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Justice and the Sikh Politics of Recognition


Shelley Walia

WHEN A TREE SHOOK DELHI: THE 1984 CARNAGE AND ITS AFTERMATH
By Manoj Mitta and H.S. Phoolka
Roli Books, Delhi, 2007, pp. 221, Rs. 395.00

BETRAYED BY THE STATE: THE ANTI-SIKH POGROM OF 1984
By Jyoti Grewal
Penguin, Delhi, 2007, pp. 223, Rs. 275.00

THE PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVE ON SIKH VIEW OF MARTYRDOM
By Nirbhai Singh
Singh Brothers, Amritsar, 2007, pp. 411, Rs. 650.00

SIKHS AT LARGE
By Verne A. Dusenbery
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2008, pp. 337, Rs. 650.00

VOLUME XXXII NUMBER 12 December 2008

As John Berger writes, ‘Never again will a single story be told as if it is the only one’. Though those from below make history, they do not get to write history. But their story has to be retold, the memories of those dark days rekindled so that one is secure in the belief that we live in a working democracy where justice is the right of all. It is the turn of the powerful to keep quiet for a moment so that we can hear the unheard accounts of death, suffering and struggle.   Manoj Mitta and H.S. Phoolka’s When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and its Aftermath is a collaborative effort, giving the reader a ‘true’ picture of the Delhi riots, ‘a reality check on India’s much touted institutions of the rule of law.’ It has political substance and pierces the fog of propaganda with hard facts and reason, bringing out a detailed account of what went wrong in 1984 when over 3000 innocent Sikhs died. The bloodshed was rationalized by a ridiculous rhetoric of Rajiv Gandhi on 19 November, 1984: ‘Some riots took place in the country following the murder of Indraji. We know the people were very angry and for a few days it seemed that India had been shaken. But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little.’ Obviously, the decay of democracy is deeper than we ever wish to believe.   A crime against humanity has thus gone unpunished. The complicit police officers on duty who, according to the previous reports by various commissions, were deemed to be responsible were merely onlookers of a mass murder. Not only have they been exonerated, they now hold prize posts; so do leaders like Jagdish Tytler. Not to notice this or comprehend the conspicuous working of a leadership behind organized terrorism is an indication of the complicity of the state machinery. How can responsible intellectuals not draw conclusions from the long-drawn out apathy of the successive governments over a period of two decades? It takes considerable talent to not pay heed to a crime that should have impelled any democratic government into taking ruthless action against a flagrantly criminal act.   The book sets out to uncover the truth based on the evidence gathered by the Nanavati Commission Report of 2005. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s comment speaks volumes for the ...


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