While we are hearing a lot about the 30th anniversary of 1984 this year, how can we make ourselves relevant to this historic year? Or, then again, is this history even relevant to us?
Some of us think that 30 years is a long time. That, sitting in the diaspora, June 1984 is something that happened in a distant world to “extremists” that entered Harmandir Sahib, Amritsar. That the pogroms of November 1984 were riots that only affected the Sikhs of Delhi as a reaction of the assassination of Indira Gandhi. We believe these things because that is what the media wants us to believe. It is the only narrative that is allowed to exist in the mainstream.
I believed all of it too. Until, I heard the story of my uncle who “disappeared” for five months during the 1990s. He was dropped back home—thrown off–by the police and was in such a bad shape that he couldn’t move for six months. Hearing this account from my family member, hit home for me. It is then, that I realized that I am not removed and thirty years ago is not a long time. I realized all the manufactured information that had been fed to me until then and the well-crafted excuses that were given for the atrocities. For June 1984, “If Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale had not taken arms into Harmandir Sahib, then the army wouldn’t have gone in”. However, they failed to mention the reason about forty other Gurdwaras were attacked on the same day. For November 1984, “People were angry because Indira Gandhi was killed and therefore there were riots”. They failed to mention that only Sikhs died all across India, even though “riots” indicate two groups of people fighting each other.
Thousands of Sikhs died, thousands of Sikh women were raped, thousands of Sikh children were orphaned during 1984. And what continued after is a story seldom heard. It is because we are not speaking that the rehearsed propaganda is becoming our narrative. 1984 is not a long time ago, it is not a thing that happened in the distant land of Panjab and Delhi. It was not just a physical attack. It was an attack on the Sikh spirit and psyche. Every Sikh is a survivor, a soldier. It is time we took back our history and wrote our own narratives.
Whether in Panjab, Delhi, Melbourne, California or Singapore, every Sikh old enough to remember 1984 has a story to tell. The 1984 Living History Project seeks to document and archive these stories of strength and resilience. The project seeks to build awareness of state-sponsored human rights violations, suppression of information & social trauma.
Making a video is easy and does not require any great technical skills. If you use a Smart Phone, you can make a video!
To conduct a “1984 Memory Studio” in your city—a low-investment event to conduct lots of interviews during one day in your Gurdwara or during a local event–contact the Project. A group of sevadaars—no one organization—has taken it upon themselves to make a 1000 videos. This can’t happen unless more folks make and submit videos!
Ever since the founding of Sikhi, every time some outside power has tried to destroy our history, it has failed. So talk to your parents, uncles, aunts and grandparents- record their experiences and help write our own history, so this time too, the propaganda efforts fail, finally.