Never Before Seen: Survivor Interviews, Days after November 1984

Thirty years have passed since the pogroms of Sikhs in India. During the first week of November 1984, police, politicians, and government leaders organized and implemented pogroms against Sikhs throughout the country. These massacres occurred ostensibly in response to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

This news footage takes us to refugee camps where survivors display raw wounds, search for missing loved ones, and share accounts of the killings. The reporter discusses how Sikhs themselves had to arrange for food provisions, and were living in squalor, bathing in gutters, and lacking medical care at the camps.

“We are homeless. We are family-less. And moreover, above all, no safety. We can’t imagine how we’ll survive ourselves in this India,” recounts one survivor to reporter Ken Rees.

Ken Rees continues: “Mothers, whose children had been killed, wept as they spoke. This was the story of just one 6-year old boy we met in the camp.” A translator told Rees, “Petrol was sprinkled on him and set on fire.” “He was set on fire?” repeated Rees, “Why?” The translator answered: “Because he is the son of a Sardar Ji [a Sikh man].”

The news host and news reporter both speak to the Indian government’s attempts to restrict news access, by shutting down satellite communications or prohibiting reporters from entering the refugee camps or Trilokpuri, one of the worst sites of the massacres.

Thirty years later, none of the architects of these killings has been held accountable for these gross human rights violations. The Indian government continues to deny survivors their rights to truth, justice, and reparations. On this anniversary, inform yourself by watching this video and reading Ensaaf’s report from 2004, Twenty Years of Impunity…. This report analyzes thousands of pages of previously unavailable affidavits, government records ,and arguments submitted to the 1985 Misra Commission, established to examine the massacres. The report reveals the systematic and organized manner in which state institutions perpetrated mass murder in November 1984 and later justified the violence in inquiry proceedings.


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