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RSS-BJP role in Indian state's 37 year 'search' for the killers of 1984 Sikh massacre

By Shamsul Islam* 
“Insaan abhee tak zinda hae,
zinda hone per sharminda hae!”
(Human beings are still alive;/
they are ashamed to be alive!)
-- Shahid Nadeem's Urdu couplet on the silence of the civil society against communal violence. He received forty lashes for writing and singing these lines by the Zia regime in Pakistan
***
For almost last four decades, on every anniversary of the horrific 1984 massacre of Sikhs in India, this author has recalled how the Indian state and the judiciary did not bother to punish the perpetrators of this horrendous mass killing of the innocents of the second largest religious minority of our country.
On every anniversary I hoped that now justice would be done and he would not have to write the painful story once again as a reminder. It has not happened in year 2020 also; the saga of the criminal betrayal by the Indian Republic has no end and author like the victims continues to cry before a deaf and dumb Indian State.
However, the Indian state with the 37th anniversary approaching made noises as if it was working for getting justice to the victims, like in the past! The National Minority Commission was kind enough to issue notices on October 30, 2021 to Delhi, Jharkhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Bihar, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh “to file reports with the Commission detailing the victims, compensation paid so far and arrests and action taken against the accused in these cases”.
Earlier, in January 2021, the UP government told the nation that a “Special Investigation Team (SIT) set up by the Yogi Adityanath government to probe cases related to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in Kanpur has claimed to have collected evidence of murder and arson from a house in the district’s Naubasta area where two people were killed and set ablaze [in 1984]”.
It took Indian state only 37 years to achieve these two goals in search for the killers of 1984.

Two kinds of justice

Whenever the country witnesses large-scale violence against the minorities and Dalits, the search for perpetrators continues endlessly and the criminals are never punished. Major incidents of violence against minorities like Nellie massacre (1983), Sikh massacre (1984), Hashimpura custodial massacre of Muslim youth (1987), pre/post- Ayodhya mosque demolition violence against Muslims (1990-92), Gujarat carnage (2002) and Kandhamal cleansing of Christians (2008) are testimony to this reality.
When the victims are Dalits or minorities no such urgency is shown. In such cases the Indian state is fond of playing commission-commission. Commissions after commissions would be constituted to see that the heinous crimes disappear from the public memory. The horrendous massacre of Sikhs in different parts of India in 1984 is a living testimony of this criminal attitude of the Indian justice system.
The status of anti-Dalit violence is no different. The major incidents of persecution and massacre of Dalits; 1968 Kilvenmani massacre, 1997 Melavalavu massacre, 2013 Marakkanam anti-Dalit violence, 2012 Dharmapuri anti- Dalit violence (all in Tamil Nadu), 1985 Karamchedu massacre, 1991 Tsundur massacre (all in AP), 1996 Bathani Tola Massacre, 1997 Laxmanpur Bathe massacre (all in Bihar), 1997 Ramabai killings, Mumbai, 2006 Khairlanji massacre, 2014 Javkheda Hatyakand, (all in Maharashtra), 2000 Caste persecution in (Karnataka), 5 Dalits beaten/burnt to death for skinning a dead cow 2006, the 2011 killings of Dalits in Mirchpur (all in Haryana), and the 2015 anti-Dalit violence in Dangawas (Rajasthan) are some of the thousands of incidents of the Dalit persecution.
In almost all these cases perpetrators are yet to be identified. Even if identified the prosecution rate never exceeded 20%.
On the other hand, the Dalit, working class and minority 'perpetrators' of violence are efficiently put on trial by constituting special investigation teams and punished by fast track courts. In order to meet the end of 'justice', 'national security' and 'wish of the society' they are hanged and jailed.
The latest case is from Assam where a court at Jorhat on October 20, 2020 sentenced one person to death and 24 others to life imprisonment for lynching a doctor in a tea estate on August 31, 2019. Dr Deben Dutta of the Teok Tea Estate Hospital in Jorhat, was beaten to death by workers. They were angry about Dutta’s absence from duty at the hospital where Somra Majhi, a 33-year-old plantation worker of the estate, was admitted in critical condition.
By the time the doctor returned around 3.30 pm, Majhi had died. Angry workers then beat Dutta up and locked him in a room where he died. The perpetrators were found and convicted in 14 months' record time. It is nobody's case that workers had any right to kill a person whatever would have been the provocation and instigation. But the issue is that when victims are minorities, working class and Dalits the state and judiciary go into coma.

