India’s Anti-Sikh Pogrom: Who Are the Guilty?

Written by Shamsul Islam | Published on: October 15, 2015
destiny, nature and similar traditions. I am afraid that without such a self-introspection and revaluation of history they would not be able to live with peace among themselves and with other countrymen. A disinterested analysis of their own enlightened interests will be enough to make them understand that their fate is indivisibly linked with the destiny of India. Such an understanding will save them from falling prey to the disruptive and destructive interests of foreign powers.
 
I disbelieve [sic] that my Sikh brothers will accept the cautious words of spiritual expression of a well-wisher.
 
Lastly, it is not to deny the truth that sudden removal of Indira Gandhi from Indian political scene has created a dangerous void in the Indian common life. But India has always displayed a characteristic inner strength in the moments of such crisis and uncertainty. According to our traditions, responsibility of power has been placed on the inexperienced shoulders of relatively young person in a lively and peaceful manner. It will be hasty to judge the potentialities of his leadership at this time. We should give him some time to show his ability.
 
On such challenging juncture of the country, in the meanwhile he is entitled to get full cooperation and sympathy from the countrymen, though they may belong to any language, religion, caste or political belief.
 
In the capacity of a nonpolitical constructive worker I only hope and pray that God bless him with more mature, balanced, inner strength and ability to give an impartial Govt. to the people so that he can take the country to real prosperous unity and glory.
Guru Nanak Divas, November 8, 1984, Nana Deshmukh
 
His defence of the carnage can be summed up as in the following.
1. The massacre of Sikhs was not the handiwork of any group or anti-social elements but the result of a genuine feeling of anger.
2. Deshmukh did not distinguish the action of the two security personnel of Indira Gandhi, who happened to be Sikhs, from that of the whole Sikh community. From his document it emerges that the killers of Indira Gandhi were working under some kind of mandate of their community. Hence attacks on Sikhs were justified.
3. Sikhs themselves invited these attacks, thus advancing the Congress theory of justifying the massacre of the Sikhs.
4. He glorified the „Operation Blue Star‟ and described any opposition to it as anti-national. When Sikhs were being killed in thousands he was warning the country of Sikh extremism, thus offering ideological defense of those killings.
5. It was Sikh community as a whole which was responsible for violence in Punjab.
6. Sikhs should have done nothing in self-defence but showed patience and tolerance against the killer mobs.
7. These were Sikh intellectuals and not killer mobs which were responsible for the massacre. They had turned Sikhs into a militant community, cutting them off from their Hindu roots, thus inviting attacks from the nationalist Indians. Interestingly, Deshmukh would not mind having militant Hindus. Moreover, he treated all Sikhs as part of the same gang and defended attacks on them as a reaction of the nationalist Hindus.
8. He described Indira Gandhi as the only leader who could keep the country united and on the killing of such a great leader such killings could not be avoided.
9. Rajiv Gandhi who succeeded Mrs. Gandhi as the Prime Minister of India and justified the nation-wide killings of Sikhs by saying, “When a huge tree falls there are always tremors felt”, was lauded and blessed by Nana Deshmukh at the end of the document.
10. Shockingly, the massacre of Sikhs was being equated with the attacks on the RSS cadres after the killing of Gandhiji and we find Deshmukh advising Sikhs to suffer silently. Everybody knows that the killing of Gandhiji was inspired by the RSS and the Hindutva Ideology whereas the common innocent Sikhs had nothing to do with the murder of Mrs. Indira Gandhi.
11. There was not a single sentence in the Deshmukh document demanding, from the then Congress Government at the Centre, remedial measures for controlling the violence against the minority community. Mind it, that Deshmukh circulated this document on November 8, 1984, and from October 31 to this date Sikhs were left alone to face the killing gangs. In fact November 5-10 was the period when the maximum killings of Sikhs took place. Deshmukh was just not bothered about all this.
 
Deshmukh document did not happen in isolation. It represented the real RSS attitude towards Sikh genocide of 1984. It may be relevant to know here that the RSS cadres did not come forward in defence of the Sikhs. The RSS is very fond of circulating publicity material, especially photographs of its khaki shorts-clad cadres doing social work. For the 1984 violence they have none. In fact, Deshmukh's article also made no mention of the RSS cadres going to the rescue of Sikhs under siege. This shows the real intentions of the RSS during the genocide.
 
(The author is a former professor at Delhi University. A version of this article has appeared periodically and was recently released again at the end of October 2015)