October 1, 2014 (Washington, DC) – While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Washington DC and President Obama, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission in the U.S. Congress made history yesterday by hosting the first-ever Congressional briefing on the November 1984 anti-Sikh massacres, which claimed the lives of several thousand Sikh civilians throughout India.
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According to eyewitnesses and Indian human rights activists, the killings were organized by government officials and facilitated by police officials. Thirty years later, the Modi government—like its predecessors—continues to deny justice to victims and survivors of the massacres.
Entitled Thirty Years of Impunity – The November 1984 Anti-Sikh Pogroms in India, the briefing featured a special screening of The Widow Colony, an award-winning documentary that amplifies the voices of Sikh widows who lost loved ones during the massacres and whose struggle for justice continues to this day. After the film, a panel of experts discussed India’s failure to prosecute the architects of the violence; discussed the importance that accountability will have for India’s future; and provided recommendations for U.S. foreign policy in relation to India.
The discussion also highlighted parallels between the 1984 anti-Sikh massacres and the 2002 anti-Muslim massacres, which were facilitated by Mr. Modi's government during his tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. In both cases, according to the panelists, hatred against minorities trumped human rights and the rule of law.
Panelists at the briefing included Manoj Mitta, author of two groundbreaking books about mass state violence in India – When a Tree Shook Delhi: The 1984 Carnage and Its Aftermath and The Fiction of Fact-Finding: Modi and Godhra; Sukhman Singh Dhami, co-director of the human rights organization Ensaaf; and filmmakers Harpreet Kaur and Manmeet Singh from Sach Productions.
“Briefings like this help ensure that American lawmakers and policymakers learn the truth about unresolved human rights issues in India,” said Sapreet Kaur, Executive Director of the Sikh Coalition, which moderated the briefing. “Although the 1984 massacres were organized by Indian government and police officials, justice is still being denied 30 years later to those whose lives were affected by the violence. In this context, apologies are no substitute for prosecution. Justice delayed is justice denied.”
In the spirit of this briefing, and to ensure that the traumatic events of 1984 and the following decade are remembered in a way that translates into empowerment for the global Sikh community, the Sikh Coalition invites applications through November for our "Connecting with 1984" Small Grants Pool. Thanks to the generosity of a group of donors, the Sikh Coalition will invest in individuals and/or groups who would like to create and deliver educational programs and initiatives to raise awareness within the Sikh community about the events of 1984 and beyond.
As always, the Sikh Coalition urges Sikhs everywhere to practice their faith fearlessly.