Betrayal by governments till 2014

After giving free run to the killer gangs the government-appointed one man Marwah Commission to find out the perpetrators of the 1984 'riots'. As this exercise was proving inconvenient, it was asked to disband itself within short period of its existence and a sitting Supreme Court Judge Ranga Nath Mishra was asked to conduct inquiry into 1984 'riots' who submitted his report in 1987. Shockingly, this fact finding (or fact-hiding) commission headed by Misra observed that "riots which had a spontaneous origin later attained a channelized method at the hands of gangsters".
The massacre was reduced to 'riots' as if Sikhs equally fought against the others. It was a brazen lie. The 'apostle of justice', Mishra, champion of the theory of spontaneity was not, naturally, able to find out from where these gangsters came! According to Jarnail Singh author of the book “I Accuse: The Anti-Sikh Violence of 1984” for this service to the state he was awarded a berth in Rajya Sabha.
During the next two decades, no less than nine commissions of inquiry were instituted. For the Indian state it became a routine to announce the constitution of some new commission or some more compensation to the families of victims in order to deflect the mounting anger at the times of elections. Highlighting the anti-minority bias of such commissions, HS Phoolka, a renowned lawyer, commented that instead of getting convicted many of the political perpetrators get promoted as rulers.
In the latest development, the Supreme Court of India on August 16, 2017 ordered the constitution of a panel comprising two of its former judges to examine the justification for closing 241 anti-Sikh riot cases probed by SIT in next 3 months. It is November 2018 (15 months since the order was passed) and these three months are yet to be over!

Betrayal by RSS/BJP rulers

RSS claims to have always stood for Hindu-Sikh unity. It occasionally expresses its gratitude to Sikhism for saving Hinduism from the Muslim aggression. It may not be irrelevant to note here that RSS does not treat Sikhism as independent religion, which discarded casteism and Brahmanical hegemony, but part of Hinduism.
The RSS/BJP leaders blamed the Congress for anti-Sikh violence. Narendra Modi while addressing a public rally during last parliamentary elections at Jhansi, UP (October 25, 2013) asked Congress leaders to explain who "killed thousands of Sikhs in 1984" and "has anyone been convicted for the Sikh genocide so far". Modi during the Punjab elections and 2014 general elections kept on referring to 'qatl-e-aam' or the genocide of Sikhs.
Modi after becoming Prime Minister in a message (October 31, 2014) said that anti-Sikh riots in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination were like a "dagger that pierced through India's chest…Our own people were murdered, the attack was not on a particular community but on the entire nation."
Hindutva icon, RSS whole-timer and now Prime Minister, Modi lamented the fact that culprits were yet to be booked and tried for this massacre. However, Modi did not tell the nation what the NDA governments which ruled this country from 1998 to 2004 did to persecute the culprits.
Modi also forgot to share the fact that, as per the autobiography of LK Advani (page 430), it was his party which forced Indira Gandhi to go for army action infamously named as Operation Blue Star which killed large number of Sikh pilgrims.
Renowned journalist Manoj Mitta, author of the book “When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath” straight forwardly says:
"Despite the BJP rule, there has hardly been any will to enforce accountability for the massacres that took place under the Congress. It’s as if there is a tacit deal between the sponsors of 1984 and 2002".
It was no over-sight that during the 2019 parliamentary elections the 1984 massacre was totally forgotten. This is not what outsiders or critics of the RSS have been telling. The perusal of the contemporary RSS documents show that major focus was on condemning Sikh extremism, eulogizing Indira Gandhi and welcoming the crowning of Rajiv Gandhi as new prime minister.

