Wednesday, October 5

Community Betrayed

Jatinder Preet

Time is a great healer, they say. While the individual sufferers of carnage against Sikhs in 1984 picked up threads of their lives and carried on, the wounds on the collective consciousness of Sikh community are still festering. To see perpetrators of those wounds going not only scot-free but continue to occupy important positions did not help in the healing in any way. Now come the revelations that the community's own were indulging in behind the scenes machinations that ultimately shamed the justice.
It's sad to see no outrage, not even within the community when investigations by the weekly Tehelka has mentioned specific names, putting under cloud the Sikh leadership.
It seems, though the time has not been able to heal the wounds, but it certainly has made it easier for us to turn our faces the other way. This is what has happened after the report came in. There have not even been murmurs.
Report after report from impeccable credentials named Congress leaders Sajjan Kumar, HKL Bhagat, Jagdish Tytler among others as those who led the massacres of Sikhs after the assassination of the then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi in November 1984. After much hue and cry enquiries were instituted. The long drawn out investigations came to naught ultimately. The Allurements and intimidations saw witnesses turning hostile one by one. Neither the protectors nor the adjudicators found anything amiss.
The lesser mortals were tired out and the fight to seek justice remained to be led by few. To rightly acknowledge the role of those who have been putting up this fight we have to seek out those who have been responsible in making justice elusive.
We have some of those names now. There is damning evidence against them. Rs 25 lakh was offered to Darshan Kaur who lost 12 members of her family, including her husband, to withdraw her testimony against Congress leader HKL Bhagat. She was offered the money by local Sikh leader and former DSGMC member, Atma Singh Lubhana, a man who had actually been authorised by the Shaheedgunj Gurdwara Committee to help the Tilak Vihar widows with their court cases. Surinder Singh, the head granthi of Gurdwara Pulbangash in New Delhi, the prime witness in case against Jagdish Tytler, went abroad for a year, a week after changing his statement. Prahalad Singh Chandok, then president of Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC) is named as the one who pressurized the witnesses to say Tytler didn't lead the mob. Chandok even presented a robe of honour to Tytler, for which the Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, summoned him but the Takht Jathedar didn't impose a penalty. Another key witness, Satnami Bai when questioned about changing her statement swore by Guru Granth Sahib in the presence of widows and riot victims that it was Atma Singh Lubhana who was instrumental in her turning hostile.
While Sikh leaders like Lubhana and Chandok were instrumental in behind the scene machinations, there were Sikhs who actually voted for Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. In fact, both the leaders have been flaunting their Sikh supporters as trophies.
While we are talking of a community here, we have to keep us reminded that we are dealing with humans actually, with all their frailties and weaknesses. The community will continue to have individuals who actually sell off its interests. What's more important is how the community responds to this and ensures that this does not happen.

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