Jasdev Singh Rai: 1984

Was George Orwell thinking of India when he wrote 1984? Many Sikhs think so as they hold protest rallies in some of the capitals of the world every June, including 2012. Orwell was right about the year. In this land of holymen, multiple religions and inspiring dharmas, the government of India attacked one of its most renown sacred places, the Golden Temple, in June 1984 on a holyday. It killed about 900 of its own unarmed citizens, pilgrims, in the process.

The Army Generals who led the 70,000-strong, well-equipped army and around 150,000 paramilitary forces and lost more than 300 military personnel to arrest some 200 poorly armed youth, got medals for gallantry while killing unarmed women, children and old men in the process. (Does Syria give medals? Anybody know?) The army destroyed significant sections of Golden Temple complex and the priceless Sikh reference library that contained historic documents.

The Indian Ministry of Information and Broadcasting went into overdrive with disinformation and news management to justify its actions. The government claimed lawlessness and threat to territorial integrity by terrorists and Sikh nationalism. The “enemy” was choreographed and free expression silenced by police violence armed with colonial-era sedition laws.

Indira Gandhi, the prime minister, deified as “durga” (a goddess) broadcasted that, having tried all peaceful means, she had to send in the army with heavy heart and much soul searching as a last-minute decision. This along with WMDs should go into history’s greatest lies. The Sikhs woke up to an Orwellian world.

The Vice Chief of Indian Armed Forces, General S.K. Sinha, revealed that it was no last-minute decision. The army had been preparing for the attack on a life-size replica for more than a year. He advised against it. The “talks” were just smokescreen.

Gen. Vaidya became chief instead and planned “Operation Blue Star,” a strategy involving tanks, Armored Personnel Carriers, heavy artillery, helicopters and a large invasion force to combat 200 youth!

The people the Indian state labeled terrorists had challenged in kind the state’s recurrent policy of dealing with political campaigns for decentralisation through police violence, illegal detentions, torturing people to death, execute them extra-judicially and beat their uninvolved relatives.

When states turn tyrannical, abrogating responsibility to international norms and killing their own, people across the world take up arms. Mandela’s ANC, Libya and East Timor are examples. The only restoration of law and order needed in Punjab was to reign in the police and engage in meaningful negotiations.

The political campaign that Indian government called threat to national integrity and unity was about federalism and protection for minorities! Both were agreed as conditional before Sikhs were persuaded to join India after decolonisation.

General Brar who led the onslaught on Golden Temple, audaciously wrote a book detailing his “genius” military strategy of wanton killings. Perhaps he thinks his book will compete with victories of Field Marshall Montgomery in military annals.

Brahma Chellany of the Associated Press, the only journalist who sneaked in despite ban on journalists, gave details of unarmed Sikhs being shot at point blank with hands tied with their turbans. Brar called this sensitivity. Chellaney was detained for two years until international pressure kicked in.

An independent team led by an eminent former judge (Tarkunde) reported that injured pilgrims were shot dead by Indian soldiers while doctors tried to heal them. Brar said truckloads of bodies were taken away. Their relatives were never informed. Indira Gandhi called army action “compassionate.”

But Golden Temple invasion is not the only badge of honor of the Indian Army. Reconstituted after putting down the sepoy revolt in 1857, the army has been perpetually involved in maintaining internal security such as Sikh agitations in 1872, the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre 1919.

Internal security meant protecting British interests against fussy Indians unenthusiastic about colonization. After decolonization, the inglorious record continues with attack on Golden Temple, occupation of Indian Kashmir, invasion of sacred Naga mountains, annihilation of Assam nationalism and so on. All against fellow Indians! Occasionally the army is required to protect territorial borders against Pakistan or China. Decolonization hasn’t sunk in the Indian Army yet or, in fact, the state.

India’s post-colonial political order is even more ossified in a colonial doctrine inscribed in the Government of India Act 1935. The Act was the last hurrah of committed colonialists dreaming of the “Empire” lasting as long as Romans.

Fortune didn’t side with the imperialists. British humanists prevailed and Indian nationalists were handed the keys — lock, stock and barrel, complete with an administrative service, police force and army all trained to serve colonialism.

Bizarrely the Indians renamed the 1935 Act as “provisional constitution” in 1947 and then using it as base template, took three years to cut and paste the American Bill of Rights, the Irish directive principles and the German Weimar governing doctrines to make the Act look like a constitution.

The Act with add-ons has nothing from India’s 5,000 years of civilization in it except its length, proving Lord Macauley’s 1835 statement, “India’s long civilization, not worth a shelf of European books.”

The tricky question for three years was perhaps, “How does one reconcile human rights within a colonial doctrine?” Eventually the legislators hit upon the perfect solution. Under section titled fundamental rights, after describing them as non-derogable, article 13.4 says, “Nothing in this article shall apply to any amendment of this Constitution … ‘Wallah.'” In 1988, the 59th Amendment absolved the state of protecting life and liberty for two years!

Even our little Englanders haven’t thought of this creative trinity to subvert the European Convention. Fundamental rights, human rights and politicians’ rights. No wonder all the call centers (for advice) are in India.

The Sikhs refused to sign this imperialist document in 1949. But so what! India adopted Westminster’s unsophisticated Parliamentary democracy of majoritarianism to subverted minority dissent.

The British never meant for the “Brown Sahibs” (Anna Hazare’s words) to download and run colonialism. Britain even finally repealed (deleted) the Act in 1998! This colonial-era document is an affront to the great Hindu civilization, the Buddhists, the Jains and the Sikhs, all of whom have very pluralistic traditions that prefer political solutions over violence.

Maybe Indians will wake up to that one day and start afresh as independent people do and arrive at a governing document that respects indigenous sacred institutions and practices. One day an Indian Chief of Army will rub his eyes and notice the colonialists left in 1947 and stop killing fellow Indians. What what.

This Orwellian nightmare of colonialism revamped with a deity, disinformation and oppression is behind the annual marches down the streets of western capitals every June and this June by Sikhs refusing to accept India’s version of the 1984 Operation Blue Star.


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