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The Sikh response to homophobia in India and beyond

A few weeks ago, the Indian Supreme Court re-criminalized sexual acts between consenting adults of the same sex. The Supreme Court overturned a 2009 decision by the Delhi High Court to strike down section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, which came directly from a British colonial law from 1861. Section 377, which was just reinstated, states:

377. Unnatural offenses — Whoever voluntarily has carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman or animal, shall be punished with imprisonment for life, or with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years, and shall also be liable to fine.

As Prerna Lal states about the recent ruling, “the Indian Supreme Court has re-criminalized gay sex in India, rendering almost 20 percent of the global LGBT population illegal.” As a result, LGBT Indians and their allies in India and around the world have taken to the streets, signed petitions, and engaged in creative actions through social media, showing their outrage about this backwards decision.

But what has the Sikh response been? I have previously written about the homophobia rampant in our community and how ironic it is, given our Gurus’ deep commitment to equality and social justice. In the days after the ruling on 377, I wondered if any Sikh activists committed to LGBT equality would come out of the woodwork. I also wondered about the Sikh response to the ruling in India and if any Sikh institutions publicly supported or lobbied for this ruling. Embarrassingly, Sikh institutions have publicly campaigned against LGBT equality in the past, including supporting the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the US a few years back.

Enter Kanwar Saini, aka Sikh Knowledge, a young, openly gay hip hop artist in Toronto. In protest of 377 and as a part of a social media campaign, Saini posted a photograph of him kissing another man on Facebook, which went somewhat viral and led to a lot of discussion and debate about Sikhi and gay rights. Facebook removed the photo from his page for 16 hours, quite possibly due to a whole lot of homophobic Sikhs reporting the picture to Facebook as offensive.

Saini recently appeared on CTV discussing the incident and his response.


Sikhs fight for rights in the largest democracy in the world

Guest blogged by Kirpa Kaur

A few weeks ago, India joined the world in mourning the loss of Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and anti-apartheid revolutionary whose armed resistance and leadership rendered him a “terrorist” and imprisoned for 27 years. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated: “A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India’s loss as South Africa’s. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come.”

It’s been 44 days since a Sikh farmer and activist from Haryana decided to launch a hunger strike unto death at Gurudwara Amb Sahib (Mohali, next door to Chandigarh) to protest the long sentences being served by political prisoners who have been denied any legally mandated review of their cases; and India remains largely silent. BBC Radio yesterday recognized that while the protest has caught momentum around the world, and from various quarters in Punjab, including the oft-vilified Punjabi singers, mainstream India is largely aloof on this issue.


Indian Independence Day, a Call for Reflection

Guest blogged by Shahe Kaur

1On the eve of India’s Independence Day, it is difficult to not think about the haunting stories I have heard from my parents, grandparents, and others who lived through the horrific partition of India into azaad (independent or free) India and Pakistan.  This partition uprooted over 10 million people and resulted in murders and brutality far too numerous to count with official accuracy, with estimates ranging from a few hundred thousand to a few million.  Many of us will likely never truly understand how much our elders are haunted by the memories of forced migration, murder, and the other atrocities that occurred when they had to uproot to the newly independent India.

As a child and throughout the time I spent with my grandmother,  I was very interested in the history of who I was and where our family came from.  However, when it came to topics like partition or the atrocities that occurred in 1984, my family, particularly my grandmother did not want to talk about it.  The memories were far too painful for my grandmother to ever completely tell me her story. “ Those days have passed, let them be,” was the common response that I got. Of course the vakeel (lawyer) in me, even as a child, could just not let things be.  I had to know more about who we were as a family and the history that is part of the fabric of who I am today.  As I pushed and pushed for more details regarding my grandmother’s journey, I began to piece together an image of the atrocities she witnessed and endured to become the woman that I knew.  As she would tell me her story, each time proclaiming she had told me the same story a hundred times before, I probed more and more to gain more of her experience and account of what she had endured.  Eventually she told me all that she cared to speak of, which was enough for me to get a glimpse of how deep her courage, strength, and love for her family truly was.


