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March 11 , 2009

Sikhs: The Untold Agony Of 1984


‘I want sukh (peace)—Won’t you give me sukh?’ asked a middle-aged Shanti who witnessed the death of her three sons, one of them an infant, and her husband in a house lit with kerosene by marauding mobs; Dr Swaranpreet heard the woman in silence. She claimed the police had inserted a stick inside her… Swaranpreet realised that she had been cruelly violated; He spoke a single sentence but repeated it twice in chaste Punjabi: ‘Please give me a turban? I want nothing else…’ These are voices begging for deliverance in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in October-November 1984 in which 2,733 Sikhs were killed, burnt and exterminated by lumpens in the country. Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay walks us through one of the most shameful episodes of sectarian violence in post Independent India and highlights the apathy of subsequent governments towards Sikhs who paid a price for what was clearly a state-sponsored riot. Poignant, raw and most importantly, macabre, the personal histories in the book reveal how even after three decades, a community continues to battle for its identity in its own country.

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