The What, Why, and Who of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi

Guest blogged by Preserve Architectural Heritage

hondh_chillar.jpgWhat: discovery of two sites linked to 1984: (1) Hondh Chillar, discovered January 2011. (2) Pataudi, discovered Februrary 2011. Both are in Haryana. Excerpts from Press Releases from Sikhs for Justice reveal that 32 men, women, and children were brutally tortured and killed in Hondh Chillar and 17 in Pataudi.

Why is this discovery important: So far all the investigation into the violence of 1984 has been done via interviews, eyewitness accounts, judicial commissions, and lawsuits. For the first time, we have living evidence of the genocide: the buildings speak for themselves. Though there are thousands of names on the ever-growing list of those killed in 1984, many of us have very little connection to those names since we don’t personally know the families. Even if some of us know or are related to survivors of the violence, it’s difficult and painful to have those individuals recollect and narrate their memories and experience.

Those of us with no familial connection to Operation Bluestar, those of us who were too young to remember, or were not born when this genocide tookplace now have a physical, tangible, alive, and direct relationship to this significant period of Sikh history through these sites. Since memory of any tragic event is intrinsically linked to physical location[s], it is absolutely crucial that we realize the value of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi as sites that provide us with a direct link to the memory of 1984. They are living sites, open for everyone to access and connect with. They are silent victims, that, just like the human victims of 1984, represent a crucial moment from the recent Sikh past.

hondh_chillar_2.jpgThese buildings, however, are victims as well, and they too are a piece in the puzzle of 1984 violence. Sites like Akal Takht, Darbar Sahib in Amritsar, and many other gurdwaras in and outside of Punjab were victims of violence. However, since 1984, they have been renovated and rebuilt to such a degree that they no longer tell an accurate narrative of how systematic the violence was, who all was attacked, exactly how. Moreover, it is clear from the discovery of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi that the violence was widespread and not geographically confined to only Punjab and Delhi. These two sites are located deep in rural Haryana and lead to questions about which other rural areas were attacked and their inhabitants completely wiped out. Just as the discovery of Hondh Chillar led to the discovery of Pataudi, it is likely that local narrative and interviews with
survivors may lead to information on other rural locations that were similarly attacked in 1984. Readers are urged to initiate these conversations with survivors of the violence so that more such sites can be discovered.

hondh_chillar_3.jpgThe fact that the Hondh Chillar and Pataudi sites exist today as they did the day they were attacked is remarkable evidence for all of the Sikh community. The buildings that stand there are memorials in their own right, and for this reason, they should be left unaltered. Plans are underway to temporarily protect the sites using a fence or wall. Future plans may include necessary structural reinforcement to ensure the buildings do not collapse. Only these types of preventative measures should be taken to sustain the structural integrity of the buildings.

What you can do: Regardless of where you live, you can make a phone call to the SGPC, voicing your opinion on how important these sites are. In the past any sites of significance have been leveled to the ground, and new gurdwaras have been constructed in their place. Though these recent constructions are of some value, the original character and meaning of a site is lost permanently when something is built on top of it. Let us make sure this does not happen at Hondh Chillar and Pataudi. Silence and suppression have been strategic tools in the erasure of memory. These sites, though, have awakened the contemporary Sikh world from over two decades of lethargy. These sites are in danger of being silenced again if we fail to preserve them. Though the sites represent a recent Sikh past, the activism and funding required to protect them ultimately addresses our future.

Call to those interested: Are you a preservation specialist? Has this news struck a chord in you? Do you have ideas on how best to preserve the site? Do you have other insight on the sites? Do you know of other similar 1984-linked sites in rural parts of India? Are you a web designer and would like to create a digital memorial for Hondh Chillar and Pataudi? Drop a line to preservearch@gmail.com

Take action: Contact SGPC President Avtar Singh Makkar: +91 981 534 4390 or +91 985 589 5558 president@sgpc.net info@sgpc.net and politely voice your opinions and concerns.

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8 Responses to “The What, Why, and Who of Hondh Chillar and Pataudi”

  1. Rajinder Singh says:

    Good post and great idea.

    If the community is “discovering” genocide after 27 yrs, then it’s a reflection of disconnect between the ground reality, the leadership and by extension the mainstream.

    There is an unbelievable amount of money and power sloshing around near the top -fiefdoms are being built and fortified. Take for example how the Punjab government (mis)uses state machinery to celebrate outlandishly lavish weddings of their own kids, and for other personal use, while there are no resources for victims? Overlooking victims is a brutal Punjabi power play in action. I did not grow up there, which afforded a chance to be shocked by an abiding respect for power and a “might Makes Right” system. No wonder victims are left to fend for themselves like this.

    The Karma counting clock has outlasted civilizations, and payback is guaranteed !!

  2. TheKidsBeIgnant says:

    YEAH!!! Lets contact the sgpc, because we all know that when you want "justice" all you need to do is flood the offices of our corrupt overlords….It didn't work for Sudanese, the South Africans, the Jews, the Native Americans, the Armeniens, the Irish, or even the Rebel Alliance….but it's definitely gonna work for us!!!

  3. P. A. H. says:

    [Your Address Line 1]
    [Your Address Line 2]
    [Your Address Line 3]

    [Today's date]

    S. Avtar Singh Makkar, President
    Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee
    Teja Singh Samundri Hall
    Amritsar, Punjab
    143006

    Dear. Mr. Makkar,

    As Sikhs throughout the world find out about the discovery of the sites and buildings thereon at Hondh Chillar and Pataudi, Haryana, I request that you form a special team of professional preservation architects, historians, archaeologists, and structural engineers for the protection of these buildings. Since you, as the President of SGPC, have a lot of authority, I also request that you expedite this process by taking action immediately. Waiting to consult with other organizations will delay the preservation process indefinitely.

    This discovery is unprecedented because for the first time since 1984, untouched evidence of the violence has been found and can provide much insight into understanding just how systematic, widespread, and strategic the violence was.

    Preservation work should be carried out in the true sense of the word. Simply by cleaning up the sites and building kar seva-led marble gurdwaras on them would do irreversible damage to the sites as they are crucial places of evidence. They need to be preserved as is.

    Sikhs have already suffered suppression of the memory of 1984 and harassment in attempts to remember Operation Bluestar. Please do not contribute to this suppression by neglecting the structural stability of the buildings. The victimized buildings are a direct connection to 1984 and are memorials in their own right. This, too, is our heritage, and I urge you to protect it.

    Sincerely,

    [Your name here]

  4. Harinder says:

    In the Journey of life all living stuffs to be called

    “LIFE BEAUTIFUL”

    be it :–

    Humans, communities, states, nations, civilizations, industries ,vehicles ,aero planes etc

    go through the process of Injury inflicted deliberately or accidentally (entropy law) by stuff called journey of life .

    The question is then should

    1) Should “LIFE BEAUTIFUL” heal it self or let the wound fester?

    2) Should “LIFE BEAUTIFUL” display its scar prominently or let it heal to the point that “LIFE BEAUTIFUL” looks as beautiful as before?

  5. meena says:

    [Deleted by Admin Kaur – no profanity or name-calling please!]

  6. Harinder says:

    WHO SAID LIFE IS EASY ?

    "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult-once we truly understand and accept it-then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters."
    — M. Scott Peck