The 1984 anti Sikh riots, also known as the 1984 Sikh Massacre, was a series of pogroms against Sikhs in India by anti-Sikh mobs in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Official Indian government reports numbered about 2,800 killed across India, including 2,100 in Delhi.Independent sources estimate the number of deaths at about 8,000, including at least 3,000 in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigative agency, believes that the violence was organised with support from the Delhi police and some central-government officials. Rajiv Gandhi, who was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother’s death, said when asked about the riots: When a big tree falls, the earth shakes”.Akali Dal and other Sikh groups introduced the Anandpur Sahib Resolution, demanding special status for Punjab and the Sikhs, in 1973. During the late 1970s and early 1980s, security in Punjab deteriorated due to state and religious politics; this led to the sacking of the Punjab government in 1983.
Amid increasing calls for action, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered an Indian Army operation to flush out the militants from the temple complex, establish control of the Harmandir Sahib Complex in Amritsar and remove Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his armed followers from the complex in early June. Bhindranwale had taken up residence in Harmandir Sahib, making it his headquarters in April 1980, and was accused of amassing weapons in the gurudwara to foment a major uprising.Sporadic violence continued as the result of an armed Sikh separatist movement which sought independence. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents; it had been occupied by Sikh separatists, who were reportedly stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were conducted to clear the separatists from the state of Punjab.A group of Sikhs led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale turned to militancy in Punjab; some Sikh militant groups aimed to create an independent state, Khalistan, through acts of violence directed at members of the Indian government or the military. Others demanded an autonomous state in India, based on the Anandpur Sahib Resolution. Many Sikhs condemned the militants’ actions.After the assassination of Indira Gandhi on 31 October 1984 by two of her Sikh bodyguards, anti-Sikh riots erupted the following day. They continued in some areas for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and an estimated 8,000 or more in 40 cities across India.Sultanpuri, Mangolpuri, Trilokpuri, and other Trans-Yamuna areas of Delhi were the worst affected. Mobs carried iron rods, knives, clubs, and combustible material including kerosene and petrol. They entered Sikh neighbourhoods, killing Sikhs indiscriminately and destroying shops and houses. Armed mobs stopped buses and trains in and near Delhi, pulling off Sikh passengers for lynching; some were burnt alive. Others were dragged from their homes and hacked to death, and Sikh women were reportedly gang-raped.On 31 October, a crowd around the All India Institute of Medical Sciences began shouting vengeance slogans such as “Blood for blood!” and became an unruly mob. At 17:20, President Zail Singh arrived at the hospital and the mob stoned his car. It began assaulting Sikhs, stopping cars and buses to pull Sikhs out and burn them. The violence on 31 October, restricted to the area around the AIIMS, resulted in many Sikh deaths.The Central Bureau of Investigation told the court that during the riot, Kumar said that “not a single Sikh should survive”. The bureau accused Delhi police of keeping its “eyes closed” during the riot, which was plannedThe riots are identified as pogroms, massacres or genocide.In 2012, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told a sessions court in Delhi that the then Congress government, its leaders like Sajjan Kumar and the Delhi Police had backed the massacre of Sikhs. Kumar was later exonerated by a court.1984 anti Sikh riots violence is one of the most horrendous acts of violence that independent India has seen. But if we look at the rate of conviction, it seems that nobody killed those thousands of people. Congress leaders who were involved in the violence were never convicted, and now they are either dead or acquitted.November of 1984 is still an open wound for the victims and families of victims, for the people who stand against such violence, and for the judicial system. Only justice can bring some relief to those whose lives were changed forever; the people who have lived in two worlds, one before 1984, and one after. 1984 anti Sikh riots
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