Thirty one years ago, from the early hours of November 1, 1984, the people of Delhi and the rest of Northern India were witness to unforgettable and unforgiveable crimes against humanity.
Led by top leaders of the Congress Party, killer mobs took over the city of Delhi for a full 72 hours. Any person of the Sikh faith who fell into their clutches was mercilessly attacked and burnt alive. With voters list in their hands, they went around the different colonies of Delhi in the buses provided by the government, identifying Sikh homes. They pulled out the men and boys, doused them in kerosene and set them on fire, and raped the women and girls. They attacked the gurudwaras, looted and destroyed the homes and shops of people of the Sikh faith. The same pattern was repeated in Kanpur and many other cities of Northern India. Those Sikhs who happened to be traveling in trains or buses, were pulled out and brutally murdered. During the 72 hours this genocide lasted, at least 10,000 Sikhs were murdered in Delhi alone. Thousands more were killed in other parts of the country.
Far from protecting the people, the Delhi Police actively assisted the killer mobs. Where ever the people prepared to defend themselves, the police disarmed them under the excuse that they should “not provoke” the mobs. They then incited the mobs to massacre the defenseless people. All the Sikh officers and men of the Delhi Police were ordered to remain in the barracks. When some retired Generals and Air Marshals of the Sikh faith asked the then Union Home Minister PV Narasimha Rao to take steps to stop the carnage, he took no action. The Army stationed in Delhi Cantonment and in other cantonments of Northern India watched the carnage silently. Meanwhile the state owned TV Channel Doordarshan kept broadcasting the slogans of the bloodthirsty mobs — “Khoon Ka Badla Khoon”.
The official explanation for the genocide of the Sikhs has been that it was a “spontaneous reaction” of people to the murder of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi allegedly by her Sikh body-guards. Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi declared at a public rally of his party supporters soon after the carnage that “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”.
In fact, there was nothing spontaneous about the genocide. All over the country, the lie was spread by the leaders of the Congress Party that Sikhs had poisoned the wells, and that Sikhs were distributing sweets to celebrate the assassination of Indira Gandhi. They distributed voters list, kerosene, and rubber tyres to the killer mobs. They assured the killer mobs that the police and government were with them and they had nothing to fear when they went about killing and looting. They were repeatedly instructed not to leave a single Sikh man or boy alive.
While it has never been conclusively proven as to who killed Indira Gandhi, the fact that she was killed by her own bodyguards only points to the crisis within the state. Why should the people of the Sikh faith be punished for this? No one in authority has ever answered this question for the past 31 years.
The genocide of Sikhs in November 1984 was one link in a chain of events taking place in Punjab and India at that time. It was preceded by deliberate inflaming of communal passions. In Punjab, Hindu passengers were systematically pulled out of buses and shot dead by terrorist gangs. These acts were attributed by the police and government to Sikh terrorist groups. Later on, it has been admitted by top officials of the Punjab police that several of such incidents were actually the handiwork of the police themselves. “Hit lists” of politicians who were on the target of terrorist groups were widely circulated in the media and several politicians on these hit lists were murdered. Systematic propaganda was carried out to make out that all Sikhs were terrorists and separatists, enemies of “national unity and territorial integrity” of India, and Pakistani agents.
In such a climate of anarchy and violence, the Indira Gandhi government ordered the army attack on the Golden Temple on June 6, 1984.Thousands of innocent men, women and children were mercilessly murdered in this attack. The declassification of secret documents by the British Government a year ago has confirmed that the British Intelligence agencies and the Indian Intelligence agencies collaborated closely in planning this attack. This attack was prepared months in advance. The excuse given for the attack was that Sikhs in the Golden Temple were planning to organize the massacre of all Hindus in Punjab! This was nothing but a white lie! Following the attack on the Golden Temple, the Army attacked numerous Gurudwaras all over Punjab.
All those who condemned the genocide of Sikhs and the Army assault on the Golden Temple were declared to be anti-national. A massive communal and fascist propaganda campaign was unleashed portraying that the unity and territorial integrity of India was being endangered by the people of Sikh faith. Elections were organized in the midst of a climate of terror, with the communal slogan “Hindu, Hindi, Hindustan”. Within Punjab, state terror was unleashed on an unprecedented scale. Thousands of innocent Sikh youth were picked up from their homes in their villages, and brutally murdered in fake encounters, their bodies thrown into the canals. All over the country, tens of thousands were arrested and incarcerated in jails under the fascist law called TADA.
For 31 long years, the people of India have been demanding justice for the victims of the genocide of 1984. “Punish the guilty of November 1984” has been the rallying call not just of the victims of this genocide, but of all those who want an end to state terrorism including state organized genocides.
During these 31 years, numerous governments have come and gone. Under pressure from the people, numerous Commissions of Enquiry have been set up. However the fact remains that no one has been punished for this genocide that was carried out in broad daylight.
