A modern, democratic nation is one governed by the force of law and not by the law of force. If heinous crimes are committed and those responsible for them remain untouched by the law – rather, if they are the law and cannot be touched – then the nation regresses to savagery – and this is true even if the savages drive cars and carry mobile phones. John Locke put it succinctly: “Where-ever law ends, tyranny begins.”
In a modern, democratic nation the rule of law prevails and every law-abiding citizen is confident of receiving the protection of the law enforcement machinery and the courts, regardless of their religion, caste or economic status. India wants to enjoy the reputation of being such a state … but talk to persons belonging to any minority community – religious (as in the case of Sikhs, Muslims or Christians) or ethnic (as in the case of people Adivasis or those hailing from the Northeast) or socio-economic (as in the case of Dalits) – and you will find that they view India’s claim to being a modern democracy with great skepticism. It is also true that members of minorities are not the only ones who speak out.
It was the Sikhs in October 1984, and the Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 and students from the Northeast in Delhi, 2013. Kashmiris know what it is to carry on life at gunpoint. Tomorrow anybody could be on the receiving end.
India is a big country but it is made of small parts and in each part a start can be made. So let us start with Punjab. In the case of truth and justice for the Sikhs, conditions are favourable in Punjab. The state has a Chief Minister who is himself a Sikh and the president of a party that exalts Sikh principles.On April 13, 1995, the joint Akali Dals met at Talwandi Sabo and assesed militancy era deathtoll in Punjab to be not less than 1,45,000. Neither he nor his party nor his government can be accused of bias against Sikhs.
Similarly his political opponent, Captain Amarinder Singh, cannot be accused of bias against Sikhs either. His personal history testifies to his beliefs. In the ongoing election campaign in Amritsar, Captain Amarinder Singh, quoted 35,000 as the number of innocent Hindus, Sikhs and others were killed post Bluestar. This does not include security personnel. He has demanded an impartial fact-finding mission into how many people were killed during Operation Bluestar and the era of militancy (Times News Service March 31, 2014). Parkash Singh Badal’s response to this demand is awaited.
An inquiry into the killings is required – one that will be specific, thorough and detailed, case by case. The scope of the investigation should not be confined to just in the Golden Temple in June, 1984, or in Delhi in Oct-Nov, 1984.
Badal only talks of the killings in Delhi in October/November 1984. The Aam Admi government of Delhi demanded a Special Investigation Team to probe into the deaths also concerns Delhi. Deaths were not confined to the Darbar Sahib. It is time for a probe that is thorough and unswerving. Let the truth come out. Let us know what happened during Bluestar and afterwards
It must be recalled that when the Darbar Sahib was attacked there were many other gurdwaras in Punjab were attacked at exactly the same time. In the decade that followed Bluestar and the Delhi massacre, according to official figures, Punjab’s annual death toll of civilians roughly equalled the number of Sikhs killed in Delhi in October, 1984. Official figures are grossly under-estimated. In fact they were deliberately reduced. [See attached Backgrounder]
Sikhs want to know the truth so that justice can be done … but every citizen of India should want to know, because every citizen has an interest in truth and justice. When the truth is established it will be possible to compensate the next-of-kin of the victims and the government must do so.
At this time, when there is an upsurge of interest in the tragic events of 1984, let the Punjab and Haryana High Court lead the way in the impartial search for truth and justice by appointing a fully empowered and effective Special Investigation Team to record case-by-case in detail the killings in Punjab during Operation Bluestar and thereafter, up to 1995. Running away from the truth does not help the country.