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Sikh Genocide 1984: Sikh Youth say ‘We will never forget’

October 28, 2010 | By

– by Indira Prahst
Sociologist, Vancouver

OVER one thousand people gathered at a banquet hall in Surrey last Sunday to remember the innocent victims who were murdered in the state-organized massacre against Sikhs in Delhi in 1984, which has been defined as a Sikh genocide. Several community leaders, representatives of various gurdwaras, families and, in particular, youth came out to listen to the guest speakers share their views, memories and experiences of 1984.

A view of the gathering

A view of the gathering

Sikh Nation, that organized the ‘Campaign Against Genocide,’ were lauded for saving more than 50,000 lives in Canada with their blood donation drive. According to Sunil, one of the organizers of the campaign, they have always fully affirmed that 1984 was not a riot, and that more people today accept that it was a Sikh genocide. Their goal is “to make people aware of this injustice through their life-saving campaign,” he said.

MP Sukh Dhaliwal, who has had the courage to speak out against this injustice, thanked all the people that turned up to remember the genocide of 1984 and expressed his appreciation of Sikh Nation and the people who have donated blood to save lives in Canada.

After the event he told me that not only does he have a privilege but that the people have given him a responsibility to foster the Canadian values of “equality, human rights and justice.” He added: “Those are the values that are important, and what I am doing is taking your voice to Parliament and nothing will stop me.”

When I asked Dhaliwal what inspires him, he responded: “What inspires me is all the hard work of the young people, the Canadian-born youth who are taking this struggle to the next level in a peaceful way, in a ‘Canadian way.’”

Dhaliwal turned to the youth and said: “The inspiration I get is from young people like you.” Not only did Dhaliwal gain inspiration from the youth, but the Sikh youth at the event were inspired by him when he spoke about the “power of the individual,” they told me.

AMONG the hundreds of attendees at the event were some of my former Langara students such as Simran Singh who told me why he volunteered at the event. He said: “If we come together as a group, united with a common goal, I don’t think there is any force in this world that can prevent us from asking any questions about 1984.”

He added: “No human being should have to endure (what Sikhs have suffered) and by being quiet or passive about it is not going to get us anywhere. So it is important to speak out against it and I think that this event today is what can drive us to speak out against it.”

Bhavraj Singh with Vancouver Sikh Youth echoed what Simran as he explained why he was at the event: “What brings me here is to send a message that we are alive, we have not forgotten and we will remember. I am a first generation born Canadian. I think about what happened in 1984 and when you hear stories about what happened, it really really affects you on an emotional level. … Just the images of people being burnt alive. There is nothing that compares to it and that is what brings me out here today. I feel it is my personal duty to not only come out myself, but to bring as many people as I can and to say we have not forgotten, we will  never forget and we will not rest until we get justice, whether it is in this generation or in the next generation.”

INDEED, these were common sentiments and visions shared by the hundreds who attended the event including Dashmesh Darbar President Gian Singh, who also spoke at the event. He told me afterwards that Sikhs today have two challenges. First, they should not forget what happened to them in 1984. He noted: “We need justice for those people who died over there and there are so many people today suffering because of that. “

He also pointed out: “Justice will not come from the Indian government, so we need to (seek) justice from around the world. The world should be the judge and we should go to the world and say, ‘look, this is the country people call a big democracy!’”

Meanwhile, commemoration of 1984 will continue throughout next week at the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara in Surrey starting this Saturday at 6 p.m. with a candle light vigil.

Gian Singh said: “We invite the community to come to the gurdwara and to reflect on those who lost their lives and who suffered.”

The commemoration will continue for a week with special guests from abroad speaking on the 1984 Sikh genocide. Indeed, instead of Sikhs forgetting about 1984, a light on this dark chapter of Sikh history is shinning brighter to expose the truth and sending a clear message that 1984 is part of the Sikh identity and therefore will always be remembered.

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