Sikh Post of the Year?: A Stark Contrast

The Sikh blogosphere is still very young and still in its incipient phases. While one delhi.jpgday I hope we will have something like this (ahem, Mr.Sikhnet any takers?), for now, we will try to (at times) highlight some of the best of the blogs.

SidhuSaaheb’s blog has been a favorite of mine for years. While at times disagreeing, I find his voice refreshing and a unique perspective.

His most recent post, reproduced here in its entirety below the fold, would be my vote for “post of the year.” Contrasting the most recent tragedy in Mumbai with the Sikh Pogroms of Delhi 1984, the differences are truly tragic. Please leave your thoughts on the post here as well as take a moment to visit the author’s own blog to leave your comments.

This is about two events, A and B, which took place in a country called India. Actually, both comprised a series of events, but these have been considered as single entities here, for the purpose of comparison. A large number of innocent people were killed in both these violent occurrences. That, however, is where the similarity ends. These were different in ways that include the following :

1. While A occurred only a few days ago, B occurred about 24 years ago.

2. While less than 200 people were killed in A, more than 4000 were killed in B.

delhi1.png3. While most of the victims in A were shot dead, in B some were hacked to death, while others were burnt alive after their hands having been tied behind their backs, their bodies drenched with kerosene and burning tyres put around their necks. The women-folk amongst the victims were, in the latter case, forced to watch the male members of their families being killed, including young children, after which they were raped and then killed. Some of the youngest victims were tossed in the air, to be killed by falling on to sharp-edged weapons like spears.

4. The victims of event A mostly included those present in the hotels and the railway station under attack, but during event B, people were dragged out of their own homes to be killed, after which their houses were set on fire.

5. While the police force fought hard against the killers in A, in event B it was either inactive or, in some cases, even assisted the killers by blocking the victims’ possible escape routes.

6. While the army was called in within hours of the attacks having begun in the case of event A, it was called in after several days of the commencement of event B, in order to give the killers a free run for that long, even though it acted in an unbiased manner, once it was sent into the affected areas. It is a different matter, however, that there was not much left for it to do.

7. Whereas 9 out of the 10 killers in the case of event A have been shot dead and the remaining one arrested, nearly all of the killers in the case of event B are still at large.

8. While the alleged masterminds of A are said to be located outside India and are sought to be captured at the earliest, even if that involves launching attacks on a neighbouring country, those for B are all present within India and yet none of them have been brought to justice over the past 24 years. As a matter of fact, some of them have been legislators and even cabinet ministers in the government of India during that period.

Some of them, ironically, are protected by the men of the same elite commando delhi2.gifforce i.e. National Security Guards (NSG), which was sent in to fight against the attackers in A. The political party that these alleged masterminds belong to, won a huge electoral victory in the general election that followed event B, almost as if it was being rewarded by large sections of India’s population for its ‘good work’ that was widely perceived to have included the organisation of the massacre.

9. Following event A, the prime minister of India declared that such events are a threat to pluralistic societies, while the (then) prime minister of India said following event B, “Jab baRaa peyR girtaa hai toh dharti toh hilti hi hai.” (When a large tree falls, the earth is bound to shake.).

10. Following event A, there has been a large-scale outpouring of grief by various sections of the general public in the form of demonstrations replete with banners, black arm-bands and plenty of slogan-shouting, in addition to candle-light marches, chain-letters circulated through email, etc., while very little of anything like that was in evidence after event B or for the 24 years that have gone by since then.

11. Whereas politicians are being criticised and even being abused following event A, the politicians perceived as being largely responsible for event B were able to build up a huge fan-following, on account of which, as mentioned above, they were able to win general elections with a huge margin of victory, soon after the violence.

12. One of the most prominent slogans that have been raised after event A is, “Enough (of terrorism) is enough!”, but since there have hardly been any protests after event B, over the past 24 years, except by some of those belonging to the same community as the victims, there is no question of any such slogans having been raised. However, soon before event B, one of the slogans raised was, “Khoon ka badlaa khoon se laiNgay!” (We shall avenge blood with blood (of innocents who had nothing to do with the incident sought to be ‘avenged’)!)

Incidentally, if event A is substituted by any other instance of terrorist violence in India and event B is substituted by any other instance of communal riots in the country, the contrast is likely to remain almost as stark.

