Decade of Dissapearances: Addressing Human Rights Through Art

Following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984, the Indian government employed orchestrated pogroms against Sikhs. Mobs, equipped with weapons, kerosene, and the addresses of Sikh homes, chanted khoon ka badla khoon se lenge! (Blood for blood) as they hunted innocent Sikhs, and those protecting Sikhs, throughout Delhi. Suddenly, Sikh Indian citizens were left stranded in their homeland with no protection and no exercise of control by the Indian government.

Murderous gangs of 200 or 300 people led by leaders, with policemen looking on, began to swarm into Sikh houses, hacking the occupants to pieces, chopping off the heads of children, raping women, tying Sikh men to tires set aflame with kerosene, burning down the houses and shops after ransacking them. Mobs stopped buses and trains, in and out of Delhi, pulling out Sikh passengers to be lynched to death or doused with kerosene and burnt alive. In some areas, the Sikh families grouped together for self-defense. The police officials then arrived to disperse them, by force when the persuasion did not work. In other areas, the police searched the houses for weapons including ceremonial daggers, and confiscated them before the mobs came. Over the next five days, nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed. -Reduced to Ashes, pg. 42

Government leaders and senior security officials involved in perpetrating the crimes against Sikhs remained protected by a culture of impunity while low-ranking security officers were awarded promotions for disappearances and killings. In the decade following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, thousands of Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians disappeared from Punjab. Human rights organization, Ensaaf, has been working tirelesslyto promote human rights, justice and accountability in India. They are currently raising awareness of the issue through a project titled, “Decade of Disappearances Art Contest”. It is a call to artists to create print media pieces that shed light on human rights abuses and state-sponsored disappearances in Punjab, India. The winning artist will receive the signed, iconic, limited edition fine art print titled 1984 by Singh Twins.

This is an important cause and we hope you will participate! Below we have copied the submission guidelines (via Ensaaf). The submission form can be found here.

Are you a visual artist who is passionate about the struggle for human rights? Do you believe art can help tell the stories of people disappeared by their governments? Then take part in Ensaafs Decade of Disappearances Art Contest.

Although perpetrators remain free and unpunished, Ensaaf wants you to show the world that those who were disappeared are not forgotten. Submissions accepted until November 30, 2012.

1) Winning piece will be the face of Ensaafs December social media campaign.
2) Winning artist will receive the signed, iconic, limited edition fine art print titled 1984 by Singh Twins.
3) All entries and artists will be featured on Ensaafs social media sites.

Winner will be announced on December 10, 2012 to commemorate International Human Rights Day!

Be sure to review the rules and regulations below and submit your entries at

Questions for inspiration:
1) What is a disappearance and how does it feel? Who are the disappeared? To learn about the Decade of Disappearances in Punjab, visit
2) Why and/or how must the global community represent the disappeared and unlawfully killed in Punjab?
3) How does Indias failure to address gross human rights violations impact its citizens and the world?

Judging Criteria:
1) How well does the piece address the theme: Decade of Disappearances?
2) How much creativity and originality is demonstrated in the piece?
3) Quality of artistic composition and overall design based on the theme.
4) Overall impression of the art: What is the effect of the artwork in general and as a whole? Does the artwork stand on its own as a complete and outstanding work of art?

1) Eligibility: The contest is open to artists of all ages, religions, and nationalities.
2) Print media only
3) Artists must complete an entry form and upload their image by November 30, 2012 (11:59pm PST).
4) Each artist may only submit one entry.
5) Size of artwork
– Must be printable to 11 x 17
– Max. 300 DPI
– Must be saved as high resolution JPEG file
– File must not exceed 10MB
6) Artists must submit a description of their artwork, limited to 250 words (space is provided on the entry form).
7) Artwork must represent human rights violations that took place in Punjab from 1984 to the mid-90s
8) Artwork must be representative of Ensaafs mission statement.
9) Must be original artwork. Artists cannot re-use pieces that were previously created.
Artwork that contains any third-party materials that violate or infringe (or may infringe) any copyright, trademark, logo or other mark that identifies a brand, entity or other proprietary right of any person living or deceased (including but not limited to rights of privacy or publicity or portrayal in a false light) will be disqualified.

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