The Indian Disconnect
In a process that took three decades, Sajjan Kumar, a leader in India's Congress Party, was recently acquitted for his well-documented involvement in the anti-Sikh pogroms during November 1984 in which thousands of Sikhs were murdered in three days in the country's capital city. Five co-accused were convicted. (Source: Live Mint)

In a process that took three decades, Sajjan Kumar, a leader in India’s Congress Party, was recently acquitted for his well-documented involvement in the anti-Sikh pogroms during November 1984 in which thousands of Sikhs were murdered in three days in the country’s capital city. Five co-accused were convicted. (Source: Live Mint)

About two months ago, I observed the continuing engagement by representatives of the Indian government with the Sikh American community, which in that instance took the form of an exhibition on Sikh heritage in Atlanta, Georgia, sponsored by the Government of India. This exhibit has just recently been presented in Washington, D.C., as well, and it is consistent with increased engagement and activity related to the Sikh American community — be it directly, or through lobbying of US officials — by representatives of India. The increasing effort by Indian officials to promote the Sikh community in the United States is problematic, however, as it runs contrary to India’s track record with the Sikhs in its own borders over the past several decades.

Whether in the aftermath of a hate crime (such as in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, or recently in Fresno, California), or in what appears a deliberate attempt to brand the Sikh identity with Indian nationalism, representatives of the Indian government are insisting that they be the custodians of the Sikh community in the United States.


Celebrating the centenary of the Ghadar Party, in Oregon
"Indians, many of whom were Sikh, worked at the Hammond Mill before its demise in 1922. During that time period, the Indians left their mark on Astoria, participating in wrestling matches, occupying Alderbrook also known as "Hindu Alley," and forming the Ghadar political party. Courtesy of Clatsop County Historical Society." (source: The Daily Astorian)

“Indians, many of whom were Sikh, worked at the Hammond Mill before its demise in 1922. During that time period, the Indians left their mark on Astoria, participating in wrestling matches, occupying Alderbrook also known as “Hindu Alley,” and forming the Ghadar political party. Courtesy of Clatsop County Historical Society.” (source: The Daily Astorian)

One of the legacies of the earliest Sikh and Indian immigrants to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century was the creation of the Ghadar Party, a political movement based in northern California that sought to promote India’s liberation from British rule.

Led by Indian expatriates in the United States, the Ghadar Party was formed in 1913. One of its main activities was the publishing of literature to promote resistance to British rule and for a free India. Obviously a threat to the ruling class, the literature was banned in India, and upon their capture, the Ghadarites were often imprisoned or executed as terrorists by the British.

This year, the San Francisco headquarters of the Ghadar Party has been opened to the public by the Indian Consulate as a museum. The printing press that the Ghadar Party used to print their literature is also now on display at the Gurdwara in Stockton, California. However, while it was previously believed that the Ghadar Party was founded in California, historians now place the genesis of the movement further north in the state of Oregon, where Johanna Ogden recently mapped a forgotten (and primarily) Sikh settlement of laborers in 1910 known as “Hindu Alley”.


“Sadda Haq” and the role of the government and media

Guest Blogged by: JSD

saddahaqToday, the government of India has once again proved why it’s claim to being the world’s largest democracy is laughable. Not to mention the media in India, which claims to be fair and democratic in nature, however, this is simply not the case. India’s media is clearly state run and its news outlets make stories that create divides within communities. Why am I saying all this?

Sadda Haq is a fictional movie based on real events surrounding the militancy era in Punjab during the 1980s and 1990s. Showing accounts of “false encounters” and police brutality, the movie aims to show why average citizens were forced to take up arms against the oppressive regime. The movie was set to release worldwide today on April 5, 2013. Although the Indian Government can’t ban the movie worldwide, the Punjab government did manage to ban the movie in Punjab and other parts of India in just a few hours prior to its opening after the movie was privately screened to Punjab Police members and state government officials.

These officials who watched the private screening included the likes of DGP Sumedh Saini. Interestingly enough, the ban comes from the Punjab government run by Parkash Badal of the Akali Party, a party that is supposed to represent Sikh interests, but at the same time has promoted Saini to the ranks of DGP(Deputy General of Police) even after countless human rights claims exist against him for his participation in the post 1984 Punjab genocide of Sikh youth.

Over the past few days the Indian news outlets have been talking about Sadda Haq being a controversial film promoting Khalistan. It is no doubt that Sadda Haq discusses the militancy era, but its aim is to show the truth that has been pushed under the rug by the government and media.