The foremost question that arises in my mind, in view of all of the above facts, can be summed up in one word i.e. why?


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18 Responses to “Sikh Post of the Year?: A Stark Contrast”

  1. sizzle says:

    i appreciate the spirit of the original post, and i appreciate its effort to raise awareness of what transpired in 1984 in the hope that it may only help in the quest to bring about justice.

    that said, the post and it's overarching insinuation is overly simplistic. while the comparison is interesting and should spark a sense of outrage at what occurred in 1984, it is hardly poignant. to answer the final question: "why?" well, very simply, because one tragedy happened in 1984 and one tragedy happened in 2008. things were a bit different, to say the least, in every conceivable realm of reality of Indian life. wow – that was hard, thanks for asking.

    if the comparison and insinuation of double standards were to be actually thought provoking, rather than merely superficially shocking, it'd compare headlines between 2002 Gujarat riots and 2008 Mumbai. or perhaps, the 2002 Gujarat riots and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

    interesting? yes. post of the year? hardly.

  2. sizzle says:

    i appreciate the spirit of the original post, and i appreciate its effort to raise awareness of what transpired in 1984 in the hope that it may only help in the quest to bring about justice.

    that said, the post and it’s overarching insinuation is overly simplistic. while the comparison is interesting and should spark a sense of outrage at what occurred in 1984, it is hardly poignant. to answer the final question: “why?” well, very simply, because one tragedy happened in 1984 and one tragedy happened in 2008. things were a bit different, to say the least, in every conceivable realm of reality of Indian life. wow – that was hard, thanks for asking.

    if the comparison and insinuation of double standards were to be actually thought provoking, rather than merely superficially shocking, it’d compare headlines between 2002 Gujarat riots and 2008 Mumbai. or perhaps, the 2002 Gujarat riots and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

    interesting? yes. post of the year? hardly.

  3. Sidhusaaheb says:

    @Sizzle: If you substitute event B in the original post with what happened 6 years ago, let us say event C, then apart from the replacing the death toll of 4000 with 2000 and time period of 24 years with 6 years, how much else has to be changed for the comparison to stand as good? (Hint: Not much.)

    Then, if we consider "to answer the final question: “why?” well, very simply, because one tragedy happened in 1984 and one tragedy happened in 2008. things were a bit different, to say the least, in every conceivable realm of reality of Indian life. wow – that was hard, thanks for asking.", there appears to be a slight discrepancy.

    The comparison drawn in the blog-post would still stand largely true if event B were to be replaced with all that happened in 2008 in Kandhamal, Orissa.

    So, the "Why?" still remains unanswered.

    The double standards would have had to be insinuated if the blog-post was based on some kind of abstract conclusions. However, even if it might be too uncomfortable for some to acknowledge, it is based on facts.

    Thanks for mentioning the term 'double-standards', BTW. It implies that you have correctly analysed the facts presented before you, even if you prefer to deny that!

  4. Sidhusaaheb says:

    @Sizzle: If you substitute event B in the original post with what happened 6 years ago, let us say event C, then apart from the replacing the death toll of 4000 with 2000 and time period of 24 years with 6 years, how much else has to be changed for the comparison to stand as good? (Hint: Not much.)

    Then, if we consider “to answer the final question: why? well, very simply, because one tragedy happened in 1984 and one tragedy happened in 2008. things were a bit different, to say the least, in every conceivable realm of reality of Indian life. wow – that was hard, thanks for asking.”, there appears to be a slight discrepancy.

    The comparison drawn in the blog-post would still stand largely true if event B were to be replaced with all that happened in 2008 in Kandhamal, Orissa.

    So, the “Why?” still remains unanswered.

    The double standards would have had to be insinuated if the blog-post was based on some kind of abstract conclusions. However, even if it might be too uncomfortable for some to acknowledge, it is based on facts.

    Thanks for mentioning the term ‘double-standards’, BTW. It implies that you have correctly analysed the facts presented before you, even if you prefer to deny that!

  5. Sidhusaaheb says:

    P.S.: In case you missed the point, the blog-post is meant to compare the way India's government, its agencies and various sections of its people act during and after terrorist violence, against the way they act during and after communal violence.

