August 15, 2010 | By Tejashdeep Singh
Ludhiana (August 15, 2010): In a statement the World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR) expresses its gratitude to Mr. Harvinder Singh Phoolka, Senior Advocate of Supreme Court of India, for his tireless efforts in prosecuting the perpetrators of the November 1984 Sikh genocide in India.
“Advocate Phoolka has been a glimmer of hope for the Sikh community worldwide for over 25 years now for his efforts in working steadfastly with unwavering dedication to prosecute the perpetrators of the genocide, many of whom are senior Congress party political leaders in India”, said Mr. Satpal Singh, Chairperson of WSC-AR.
Due to the efforts of Advocate Phoolka and his legal team, several pending cases against senior ruling Congress party leaders have recently come to the forefront for their prosecution in the Delhi judicial system.
In mid-July 2010, the President of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) Mr. Paramjit Singh Sarna, at the alleged behest of ruling Congress party leaders in India, defamed Advocate Phoolka by making unfounded accusations that the work of Advocate Phoolka had not achieved much and that he was working on these cases for personal gain.
WSC-AR strongly condemns the actions of Mr. Sarna at this critical moment in the prosecution of the perpetrators of the Sikh genocide. Mr. Sarna is well-known to be close to the Congress political party in India and his efforts to undercut justice for the victims of the Sikh genocide under the cover of DSGMC, the management committee for historical Sikh shrines in Delhi, is especially troubling.
WSC-AR calls upon Mr. Paramjit Singh Sarna to exercise restraint as President of DSGMC and support the legal efforts of Advocate Phoolka in prosecuting the perpetrators of the genocide. Mr. Sarna is urged to serve the interests of Sikhs instead of being subservient to the political interests of the Congress party in India.
WSC-AR also calls upon Sikh organizations across the world to support the work of Advocate Phoolka, express publicly their support for his work, and call for Mr. Sarna of DSGMC to exercise restraint as well as support the legal efforts of Advocate Phoolka in prosecuting the perpetrators of the genocide.
As a young lawyer starting out in Delhi in 1984, Advocate Phoolka found himself squarely in the middle of the ‘genocide’: on that fateful day in November 1984, he had to whisk his pregnant wife on a motorcycle, skirting the main roads to get home. Although he initially chose to retreat to the safety of Chandigarh, the plight of Sikhs, especially those widowed and orphaned or left homeless, moved him to action. Advocate Phoolka launched the Citizens for Justice Committee in 1984 and has, for 25 years, single handedly led the legal battle for the victims of 1984 Sikh genocide. In the true spirit of the Sikh practice of tithing, this work has been done gratis – with no charge to the victims he represents. While 25 years may have put his career on hold and aged him, the years have not slowed his relentless intensity in the pursuit of all and every avenue of justice within the Indian judiciary. As the co-author of the much acclaimed book When a Tree Shook Delhi, he continues to be a major force in documenting human rights abuses. If India is to live to its label as the largest democratic nation in the world, it owes a debt to heroic activists like Harvinder Singh Phoolka for institutionalizing the voice for freedom, justice and equal rights.
“For a public activist to be threatened again and again with his life, by some of the very powerful defendants, and to remain steadfast in the pursuit of justice is remarkable in itself. He is a Sikh in the true sense who has carried out selfless service. We salute and celebrate Harvinder Singh Phoolka” remarked Mrs. Amarjit Kaur, Vice-Chairperson of WSC-AR.
The assassination of the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, allegedly by two Sikh members of her security force, triggered an orgy of organized violence and ethnic cleansing against Sikhs in India’s capital city of New Delhi and across the country.
“Almost as many Sikhs died in a few days in India in 1984 than all the deaths and disappearances in Chile during the 17-year military rule of Gen. Augusto Pinochet between 1973 and 1990…. Not only Chile, but also Argentina, Peru, Mexico, South Africa, and Ethiopia, among other nations, have been addressing atrocities from decades past. India, in refusing to confront its bloody recent history, stands in glaring contrast to these nations”, wrote Barbara Crossette, the New York Times Bureau Chief in Delhi from 1988 to 1991, in her article titled “India’s Sikhs: Waiting for Justice” published in the Summer 2004 issue of World Policy Journal.
Printed media and citizen commission reports show that following the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, thousands of Sikh men and women were killed and raped across India for a period of at least two weeks. These reports show that during this pogrom, thousands of Sikh men were murdered, some necklaced with tires soaked in kerosene and set afire by jubilant mobs, and thousands of Sikh women were publicly raped, many in front of their male relatives. The Indian Government estimated the number of persons killed in Delhi alone during the first three days of November 1984 at nearly 2,700. A list of 3,870 names of Sikhs killed was published by Indian Express, November 1, 1989. The total for the country is estimated to be about 20,000, with 10,000 in Delhi alone. Several citizen commission reports have documented that the leaders of India’s ruling Congress Party and officials of the federal government organized and encouraged these massacres of Sikhs to “teach the Sikhs a lesson.”
The crimes committed against the Sikhs were horrendous enough, but they became infinitely worse when seen in the light of the Indian Government collusion, if not very active participation. Since 1984, justice has remained both illusive and elusive. Justice delayed is justice denied. A string of government appointed inquiry commissions have only served to rub salt into the wounds of the Sikhs. The guilty remain free.
“The Indian government has formally apologized verbally to the Sikh community but its regrets have been limited to lip service. Actions speak louder than words. The Sikh community’s repeated appeals to the Indian Government for transparency, accountability, and restitution have been ignored as not being in the interest of peace. We pray for divine blessings on the survivors who are still suffering from the trauma of this genocide,” said Mr. Kavneet Singh, Chairperson of WSC-AR’s Human Rights Committee.
The World Sikh Council – America Region (WSC-AR) is a representative and elected body of Sikh Gurdwaras and institutions in the United States. Its members include 45 Gurdwaras (Sikh places of worship) and other Sikh institutions, across the nation. WSC-AR works to promote Sikh interests at the national and international level focusing on issues of advocacy, education, and well-being of humankind.
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