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A Mosaic of Pain Suffering


Jaskiran Chopra

SIKHS: THE UNTOLD AGONY OF 1984
By Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay
Westland Limited, Delhi, 2015, pp. 192, Rs. 399.00

VOLUME XL NUMBER 5 May 2016

The wounds may have healed to an extent but the suffering is relived and borne again and again by the affected families and through them, by their younger generations. The Sikhs who faced the terror and shame of the 1984 riots have found a voice in this book which Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a well-known journalist and political commentator, has written almost three decades after the horrifying event. This is no fiction! Even the people whose stories he narrates have not been given any fictional names. Their real names and stories have been revealed with deep sympathy. The Sikhs who were not directly affected have also been spoken to and the agony is felt no less by them. The author describes the 1984 episode as ‘one of the darkest subplots in contemporary Indian history.’ His presence as the narrator can be felt strongly throughout the work, gathering pieces of narratives and creating a mosaic of pain and suffering. The book brings out the fear psychosis, sense of panic and the utter humiliation that gripped the Sikhs and from which many of them have not been able to emerge. The attack, says the author, was on their identity and scarred it. It was a bid to annihilate the Sikh identity. In order to show us how, Mukhopadhyay walks us through one of the most shameful episodes of violence in postIndependent India and highlights the apathy of subsequent governments towards Sikhs. The various stories told by him are woven together beautifully in a pattern out of which emerge the emotions of pain, anger, revenge, shame and helplessness. He culled these personal histories, poignant, raw and macabre, over a period of more than two years and tells us how, even after three decades, a community continues to battle for justice in its own country. During his research, he was helped by unknown people as well as some people known to him who came back in a new avatar to share their memories with him. The survivors, says the author, opened up to him ‘like never before’. Each had a sackful of sad memories. The characters in the account ‘are all linked by an experience which altered their lives indelibly,’ he writes. The book is no doubt a living, breathing document of trauma and terror. It is not just a collection of facts and figures. This is flesh and blood talking, weeping, suffering. People he tells us about ...


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