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Remembering 1984

November 1, 2023 | By

October 31, 2023 (New York, NY) – Today, the Sikh Coalition pauses in remembrance along with Sikhs around the world.

Thirty-nine years ago, from October 31 to November 3, 1984, thousands of Sikhs were hunted and murdered by government-orchestrated mobs throughout India in a campaign of genocidal violence following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. Earlier this year, we also noted the 39th anniversary of Operation Blue Star, the Indian Army’s June 1984 assault on Darbar Sahib and dozens of other gurdwaras throughout Punjab—a coordinated attack that claimed the lives of thousands of innocent Sikhs.

As we recognize these anniversaries, it is important to understand the history and broader patterns beyond these specific atrocities. It is estimated that tens of thousands of Sikhs were killed in India from 1984 into the 1990s. This included not only mass, coordinated mob violence, but also targeted killings, disappearances, and general repression by the Indian state—and according to eyewitnesses and human rights activists, much of it was organized by government officials and facilitated by police officials.

Unfortunately, 39 years later, the Indian government continues to deny appropriate justice to the victims and survivors of the massacres. Moreover, the associated issues of state repression and impunity are arguably more relevant today than ever before in light of international concerns around transnational repression against Sikhs by the Indian government. For more about our work around transnational repression—undertaken both as a result of the alleged assassination of Canadian Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar as well as credible threats against the lives of U.S.-based Sikhs—see here and here.

In light of both past and current events, we continue to believe that we cannot attain accountability without continuing to find ways to document and share the history of what happened during and after 1984 and the stories of those who experienced it all first-hand. The Sikh Coalition is proud to amplify the work of organizations like Ensaaf and the 1984 Living History Project who work to document this history. Here are some additional resources about the events of 1984, the subsequent campaign of genocidal violence, and the effects of both on the collective Sikh diaspora:

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