June 6, 2013 | By Sikh Siyasat Bureau
London, Punjab (June 06, 2013): Tens of thousands of Sikhs will gather in London on Sunday 9 June to mark the 29th anniversary of the Indian army attack on the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar in June 1984.
Sikhs from across Britain will begin to assemble in Temple Place and Surrey Street near Temple tube station. The remembrance march led by the Panj Pyare (five beloved ones) with swords drawn will begin in the Strand near the Indian High Commission at around 1pm.
The march will head for Trafalgar Square and then pass through Whitehall where Sikh representatives will stop at 10 Downing Street and deliver by hand a memorandum for the British Prime Minister, David Cameron.
This year the memorandum is being delivered a few months after David Cameron became the first ever sitting British Prime Minister to visit and pay his respects at the Golden Temple. Sikhs are hopeful he now has a much better understanding why Sikhs worldwide remain deeply dismayed and angered by the actions of the Indian authorities in sending in troops to the holiest of holy places for the Sikhs and killing hundreds if not thousands of pilgrims – innocent men, women and children.
On the back of David Cameron’s visit and first-hand experience of the Golden Temple Sikhs will be renewing their call for the support of the British Government as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to tackle the continued injustices Sikhs face within India. This includes asking for an Independent UN led enquiry into the treatment of Sikhs in India from June 1984 onwards.
After calling at 10 Downing Street the march will continue past the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, enter Parliament Square, go past the Houses of Parliament and end with a two-three hour freedom rally in the Millbank lining the River Thames. Numbers taking part in the march and rally are expected to be so significant that police are preparing to close the Millbank from Lambeth Bridge with Sikhs heading back as far as the Houses of Parliament and Parliament Square.
In the last 12 months there has been unprecedented activity by British Sikhs in relation to human rights and the use of the death penalty in India. A 100,000+ petition was handed in at 10 Downing Street in December 2012, a Parliamentary debate on the death penalty in India took place in February 2013 and continued peaceful demonstrations have also taken place, including a mass protest on 15 April 2013 regarding the failings of the Indian judicial and political system as regards the imminent hanging of Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar.
Bhai Amrik Singh, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK) said:
‘Ultimately, the only solution to conflict in Punjab will lie in the exercise of self-determination by the Sikhs, in accordance with international law, by which means the Sikhs will be able to protect themselves, their natural resources and their “honour, dignity and independence”. We are committed to peaceably establishing an independent sovereign Sikh homeland, a state often referred to as Khalistan that will provide lasting stability in the region.’
In June 1984 around 150,000 Indian army troops were sent to Punjab, the Sikh homeland, equipped with helicopter gunships and tanks to apprehend a handful of Sikhs inside the Golden Temple complex.
A curfew was announced and Punjab was totally under army control. Telephone lines were cut and all press reporters were asked to leave. The Times reporter Michael Hamlyn reported that journalists were picked up from their hotels in a military bus, taken to the adjoining border of the state of Haryana and “were abandoned there”. A group of journalists who later tried to drive into Punjab were stopped at the road block at the Punjab border and were threatened to be shot if they proceeded. Indian nationals who worked with the foreign media were also banned. The press criticised these actions by the Indian Government as an “obvious attempt to attack the temple without the eyes of foreign press on them”.
Surrounded by military troops, the State was completely disconnected from rest of the world. Nobody was allowed to enter or leave. The self-proclaimed largest democracy had set the stage for what was to follow; a deliberate, cold-blooded massacre of her own citizens, by the state establishment itself. The Indian army unleashed a terror unprecedented in post-independence India.
Several thousand Sikhs became the target of the massacre by the Indian army. Priceless Sikh artefacts and literature was burnt. The Library in the Golden Temple complex was destroyed and documents, manuscripts of great importance to the Sikhs were either destroyed or taken by the Army. 29 years later the Sikh community is still awaiting the return of those items taken, which were not destroyed.
An enormous number of pilgrims were murdered or mercilessly exterminated. A correspondent of the Associated Press, Brahma Chellaney, the only foreign reporter who managed to stay on in Amritsar, reported that suspected Sikh militants had been shot with their hands tied. Also, no efforts were made to identify the dead. No relatives were informed. Hesitant to turn over the bodies, the Indian government cremated them immediately making sure that no autopsies could be performed and no precise body count was made. Perhaps, the exact number of unarmed men, women and children killed by the hands of their own government will never be known.
