has institutionalized bigotry through his influence over the judiciary. Some of those I met at the blood donation campsite in Surrey were outraged over the verdict and felt that the Indian judiciary has deceived minorities. Giving blood to save lives is our collective response to a repressive regime.



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