On Rape

A goat
A sacrificial lamb
Halal meat
Her blood runs dry at the bottom of a river
Cleansing the land

Sri Lanka
The tip of my soul

New Delhi
Anandpur Sahib
My constellation of stars

Drip drip dripping
Blood seeps into earth
One quick slice from the neck
Less painful that way
More fertile that way
Mothers, sisters, daughters
We bury red splashes
Virgin ground


Tom Mulcair Responds: Tells India he won’t be bullied and stands firm on 1984 Statement

Guest blogged by ResistSingh

amneet_620x270.pngEvery June and November, Sikhs in Canada (and globally) are curious to see what Canadian politicians will say about the tragedies of 1984.

Will they align themselves with the community and provide support and solidarity with the Sikhs as they come together to remember both the invasion and massacre of innocents inside the Darbar Sahib complex during the hot month of June; and then the senseless targeting, butchering, killing and raping of Sikhs during the November Sikh Genocide?

Although the answer is a no brainer to human rights activists, like many social justice issues they seem to be tough political decisions that attract countless discussions and debates amongst politicians and political parties about vote banks, international cooperation, trade relations, development, foreign policy and much more. That is why we have seen sporadic statements from the Liberals and Conservatives for November, rarely if ever for June and a lack of consistency.


India’s Foreign Interference: Telling Lies, Spreading Hate

Guest blogged by ResistSingh


As the month of June has passed, Canadian Sikhs, along with human rights activists and their allies, are recovering from yet another campaign of misinformation by the Indian High Commission and a recent wave of visceral and unfounded attacks.

Twenty-eight years after the Indian Army Invasion of the Darbar Sahib Complex during Massacre Bluestar, the Government of India has continued its assault by attempting to deny Canadian citizens an opportunity to engage in the healing and reconciliation process as they deal with the wounds inflicted upon them during the invasion.

With the recent attempts by the Government of India to undermine unity and reconciliation in the Diaspora amongst all South Asians in Canada, it has given rise to some serious questions one must consider: how and why is India interfering  in the lives of Canadian citizens and their democracy?; is there any substance to the claims they are making?

While conducting an analysis of India’s response to the Leader of the NDP, Tom Mulcair’s statement of solidarity with the Sikh community, a basic review of the Indian High Commissions claims has shown many nuances and problematic statements have been made, lacking independent validation. Additionally, beyond the factually incorrect statements that have been identified, the language of the Indian High Commissioner has unfortunately been mirrored by members of Canada’s unelected, patronage-appointed Senate.

Of particular concern, a published article by Conservative Senator Asha Seth titled “Building walls, spreading hate” contains many sentences that resemble those in a letter written by the Indian High Commissioner, along with claims that are simply, factually incorrect.



Guest blogged by @NSYF (National Sikh Youth Federation)

1984.jpgThe Sikh community in the UK is once again preparing to mark the anniversary of the June 1984 Indian army invasion of their holiest place of worship. Harmandir Sahib, also known as the Golden Temple located in Amritsar, was invaded in an unprecedented Indian army action against the civilian population that resulted in massive casualties and wide spread human rights violations.

Every year for the past 27 years the UK Sikhs have been gathering in Hyde Park London for a protest march that ends with a rally in Trafalgar Square. This year is no exception with the rally taking place on the 10th of June. The rally makes vocal the Sikh demands for justice and has been seen as a show of solidarity and remembrance.

As times have changed and the Sikh diaspora have become more educated and media savvy, their methods of protest have also evolved. Young Sikhs have come together to found a charitable NGO and Think Tank called the National Sikh Youth Federation (NSYF). This organisation, whose motto is ‘To Educate, Inspire and Unite’ has become the platform for an innovative media campaign to highlight the events of June 1984. Utilising both social and physical media NSYF are attempting to create mass awareness. From the 1st to the 10th of June NSYF will be uploading one picture everyday at 0700 GMT via their twitter account @theNSYF centred around the hashtag #10DaysofTerror.

NSYF will be telling the story of June 1984 by recreating the major events of each day with a historic newsfeed, culminating in the release of a video to tie the campaign together.

Homeless Punjabis in Southall

In late 2009, we wrote a post about the growing number of homeless Punjabis and Sikhs living in Southall.  Almost three years later, the situation in Southall continues to concern us.  A recent article from the BBC discusses the plight of these young men who seek voluntarily deportation back to India but who, without documents, are unable to navigate an unforgiving bureaucratic situation.

