1984 Sikh Massacre were a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. There were more than 8,000 deaths, including 3,000 in Delhi. The Central Bureau of Investigation, the main Indian investigating agency, is of the opinion that the acts of violence were organized with the support from the then Delhi police and some central government officials. Rajiv Gandhi was sworn in as Prime Minister after his mother’s death and, when asked about the riots, said “when a big tree falls, the earth shakes”.
During the Indian Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi in the 1970s, thousands of Sikhs campaigning for autonomous government were imprisoned. The sporadic violence continued as a result of an armed Sikh separatist group which was designated as a terrorist entity by the Indian government. In June 1984, during Operation Blue Star, Indira Gandhi ordered the Indian Army to attack the Golden Temple and eliminate any insurgents, as it had been occupied by Sikh separatists who were stockpiling weapons. Later operations by Indian paramilitary forces were initiated to clear the separatists from the countryside of Punjab state.
The violence in Delhi was triggered by the assassination of Indira Gandhi, India’s prime minister, on 31 October 1984, by two of her Sikh bodyguards in response to her actions authorising the military operation. The Indian government reported 2,700 deaths in the ensuing chaos. In the aftermath of the riots, the Indian government reported 20,000 had fled the city, however the People’s Union for Civil Liberties reported “at least” 1,000 displaced persons. The most affected regions were the Sikh neighbourhoods in Delhi. Human rights organisations and newspapers across India believe the massacre was organised. The collusion of political officials in the massacres and the Judiciary’s failure to penalise the killers alienated normal Sikhs and increased support for the Khalistan movement. The Akal Takht, the governing religious body of Sikhism, considers the killings to be a genocide.
In 2011, Human Rights Watch reported the Government of India had “yet to prosecute those responsible for the mass killings”. The 2011 WikiLeaks cable leaks revealed that the United States was convinced about the complicity of the Indian government ruled by the Indian National Congress in the riots, and termed it as “opportunism” and “hatred” of the Congress government against Sikhs. The United States has refused to recognize the riots as genocide, but do acknowledge that “grave human rights violations” did take place. Also in 2011, a new set of mass graves were discovered in Haryana, and Human Rights Watch reported that “Widespread anti-Sikh attacks in Haryana were part of broader revenge attacks” in India.
Nihang Singh proceeds march.
Nihang Singh Guru Nanak Mission Chowk in Jalandhar