RSS ideologue Nana Deshmukh’s attitude towards Sikh massacre

The most important proof of such a dehumanized attitude towards the massacre of Sikhs is a document circulated by late Nana Deshmukh, a prominent whole timer and ideologue of the RSS. This document titled as 'Moments of Soul Searching’ was circulated by Deshmukh on November 8, 1984, may help in unmasking the whole lot of criminals involved in the massacre of innocent Sikhs who had nothing to do with the killing of Indira Gandhi. 
This document may also throw light on where the cadres came from, who meticulously organized the killing of Sikhs. Nana Deshmukh in this document is seen outlining the justification of the massacre of the Sikh community in 1984.
This document also reveals the real attitude of the RSS towards all the minorities of India. The RSS has been arguing that they are against Muslims and Christians because they are the followers of foreign religions. Here we find them justifying the butchering of Sikhs who according to their own categorization happened to be the followers of an indigenous religion. In this document we hear from the horse's mouth that the RSS like the then Congress leadership believed that the massacre of the innocent Sikhs was unavoidable.
Nanaji Deshmukh with Narendra Modi
This document was published in the Hindi weekly “Pratipaksh” edited by George Fernandes, who later became Defence Minister of India in the NDA regime, in its edition of November 25, 1984 titled 'Indira Congress- RSS Collusion' with the following editorial comment:
“The author of the following document is known as an ideologue and policy formulator of the RSS. After the killing of Prime Minister (Indira Gandhi) he distributed this document among prominent politicians. It has a historical significance that is why we have decided to publish it, violating policy of our Weekly. This document highlights the new affinities developing between the Indira Congress and the RSS. We produce here the Hindi translation of the document.” Click here for image of the original pages of “Pratipaksh”, and here its for English translation).
Deshmukh in his document is seen outlining the justification of the massacre of the Sikh community in 1984. His defence of the carnage can be summed up as in the following:
  1. The massacre of Sikhs was not the handiwork of any group or anti-social elements but the result of a genuine feeling of anger.
  2. Deshmukh did not distinguish the action of the two security personnel of Indira Gandhi, who happened to be Sikhs, from that of the whole Sikh community. According to his document the killers of Indira Gandhi were working under some kind of mandate of their community.
  3. Sikhs themselves invited these attacks, thus advancing the Congress theory of justifying the massacre of the Sikhs.
  4. He glorified the Operation Blue Star and described any opposition to it as anti- national. When Sikhs were being killed in thousands he was warning the country of Sikh extremism, thus offering ideological defense of those killings.
  5. The Sikh community as a whole was responsible for violence in Punjab.
  6. Sikhs should have done nothing in self-defence but showed patience and tolerance against the killer mobs.
  7. These were Sikh intellectuals and not killer mobs which were responsible for the massacre. They had turned Sikhs into a militant community, cutting them off from their Hindu roots, thus inviting attacks from the nationalist Indians. Moreover, he treated all Sikhs as part of the same gang and described attacks on them as a reaction of the nationalist Hindus.
  8. He described Indira Gandhi as the only leader whomcould keep the country united and assassination of such a great leader such killings could not be avoided.
  9. Rajiv Gandhi who succeeded Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister and justified the nation-wide killings of Sikhs by saying, “When a huge tree falls there are always tremors felt”, was lauded and blessed by Nana Deshmukh at the end of the document.
  10. Shockingly, the massacre of Sikhs was being equated with the attacks on the RSS cadres after the killing of Gandhiji and we find Deshmukh advising Sikhs to suffer silently. Everybody knows that the killing of Gandhiji was inspired by the RSS and the Hindutva Ideology whereas the common innocent Sikhs had nothing to do with the murder of Indira Gandhi.
  11. There was not a single sentence in the Deshmukh document demanding, from the then Congress government at the Centre or the then home minister PV Narsimha Rao (a Congress leader dear to the RSS who later silently watched demolition of Babri masjid as Prime Minister of India in 1992) remedial measures for controlling the violence against the minority community. Deshmukh circulated this document on November 8, 1984, and from October 31 to this date Sikhs were left alone to face the killing gangs. In fact November 5-10 was the period when the maximum killings of Sikhs took place. Deshmukh was just not bothered about all this.
  12. It is generally believed that the Congress cadres were behind this genocide. This may be true but there were other forces too which actively participated in this massacre and whose role has never been investigated. It could be one of the reasons that actual perpetrators remain unknown. Those who witnessed the genocide were stunned by the swiftness and military precision of the killer/marauding gangs (later on witnessed during the Babri mosque demolition, burning alive of Dr Graham Steins with his two sons, 2002 pogrom of the Muslims in Gujarat and cleansing of Christians in parts of Orissa) which went on a burning spree of the innocent Sikhs. This, surely, was beyond the capacity of the thugs led by many Congress leaders.
  13. It is shocking that Deshmukh presented 1984 massacre of Sikhs as an issue between Sikhs and Hindus. He wrote: "I feel proud of all those Hindu neighbours who protected lives and property of troubled Sikh brothers without caring for their lives. Such things one being heard from all over Delhi. These things have practically increased the faith in natural goodness of human behavior and particularly faith in Hindu nature." He remained oblivious to the fact that these were not only Hindus but Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, Christians, Atheists, Communists who defended Sikhs' lives and properties.
The Deshmukh document did not happen in isolation. It represented the real RSS attitude towards the Sikh genocide of 1984. It may be relevant to know here that the RSS cadres did not come forward in defence of the Sikhs. 
The RSS is very fond of circulating publicity material, especially photographs of its khaki shorts-clad cadres doing social work. For the 1984 violence they have none. In fact, Deshmukh's article also made no mention of the RSS cadres going to the rescue of Sikhs under siege. This shows the real intentions of the RSS during the genocide.
The RSS' English organ, “Organizer”, in its combined issue dated November 11 and 18, 1984 carried an editorial titled 'Stunning Loss' which praised Indira Gandhi in the following words:
"It will always be difficult to believe that the Indira Gandhi is no more. One had got so used to hearing her myriad voices for so long, that everything looks so blank without her. The violent manner of her death is the most shocking horror story, giving the nation the creeps… It is a case of treacherous fanatics stigmatizing the whole nation by butchering a remarkable specimen of Indian womanhood… She literally served India to the last drop of her blood according to her own lights."
The same editorial ended with the words supporting newly installed Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi who "deserves sympathy and consideration".
“Organizer” also carried statement of RSS Supremo Bala Deoras titled 'Balasaheb condemns assassination, Delhi carnage' in a single column. He mourned and condemned the carnage but not even once referred to the fact that Sikhs were under attack. For him it was "infighting in the Hindu Samaj". He also overlooked the fact that it was not only Delhi where Sikhs were butchered/burnt but in many other parts of India too.
According to his statement, "Swayamsevaks have been instructed to form or help in forming Mohalla Suraksha Samitis" for restoring peace and rehabilitation of the sufferers. However, there are no documents available in the contemporary RSS archives to show how these Samitis functioned. It is a fact that RSS which is fond of displaying photographs of its cadres doing social work did not publish any visual of the activity of these Samitis.
In the same statement Deoras reacting to the assassination of Indira Gandhi stated:
"It is shocking beyond words to express the feelings at the murder of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by some fanatic elements. She had been carrying on almost the entire burden of the country since 1966. She was loved and respected not only in this country but all over the world. Her passing away at this critical juncture will create a void in India and also in the world."
According to the same “Organizer” issue, "RSS Sarkyavah Rajender Singh issued instructions to all the branches in the country to hold a special meeting in Shakha condemning the dastardly murder of the PM and paying homage to the departed soul. He also issued instructions to cancel all public functions to be held by RSS during the period of mourning".
Of course, RSS archives do not contain any instructions from RSS top brass ordering to mourn the Sikh martyrs.