Jagdeesh pulls away a piece of cardboard revealing a tiny hole in a concrete wall. He invites me to climb through, declaring: “This is my home, come in.”

“I was told that life was good here. It’s not just me, other boys came for work,” he says. “You can see what state we’re in, there’s no work, no government help.” Jagdeesh has cut himself off from his family, saying he is ashamed of his failure to find work and would rather they thought he was dead than knew he was living in filth. “They sold land and took out loans to get me out of India. What can I say to my family back home? The money we’ve invested is lost,” he says. [link]

According to figures from the UK Home Office, voluntary departures have risen steadily over the past few years, from 335 in 2005 to 15,537 in 2010.  While many of these cases have been logged with the UK Border Agency, it seems that the Indian High Commission is dragging its feet on processing the cases. According to the article, the UK Border Agency admits that establishing the identity of illegal immigrants in order to issue them with emergency travel documentation is a “complex” process and that the time it takes to process these individuals varies by case.  One individual, a man in his 30s, has been waiting for three years.

Many of these individuals abuse drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the situation. Their thoughts often turn to suicide.  Their only support system is each other and the majority of them haven’t even told their families, back in Punjab, about their broken dreams.  It’s a difficult situation for these men – their lack of options in Punjab drives them to seek opportunities abroad but this promise of prosperity is not always what it seems to be.

As our UK co-blogger, Naujawani Sardar, states, “There are many questions being asked about the problems facing masses of illegal Punjabi immigrants in West London, but the most important questions that will prevent this situation from reoccurring in the long-term are not being asked: Why do so many youth risk everything to leave The Punjab? What is being done to curtail the agents that are facilitating their travel? And, what repercussions do UK citizens face for exploiting illegal immigrants?”


The Face of Human Rights in India

Communities on the periphery of the Indian State, be they Sikhs, Kashmiris, Christians in Nagaland, or even Bengalis and Bangladeshis have long seen the brutality of the “world’s largest hypocrisy.”  Despite claims of democracy, progress, and growth, the facade is held together by a sadistic security state.  Here we see its face.  What is not unique is the instance caught here on a video that was to be used to psychologically and collectively terrorize; what is unique is that the video has made it to the public.

The video has begun to leak into worldwide news outlets, but has not raised the proper level of concern and outrage in the Indian State.  There are many brave individuals in India that fight for human rights and dignity; there are many more that are silently complicit.

The video shows BSF (Border Security Force) soldiers torturing a Bangladeshi man.  Human Rights Watch in 2010 had documented the grave human rights abuses, committed by these soldiers. Titled “Trigger Happy“, the report documented the deaths of over 500 people due to the hands of the BSF since 2006.  The Border Security Force will not be unknown to those that seek justice in Punjab.  The BSF was known to have committed wide-spread human rights violations in the Punjab; this, too, was documented by the Human Rights Watch.

For those that may have friends or family that don’t believe widespread torture, murder, and rape occurs under the name of “Indian security,” here is your evidence:



Remembering Partition, One Story at a Time

Guest blogged by Ranjanpreet Nagra and Jaskiran K. Mann

Outreach__Yuba_City_Nagar_Kirtan__Nov_2011.JPGIn February 2011, six months after finishing my Master’s in South Asian Studies from University of Michigan, I moved to Berkeley and was still looking for a job and a place to live when I met the founding members of The 1947 Partition Archive, an entirely volunteer-based effort aimed at collecting and preserving the stories of the 1947 Partition of British India. I expressed my interest in conducting interviews as well as helping out however I could, since I was fluent in both Punjabi and Urdu. I also had experience conducting interviews in college and for my Master’s thesis. Since that first meeting, I have loved every aspect of my volunteer work with the Archive.

I’ve had the good fortune to interview people in English, Urdu and Punjabi, and to travel to places throughout California, as well as Toronto, Canada.  Presently, I am traveling through East Punjab, conducting interviews. I’ve heard some amazing stories of adversity, fear, violence, and strength.

My first outreach work was that following March, tabling at Hayward Gurdwara on a cold and cloudy day. I enjoyed talking to people and telling them about the project. That was the first time I had to explain – in Punjabi – what we do and its purpose. I had some difficulty translating at first, but since then I have had many opportunities to explain, and become more comfortable doing so as a result.


