Monday, 2 November 2009

Violence By Any Other Name

Sunil Varma has left a comment on my previous post and he has said something very relevant and interesting in the end. “I just feel we forget very easily and conveniently some aspects of this country's tragic past.”
How very true. Everybody is now remembering Indira Gandhi for being this great leader, and trying to gloss over the fact that her economic policies and his dictatorial/dynastic side did more harm to the country than good.
We keep remembering the 2002 riots in Gujarat but forget the Godhra massacre, which sparked it off (I am not justifying the Gujarat riots or the inaction of the Narendra Modi government. It should have anticipated the riots and taken steps to prevent it. It is as guilty as the Congress government in 1984 was.) As for the human rights brigade and the left-liberals, the less said the better.
In college, I was one of these human rights types – admired PUCL etc because of the opposition to the Emergency and the fact that eminent people like V M Tarkunde, Nayantara Sahgal and a lot of leading anti-Emergency types were associated with it.
But I got cheesed off with the entire human rights brigade when in all those years on the TOI desk, processing news about terrorist killings in punjab, I never saw any criticism of killings by terrorists though the human rights activists were always quick to flay fake encounters and even real ones (though i don't justify fake encounters). That’s still happening – in Jammu and Kashmir, in the Naxalite heartland, in the NorthEast. Not one prominent human rights activist has openly commended Kashmir’s Rukhsana who killed a LeT commander or condemned the retaliatory militant attack on her house three days back. Left liberals rant against the Salwa Judum (a vigilante citizens force set up to counter the Maoists) but are silent against killings by the Maoists. On top of that, they urge the government to open a dialogue with these people on issues of development. But when the government says ok, stop violence, let’s talk and the Maoists reject that offer, they are silent.
I once argued about this with someone years, years back and was told that terrorists/militants etc are not responsible individuals, they function outside the system and that it was pointless to criticise them. What utter balderdash.
But there’s one point on which I differ with Sunil. “Whilst the Prime Minister of India has apologised for the carnage that happened after Indira Gandhi was assasinated by those who were supposed to have protected her with her own life, has ANY sikh ever apologised for the countless Hindus that were killed by the extremists in Punjab?”
The Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi before him apologised not as individuals but as symbols of the Congress Party whose top Delhi leaders were instigators of the anti-Sikh violence.
But expecting individual Sikhs to apologise for killings by terrorists is to brand the entire community as having supported the terrorist movement. Which they didn’t.
Can the same argument be extended to the Congress Party – that is, the entire Congress Party was not to blame for what a few individuals in it did? No, it cannot. Because a political party is a more cohesive unit than a community and therefore has more control over its members. Because even though everyone in the Congress knew what was going on, the violence continued for three days. Because after the violence came that unpardonable `jab ek bada ped girta hai, to dharti hilti hai’ statement by the new Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. And above all, because the perpetrators of those killings continued to be rewarded with plum posts by the Congress Party.
The entire Sikh community never identified with the Khalistan cause or had any sympathy for the terrorists. Sure, the extremists got local support, but it was from a microscopic minority. Often food and shelter was taken by terrorists from Sikh families in the villages at gun point. The bulk of the support for the terrorists came from NRI Sikhs sitting safe in Canada and the United States and from Pakistan.
So yes, maybe members of the Babbar Khalsa, the All India Sikh Students Federation, the Khalistan Liberation Army (these are some of the names I remember from those days) should apologise, but not ordinary, individual Sikhs. They were also victims, though the violence was being done in their name.

1 comment:

do bigha zameen said...

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