Indira Gandhi first asked Lt. Gen. S. K. Sinha, then Vice-Chief of the Indian Army, to prepare a position paper for an assault on the Golden Temple. Lt. Gen. Sinha advised against any such move, given its sacrilegious nature according to Sikh tradition. He suggested the government adopt an alternative solution.
As the Vice-Chief of the Indian Army he was widely expected to succeed General K. V. Krishna Rao as the Army Chief. It was therefore a surprise to him and many others when he was overlooked and Lt.-Gen. A. S. Vaidya was appointed as the Chief of Army Staff. After which General S. K. Sinha submitted his resignation.
He criticised the Government’s claim that the attack represented a “last resort” and pointed out that the army had been rehearsing the operation in a life size replica at a secret location near Chakrata Cantonment in the Doon Valley for more than a year. Also he said a few days before the Operation; the Home Minister had announced that the troops would not be sent to the Golden Temple. The fact that the attack was then deliberately carried out on a day in which thousands of pilgrims were visiting the Golden Temple to pay their respects and remember the martyrdom of the fifth Sikh Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji is indefensible.
Many Sikhs view the timing and attack by the Indian Army as an attempt to inflict maximum casualties on Sikhs and demoralise them. BBC reporter Mark Tully in his dispatches during and just after the bloody massacre of Sikhs in June 1984 states: ‘even if the arguments against a siege are accepted, they don’t justify the army’s decision to mount the operation while Sikhs were celebrating the anniversary of the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev Ji, who had built the Golden Temple and compiled the Guru Granth Sahib Ji. This inevitably compounded Sikh anger about the operation. It also meant that the temple complex was particularly crowded and this was why so many civilians were killed.’
The army lost more than 300 military personnel in the assault on the Golden Temple complex according to official figures, while others estimate this number to be well over a 1,000. Army officers were rewarded with medals for gallantry while killing hundreds if not thousands of unarmed men, women and children.
The follow up army operation spread the destruction to other Sikh places of worship (Gurdwaras). The Army simultaneously attacked other Gurdwaras and caused considerable bloodshed. According to one Canadian Government report up to 125 Gurdwaras were attacked of which 38 were historic Gurdwaras. The army was given powers equal to martial law to clear villages of “militants”. Strict censorship, including a blanket ban against foreign press entering the state of Punjab, made this army operation secret to the outside world. It later transpired that during this operation thousands of Sikhs, overwhelmingly young men, were detained for interrogation and subsequently tortured. According to one estimate about 100,000 youth had been taken into custody within the first four to six weeks of the operation and many of them were not heard of again.
Indira Gandhi could have delayed action but she realised voters were beginning to think she lacked the will to act. In search of political gain, countless Sikhs were murdered and no one has been held accountable.
Twenty nine years on, there has still not been any independent inquiry on exactly what happened and no apology from the Indian Government for the killing of innocent civilians by the Armed forces deployed and or punishment of those that were involved in the killings. The Indo-Sikh conflict, is still continuing and has seen the Sikhs suffer genocide and the denial of freedom by force; the conflict remains unresolved and many of those guilty of inhuman crimes against the Sikhs remain unpunished, holding high profile positions of power in India.
The mass killings of Sikhs in November 1984 in Delhi and over 130 other towns and cities in India are a classic example and no objective commentator can, after 29 years of failure in the Indian judicial system, realistically hope that justice will be delivered by the Indian courts. It is time that the perpetrators, such as Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and Kamal Nath are tried where possible in international courts and the British Government can play an important role alongside the United States given their central position on the UN Security Council.
The Indian authorities acquitted Sajjan Kumar in April 2013 while five others were found guilty using the same evidence. This has resulted in unparalleled mass protests in Delhi by Sikhs and non-Sikhs. The Supreme Court decision in relation to Professor Davinderpal Singh Bhullar on 12 April 2013 has also seen widespread condemnation from the EU, Germany, France, Canada and the UK as well as many former judges and senior police officers in India at what is clearly a blatant miscarriage of justice.
The Indian Government refuses to ratify the UN Conventions against torture and enforced disappearances. However, those responsible for these human rights violations, members of the Punjab Police, including the current Punjab police chief Sumedh Saini, have not as yet, been brought to trial and justice received, despite documented and actual evidence against them.
(1) Save Our WhatsApp Number 0091-855-606-7689 to your phone contacts; and
(2) Send us Your Name via WhatsApp. Click Here to Send WhatsApp Message Now.