Khalra Center for Human Rights Defenders

This week, The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) and the World Sikh Organization of Canada (WSO) announced the inauguration of the “Khalra Centre for Human Rights Defenders” in New Delhi, in honor of Jaswant Singh Khalra.  The announcement was made during The National Consultation on Human Rights Defenders conference, which brought together human rights activists from across the country.  The Center has been established to serve as a legal resource for human rights defenders who find themselves in danger or who are attacked.  The center will also undertake research into human rights issues.

The inaugural address of the conference was delivered by Paramjeet Kaur Khalra, widow of S. Khalra. Mrs. Khalra spoke about her husband’s work and the way in which the human rights abuses that took place in Punjab have not been addressed by successive state and federal governments. WSO’s legal counsel Balpreet Singh addressed the gathering and expressed solidarity with Indian human rights defenders. He said that because the abuses which took place in Punjab such as torture and disappearances were not addressed, the same pattern has perpetuated itself in other areas such as Kashmir and Nagaland and impunity has become systemic there. [link]


A Sikh Minstrel Show? YouTube Preview Image

This video from the popular South Indian television show Adhurs Ultimate Talent Show has gone viral in the last couple of days.  In it, the so-called Warriors of Goja, a group of Sikh men “performing” with a giant Khanda as their backdrop and upbeat bhangra music as their soundtrack, win a cash prize of 300,000 rupees for their efforts.

There is much to say about this video, how it reflects upon our community, and how it fits nicely into the Indian media’s representation of Sikhs.  Others have written about Sikhs and Bollywood, and I am not going to do a thorough analysis or history here.  But what is painfully clear to me is that this “performance” of chest-beating (literally), hypermasculine Sardars acting like a bunch of baffoons as they pound themselves into bloodiness  is simply a more blatant, egregious version of how Indian popular culture has represented Sikhs for as long as most of us can remember.

What does the viewer take away from this video?  What does the average Indian (and non-Indian now that the video is going viral) learn about Sikhs as they see this group of men, proudly wearing their turbans and very deliberately representing their Sikh identity through their performance, smash each other with sledge hammers and run over each other with cars and motorcycles?  Is this the kind of Sikh bravery and courage we want to show the world?  Is this Guru Gobind Singh’s legacy?  Or is this a bunch of clowns trying to make a quick buck and get their five minutes of fame by perpetuating stereotypes about Sikhs being violent and blood-thirsty on the one hand, and idiotic buffoons on the other.

Stereotypes sell, don’t they?


A Glimpse Inside the Darbar Sahib and the Role of Women

YouTube Preview Image

This video, part of a longer version produced for the Discovery Channel, invites viewers inside the Darbar Sahib in Amritsar [via Gurumustuk Singh].  It’s a rare opportunity to see some remarkable moments inside the complex and apparently this is the first time it has been televised.  I believe it was recently shown in India and will be shown worldwide soon.

Some thoughts after the jump…


One Village Tells the True Story of Panjab

Guest blogged by Satvinder Kaur Dhaliwal

Admin Note: After completing her undergraduate studies in Anthropology, the author traveled to Panjab to volunteer.  She spent her time volunteering at Pingalwara and working with the Baba Nanak Education Society (BNES).  Below is an article she wrote for BNES to raise awareness about their impactful work addressing farmer suicides.


farm.JPGVillage Barlan, District Sangrur, located near the Panjab-Haryana border, depicts the prosperous, joyful Panjab that many of us are eager to visit. Roads leading to the village are surrounded by what appearsto be flourishing farmland, stretching as far as one can see. Children have returned from school and are laughing and chasing each other through the streets of the village, the elderly have gathered to discuss recent happenings, and women can be seen carrying various necessities to their homes. This first glance overview of Balran disguises a harsh reality that a growing number of households in the village are facing – suicide.

Suicide is an equal opportunity visitor in Balran and many other villages throughout Panjab. Increasing farming costs, the removal of farmers’ subsidies, and low rates for crops are putting Panjab’s farmers in a never-ending cycle of debt accumulation. Each year, farmers in Panjab face increased agricultural costs and low returns for their crops. In order to cover these costs, farmers must take out loans, which they usually get from their local aarthiya or money-lender. The aarthiya often ends up being the same individual who will buy the farmer’s crop at the mandi or market, and then re-sell the crop on the public market. Sukhjinder Singh, a farmer, described the reason for debt accumulation as, “Let’s say that I sell my crop for 11 rupees per kilogram. When I need to purchase the same crop for my home, I have to buy it for 14 rupees per kilogram. So how can we profit?” Consequently, when a farmer’s costs are constantly exceeding his profits, he must cover his costs by taking out loans. Now, he has increased his debt by introducing extremely high interest rates, which are often decided by the aarthiya.