  6. Sidhusaaheb says:

    P.S.: In case you missed the point, the blog-post is meant to compare the way India’s government, its agencies and various sections of its people act during and after terrorist violence, against the way they act during and after communal violence.

  7. Raja says:

    I appreciate the post, and its underlying message, and this is not a direct insult towards anyone. But I always find it amazing, and dumb founding when people simplify immense tragic events.

    To me 1984 will be 1984, 9/11 will be 9/11, Mumbai will be Mumbai and the responses and the actions are separate. It begs the question, if more people were massacred and the government response was less in Mumbai, would the author be remotely content? If 4000 died and not 200, would that be a sense of condolence for anyone? I sincerely doubt it. The action surely implies that there was an underlying devaluing of a certain person, but I implore the author to ask themselves, if 4000 and not 200, died in Mumbai is that in their mind a sense of equality? Is that progression or regression?

    I think once you compare tragedies, you devalue the human component. It becomes 4000 vs 200. If we have reached an age that we understand the horror and the tragic aspect of an event by the amount of people who have died, we have failed as a society. I personally believe 4200 people have died because of ignorance, and cannot sit there are even begin to compare the two.

    Few things I have to put forth. I am not a nationalistic person, and I believe nationalism is the worst aggravator, and the eventual downfall of the human race. However, if you look at things historically, nations grow.

    If we look at the most prosperous nations, and nations with "free ideals", we see this. 50 years after the US became free, slavery ran wild, and similar actions in 1984 were wildly spread throughout a nation. Even here in Canada, the seemingly most progressive nation in the world when it comes to human rights, we were also abusers of minorities. This is not an excuse but merely a historical comparison of the mindsets that led to the injustice of 1984. Imperialists always leave a pecking order once they are done…

    But back to the point, comparing the two leads us to believe, the witnesses to such events that one was "more tragic" than another which I guess is indicative of the times we live in. Where a death of an innocent is not tragic enough, its how many innocents die with them.

    I hope this wasn't disrespectful to the author or anyone else.

  8. Raja says:

    I appreciate the post, and its underlying message, and this is not a direct insult towards anyone. But I always find it amazing, and dumb founding when people simplify immense tragic events.

    To me 1984 will be 1984, 9/11 will be 9/11, Mumbai will be Mumbai and the responses and the actions are separate. It begs the question, if more people were massacred and the government response was less in Mumbai, would the author be remotely content? If 4000 died and not 200, would that be a sense of condolence for anyone? I sincerely doubt it. The action surely implies that there was an underlying devaluing of a certain person, but I implore the author to ask themselves, if 4000 and not 200, died in Mumbai is that in their mind a sense of equality? Is that progression or regression?

    I think once you compare tragedies, you devalue the human component. It becomes 4000 vs 200. If we have reached an age that we understand the horror and the tragic aspect of an event by the amount of people who have died, we have failed as a society. I personally believe 4200 people have died because of ignorance, and cannot sit there are even begin to compare the two.

    Few things I have to put forth. I am not a nationalistic person, and I believe nationalism is the worst aggravator, and the eventual downfall of the human race. However, if you look at things historically, nations grow.

    If we look at the most prosperous nations, and nations with “free ideals”, we see this. 50 years after the US became free, slavery ran wild, and similar actions in 1984 were wildly spread throughout a nation. Even here in Canada, the seemingly most progressive nation in the world when it comes to human rights, we were also abusers of minorities. This is not an excuse but merely a historical comparison of the mindsets that led to the injustice of 1984. Imperialists always leave a pecking order once they are done…

    But back to the point, comparing the two leads us to believe, the witnesses to such events that one was “more tragic” than another which I guess is indicative of the times we live in. Where a death of an innocent is not tragic enough, its how many innocents die with them.

    I hope this wasn’t disrespectful to the author or anyone else.

  9. Jodha says:

    I think some of the commenters fail to read rhetorical devices and techniques. The aim of the post is not to offer some in-depth analysis or even simplify events.

    As I read it, it is just trying to share a hook (in this case the Mumbai tragedy) and offer some cursory notes on how the media, populace, and governments react to non-state terrorists and state-sponsored terrorism. When the enemy is external we find outrage; when the enemy is internal we find complicitity and silence.