RSS against former Manmohan Singh’s apology for 1984 massacre

That the RSS continues to downplay the 1984 Sikh massacre will be clear by the perusal of charter of demands submitted to the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) last July. Senior RSS ideologue Dina Nath Batra on behalf of RSS-affiliated Shiksha Sanskriti Utthan Nyas submitted five pages containing list of items to be removed from school textbooks. 
Batra demanded that any reference to violence against minorities in the text-books should be removed, which included references to a simple apology tendered by the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over 1984 violence. It is to be noted that in an apology in Parliament on August 12, 2005, Manmohan Singh, stated:
“I have no hesitation in apologizing to the Sikh community. I apologize not only to the Sikh community, but to the whole Indian nation because what took place in 1984 is the negation of the concept of nationhood enshrined in our Constitution.”
So the search for finding the perpetrators of Sikh massacre of 1984 continues endlessly. The present RSS/BJP rulers who claim to be co-religionists of Sikhs prove no different from Congress. The only hope is that those Indians who have stakes in continuation of democratic-secular Indian polity will come forward to force the Indian State to identify and punish the killers.
The scholars who have been involved in the study of religious violence are unanimous in the conclusion that if 1984 massacre was not allowed to happen, there would not have been 1992-93 (violence against Muslims in pre/post Babri mosque demolition period), 2002 (massacre of Muslims in Gujarat), Kandhmal 2008 (cleansing of Christians) and many other massacre of the minorities of India.

Nana Deshmukh awarded Bharat Ratna

As if it was not enough injustice to the martyrs and survivors of the 1984 massacre, on the eve of the last Republic Day (January 25, 2019), the RSS/BJP rulers of India, bestowed the highest national award Bharat Ratna on Nanaji Deshmukh. Modi praising Deshmukh said, "He [Nana Deshmukh] personifies humility, compassion, and service to the downtrodden. He is a Bharat Ratna in the truest sense".
If anybody wants to understand the exact meaning of the proverb 'to rub salt into the wound' this Bharat Ratna to Deshmukh is the fittest example!
---
*Formerly with Delhi University, click here forProf Islam's writings and video interviews/debates. Facebook: https://facebook.com/shamsul.islam.332; twitter: @shamsforjustice; blog: http://shamsforpeace.blogspot.com/

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