Unlike the west, the gendered demarcations of males and females in Panjab are much more stark, and it is common for women to be unaware of their family’s financial circumstances. Therefore, when the male becomes consumed in debt and can no longer bear humiliation from the taunting money-lenders, he begins to see only one way out – suicide. His surviving family members are not only left devastated, but they must find a way to provide for themselves and pay off the debt on their family, of which they may never have been aware in the first place. Often times the surviving family members include a wife, children, and elderly parents. In winter 2011, I visited the families of various suicide victims in Balran. Some families had lost their loved one a few years ago, while some had only experienced the loss a few days ago. Although I only visited seven families, the Baba Nanak Education Society has documented 91 suicides and numerous missing individuals in Balran since 1998. Nonetheless, all family members were still grieving equally and struggling to pay off their debt.


India v. Pakistan: Beyond the Hype

Guestblog by Fakir

I’ve been complaining for several weeks regarding the cricket craze and how educated, conscious south asians should be taking this moment of international spotlight on their ancestral or native countries to highlight their higher expectations for their countries much like what occurred around the world and in Beijing during China Olympics 2008 and educate their peers.

It especially angers me when I see Sikhs rooting for either Pakistan or India, when I see Muslims rooting for India (and Pakistan), etc etc, because these are oppressive machines not harmless patriotic identities. India v. Pakistan is going to happen today in Mohali, Punjab, India. Here is something else that happened in Mohali, Punjab, India just yesterday:

YouTube Preview Image


Understanding and Celebrating Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Guest blogged by resistsingh

March 23rd, 2011 marked the Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

Bhagat Singh is a legend in many circles, a man who gave his life to secure the freedom of India from Colonial Rule.  Today, many celebrate his bravery and he has become somewhat of an icon.  Unfortunately, like other popular revolutionaries, such as Che Guevera the content of his revolution is lost.

Like the many oppressive systems we face everyday, our identity is consistently a target – a means to keep our community impotent, by robbing us of our  history, our motivation and association to revolution and social justice.  With that in mind, we should always be aware of the ideologies, the motivations and the history behind those we celebrate. Bhagat Singh is no different.

So today, we share a quote with you all, from the Final Petition of Bhagat Singh before his death, one that eloquently describes his resistance to Imperialist and Capitalist ideology and one that we should hold to our hearts as we celebrate his life.  As injustice continues to prevail, the greatest honour to the shaheedi of our ancestors is to understand their struggle, today.

“Let us declare that the state of war does exist and shall exist so long as the Indian toiling masses and the natural resources are being exploited by a handful of parasites. They may be purely British Capitalist or mixed British and Indian or even purely Indian. ” – Bhagat Singh

The Lost Children of Punjab: 1984-2011

Guest blogged by santokh

A couple days ago I was reading some news articles on Hondh Chillar and Pataudi. Some of these articles include photographs from the two big events that took place at Hondh Chillar–clean up of the destroyed gurdwara building and Akhand Paath that took place thereafter in that building. I was talking to a couple friends about what all of this means for us as Sikhs, as youth with a vested interested in all things Punjab but separated from it by distance, and as a generation that, despite a fascination and infatuation with Punjab and Sikhi, seems disconnected to the memory of 1984 in many ways.

I was born a year after Operation Bluestar, no one from my family or relatives were directly affected by the genocide, my grandparents didn’t live close to New Delhi, Amritsar, or any of the other affected areas–Hondh Chillar and Pataudi, for example. As I was talking with my friends, I realized our awareness of Bluestar comes from websites, media, press releases by advocacy groups, a few books and essays, and the occasional speech at gurdwara or elsewhere almost as an annual ritual in June and November. It’s almost a kind of dynamic I can chart out–come the first week of June and November, emotions run high and my inbox is filled with invites to a number of vigils and memorials.

If I view the memory of Bluestar from the perspective of a generation before mine, everything changes. Many of my friends’ parents and grandparents were directly affected in 1984 as victims and/or witnesses. They have a direct connection to and memory of Bluestar. They know what media channels did and did not report, each of them is a walking memorial in a sense.


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