    Raja, I don't think the author is trying to indulge in a numbers game of comparing the numbers dead, but rather what is the justice and empathy that will be offered in one tragedy versus the indignity and injustice after 24 years metted out in the other.

    With regards to your 'growing up' hypothesis, I can argue that in the US we will not see a return to slavery. Can you argue that India will no longer have state-sponsored pogroms?

  10. Jodha says:

    I think some of the commenters fail to read rhetorical devices and techniques. The aim of the post is not to offer some in-depth analysis or even simplify events.

    As I read it, it is just trying to share a hook (in this case the Mumbai tragedy) and offer some cursory notes on how the media, populace, and governments react to non-state terrorists and state-sponsored terrorism. When the enemy is external we find outrage; when the enemy is internal we find complicitity and silence.

    Raja, I don’t think the author is trying to indulge in a numbers game of comparing the numbers dead, but rather what is the justice and empathy that will be offered in one tragedy versus the indignity and injustice after 24 years metted out in the other.

    With regards to your ‘growing up’ hypothesis, I can argue that in the US we will not see a return to slavery. Can you argue that India will no longer have state-sponsored pogroms?

  11. sizzle says:

    To the commenter who posted the posting immediately preceding this post – as one of those two commenters you've identified as "some of the commenters fail to read rhetorical devices and techniques," Can you please explain the nuanced use of these rhetorical devices and techniques? I'm such a dummy, especially when it comes to reading blog posts and historical analysis, that I need you to explain it to me. Pretend I'm 5 years old. I'd hate to miss what makes this post head and shoulders above all else, worthy of it being your proffered "Sikh Post of the Year!"

  12. sizzle says:

    To the commenter who posted the posting immediately preceding this post – as one of those two commenters you’ve identified as “some of the commenters fail to read rhetorical devices and techniques,” Can you please explain the nuanced use of these rhetorical devices and techniques? I’m such a dummy, especially when it comes to reading blog posts and historical analysis, that I need you to explain it to me. Pretend I’m 5 years old. I’d hate to miss what makes this post head and shoulders above all else, worthy of it being your proffered “Sikh Post of the Year!”

  13. sizzle says:

    Sidhusaheeb – I fully understand and appreciate the point of your post. Despite what another commenter may believe – I understand that you sought only to compare reactions to the two events side by side as plainly as possible to illustrate a very disturbing double standard. Perhaps my original reply, the 1984 and 2008 comment was too simplistic. As has been fleshed out a bit by you and in the other comments, there is much to why the reactions to the two tragedies is very different, beginning with the era in Indian history and how the Indian government operated then and now. As for replacing one event with another, time frames, death tolls, Gujarat, sectarian violence in Orissa, etc.? That is an exercise for another time.

    The double standard in the reactions to each event is blaringly obvious – it smacks you and me in the face, and it probably enrages us. You did a fine job breaking down, in a methodical manner, the exact nature of that double standard. So, for someone who is unawares of what happened, this is a fine post to forward along. It makes its point well. But as I stated from the outset, it doesn't answer the "why?" it posed at the end, a "why?" that seems asked for almost dramatic purposes when one breaks down the rhetorical style and technique of the post. The post makes no attempt to answer and offers nothing especially enlightening to a Sikh who is already familiar but a reminder. There is no real analysis, it is not poignant.

    I wouldn't have normally offered these comments/criticisms had it just been posted. However, it was offered as Jodha's "Sikh Post of the Year." While it is solid….meh, there's been writing with far more "umph." But hey – congrats on the plug.

  14. sizzle says:

    Sidhusaheeb – I fully understand and appreciate the point of your post. Despite what another commenter may believe – I understand that you sought only to compare reactions to the two events side by side as plainly as possible to illustrate a very disturbing double standard. Perhaps my original reply, the 1984 and 2008 comment was too simplistic. As has been fleshed out a bit by you and in the other comments, there is much to why the reactions to the two tragedies is very different, beginning with the era in Indian history and how the Indian government operated then and now. As for replacing one event with another, time frames, death tolls, Gujarat, sectarian violence in Orissa, etc.? That is an exercise for another time.