The fact that no one has been punished for the November 1984 genocide shows that it is a matter of state policy to organise such large-scale political crimes. Such criminal deeds are necessary for the ruling class to maintain its rule. That is why no action is taken, either to reveal the truth or to punish the guilty, no matter which party forms the government.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly accuses the Congress Party of organizing the genocide of Sikhs, the CBI which is under the control of his government issues a “clean chit” to a top Congress politician who is known to have led the attacks on Sikhs in November 1984. The UPA government, throughout its ten year rule, accused the Narendra Modi led Gujarat government for organizing the genocide of Muslims in 2002, and at the same time gave a clean chit to Modi and other senior leaders of BJP in Gujarat.
Anyone who studies the facts without prejudice cannot but conclude that both BJP and the Congress are communal parties which are guilty of using the state machinery to organise large-scale massacres targeted at specific religious communities. There is no justification, whatsoever, for calling one of them communal and the other secular. Both of them have unleashed communal violence and at the same time preached “communal harmony”, in the typical two-timing style learnt from the British colonialists.
At the present time, there is a great deal of propaganda that the root cause of communal and caste-based violence is the “intolerance” of some group of fanatics. This propaganda is aimed at hiding the role of political parties like the Congress and BJP, and the rest of the state machinery. Fanatical groups cannot by themselves achieve anything if they did not have official backing of the State. The lesson of the genocide of 1984 and all the other communal massacres that have followed is this — Unleashing communal and fascist terror is a preferred weapon of the ruling capitalist class and the state it controls to terrorise our people, and smash our unity.
What does the collective experience of our people of the past 31 years with the political system and process of multi-party democracy show? It shows that this system and political process divides the polity on communal and caste lines. Every party that contends for power in this system reinforces these divisions, even while it accuses its rivals of organising along communal and caste lines. While the human identity is constantly negated, the religious and caste identities are constantly reinforced.
The entire system, including the Constitution which legitimises this system, is based on accepting the colonialist thesis of dividing the Indian people into a so called ”Hindu majority” and other religious minorities. It is based on deepening caste divisions. In sum, the political system and process, the parties that merge with this system and fight for power, and the Constitution on which this system is based, are all communal.
It would be a grave mistake to identify communal and fascist terror merely with the rule of one set of parties that are openly communal. We must not forget that the British colonialists sponsored, as part of their divide and rule strategy, both openly communal organisations and so-called secular parties that preached “tolerance” and “fair play”. Today, too, the Indian capitalist class rules through both openly communal and so-called secular parties, both of which work to divide and divert the people and push the agenda of the capitalist class.
The rulers of our country have further perfected the anti-people and communal state they inherited from the colonialists 68 years ago. Each arm of this state —the political parties that take turns in running the government, the police, army and administration, and the judiciary — plays its designated role in smashing the unity of the people through the unleashing of communal and fascist terror.
We must recognise that the growth of communal and fascist terror is a feature of this period not only in our country but on the world scale. Under the slogan of “war against terrorism”, fascist laws have been promulgated in the US, Britain, France and other imperialist countries. The people of the Muslim faith are being made the target of this worldwide communal and fascist terror. Side by side with this campaign against “Islamic terrorism” the imperialists are stepping up the attacks on the working class at home. Simultaneously, the imperialists have been deploying their agencies including terrorist groups created by them, to destabilise other countries. A dangerous situation confronts our people and the world’s peoples.
Today once again, 31 years after 1984, Punjab is on a boil. The Indian ruling class and its various political parties, and the imperialists are busy inflaming passions, this time over the desecration of the holy book of the Sikhs. People need to be vigilant and prevent their enemies from achieving their destructive aims.
The working class and peasantry of our country have refused to accept lying down, the attacks on their livelihood and rights. The people who have been target of communal and fascist terror have been fighting courageously to punish the guilty. These two struggles are not separate. The enemy is the same. The enemy is the ruling capitalist class headed by the biggest monopolies, who control the state apparatus and use it to crush the aspirations of our people for a life of prosperity and security.
The Communist Ghadar Party firmly believes that as long as the present state continues to exist, no change of parties in power will ensure that communal and fascist terror is ended, and those guilty of organising such crimes are punished.
All those who want to ensure that genocides such as 1984 are never organized again need to come under one banner to reconstitute India on new foundations. We need to establish a new state with a new political system and process that will ensure that decision making power vests with the people. Such a new state will guarantee the right to conscience and all other human rights and ensure their inviolability. No person should have to face humiliation, persecution or insecurity or feel discriminated against merely on account of their views, the religion they practice, or on any other basis.
On the occasion of the 31st anniversary of the genocide of Sikhs, the CGPI calls upon all political forces who are concerned about the growing communal and fascist terror to unite around the program of establishing a new state in place of the existing fascist and communal state, in order to ensure prosperity and security for all our people.