    The double standard in the reactions to each event is blaringly obvious – it smacks you and me in the face, and it probably enrages us. You did a fine job breaking down, in a methodical manner, the exact nature of that double standard. So, for someone who is unawares of what happened, this is a fine post to forward along. It makes its point well. But as I stated from the outset, it doesn’t answer the “why?” it posed at the end, a “why?” that seems asked for almost dramatic purposes when one breaks down the rhetorical style and technique of the post. The post makes no attempt to answer and offers nothing especially enlightening to a Sikh who is already familiar but a reminder. There is no real analysis, it is not poignant.

    I wouldn’t have normally offered these comments/criticisms had it just been posted. However, it was offered as Jodha’s “Sikh Post of the Year.” While it is solid….meh, there’s been writing with far more “umph.” But hey – congrats on the plug.

  15. Jodha says:

    Pretend?

    Nah I'll just let it be. I appreciated your words to SidhuSaaheb.

  16. Jodha says:

    Pretend?

    Nah I’ll just let it be. I appreciated your words to SidhuSaaheb.

  17. Raja says:

    I understand the underlying message of his post, and I am not saying that I disagree with it. I understand the difference in response, but what I am arguing is that why the comparison even takes place. Why can we look at the response of both incidents in a similar manner? Also the author asserted that it was a greater tragedy that 4000 people died as a opposed to 200. What I meant was that whether it was 1 or 100000, its sad if we realize how horrible an event is depending on how many people died, or not for what reason they died….

    State sponsored terrorism vs. External terrorism is an issue that every country has. Why was the outrage greater for the 3000 people killed on 9/11 rather than the hundreds and thousands killed by drugs and gang violence and the purposefulness in which it is injected to communites around the US? Why was it more an outrage for 9/11 than the 80,000 Iraqi civilians killed…

    I understand why it is an issue, but I guess I am perplexed as why it may be so shocking, as we see and witness these types of response to tragedies everyday… Thats why I believe comparing or even taking the two and looking at them in a similar manner (be it the representation by the media, or how it is recieved) is simplistic.

    One asked, they feel that the US will never go back to slavery… The US practices implistic slavery on a constant basis… If one believes that there is no miniority status in the US, and the miniorites are not reduced, and still not suffering injustices in forms of large governmental sanctioned actions, you sorely mistaken… Also, It has been 61 years since the independence of India from the British… 61 years after the independence of the united states (1776) Slavery (burning, killing, raping etc) was rampid in the United States and would be for another 28 years (legally)… It is widely accepted that blacks really only did get their freedom 100 or so years after that…

    So again, I am not one to support any state. To me, to be blunt, their all the same crap in another box, but people often make issues black and white, which is not the case…

  18. Raja says:

    I understand the underlying message of his post, and I am not saying that I disagree with it. I understand the difference in response, but what I am arguing is that why the comparison even takes place. Why can we look at the response of both incidents in a similar manner? Also the author asserted that it was a greater tragedy that 4000 people died as a opposed to 200. What I meant was that whether it was 1 or 100000, its sad if we realize how horrible an event is depending on how many people died, or not for what reason they died….

    State sponsored terrorism vs. External terrorism is an issue that every country has. Why was the outrage greater for the 3000 people killed on 9/11 rather than the hundreds and thousands killed by drugs and gang violence and the purposefulness in which it is injected to communites around the US? Why was it more an outrage for 9/11 than the 80,000 Iraqi civilians killed…

    I understand why it is an issue, but I guess I am perplexed as why it may be so shocking, as we see and witness these types of response to tragedies everyday… Thats why I believe comparing or even taking the two and looking at them in a similar manner (be it the representation by the media, or how it is recieved) is simplistic.

    One asked, they feel that the US will never go back to slavery… The US practices implistic slavery on a constant basis… If one believes that there is no miniority status in the US, and the miniorites are not reduced, and still not suffering injustices in forms of large governmental sanctioned actions, you sorely mistaken… Also, It has been 61 years since the independence of India from the British… 61 years after the independence of the united states (1776) Slavery (burning, killing, raping etc) was rampid in the United States and would be for another 28 years (legally)… It is widely accepted that blacks really only did get their freedom 100 or so years after that…

    So again, I am not one to support any state. To me, to be blunt, their all the same crap in another box, but people often make issues black and white, which is not the case…