REVIEW – 1984: A Sikh Story on BBC

1984bluestar04copygw3.jpgGuestblogged by Joo Kay Singh

I’ve just spent the past hour watching 1984: A Sikh Story on BBC1 in the UK, and came away mildly disappointed, but not altogether surprised.

The documentary was framed as a “personal journey” for the presenter, Sonia Deol, to “unravel the events of 1984, an iconic year for Sikhs”, and informs us that “the bloody aftermath that followed [of Indira Gandhi’s assassination] so shocks Sonia that she is forced to reappraise the depth of her commitment to her faith”

For the first part of the program, we were served up with interviews mainly with Mark Tully and K.S. Brar who sounded like they were both regurgitating paragraphs from their respective books on the subject on the background to the Invasion. Sant Jarnail Singh was given the usual ‘congress stooge turned bad’ treatment by both, and the Darbar Sahib invasion covered without a hint of investigative journalism. Sonia failed to enquire why 37 other gurdwaras were attacked on the same day, if as per Tully and Brar’s insistence, Indira Gandhi was merely interested in Sant Bhindrawale. She similarly fails to question either of the men on the timing of the attack, on why the entire state of Panjab was placed under curfew, the expulsion of all foreign media, or the killings of pilgrims by the Army.

The second part moves onto the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, and the tone was set when she describes the events as “riots”, which even the most partisan commentators would agree they were not. There are a few interviews with Widows, a passing mention of alleged police complicity in an interview with some witnesses – but virtually nothing on political involvement and certainly no interviews with police or Congress officials on their role. The one person of note she did interview, Harvinder Singh Phoolka – a lawyer who fought for justice for the past 25 years, was only done in the context of him leading an organisation who planted saplings in memory of the victims. I’m sure he would have liked to move beyond that, and share his detailed knowledge of how the pogroms were orchestrated and who was to blame.

One of the most disappointing aspects of this program, for me, were that the events of 1984 and the interviews with the widows were playing bridesmaid to a pretty soppy central narrative – that of Sonia Deol attempting to “reappraise the depth of her commitment to her faith”. We are shown a few emotional scenes after she interviews witnesses and survivors of the invasion and the pogroms, but then she ends the program doing some bhangra with some families in Delhi celebrating diwali, proclaiming all is now well in India.

The second area of disappointment was how little Sonia really probed into the events of 1984, highlighted by the choice of interviewees and a script that could almost have been written by the GOI’s Press Office.

At the outset, I did say that although I was disappointed overall, I wasn’t very surprised. The first reason is that Sonia Deol isn’t exactly a Rageh Omar or Jeremy Paxman; she’s a Radio Presenter on the BBC Asian Network with self-admittedly little knowledge of 1984, so I would have been more surprised to see her asking tough and probing questions, or even knowing who to ask the right questions. That leads me to the second point; the location producer for this program was Mandeep Singh Bajwa, who if you follow his comments online and on the Sikh eGroups, comes across as a poster-boy for the GOI. So it’s no surprise that he’s the man that the GOI have instructed the BBC to use for all their interviews – if they want permission to be in India at all. Couple the above with some inside information that Sonia Deol was the third-choice presenter, suggests to me that the powers that-be at the BBC weren’t altogether interested in producing anything serious either.

Here’s to hoping the next 25 years will bring something more insightful documentaries covering 1984!


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309 Responses to “REVIEW – 1984: A Sikh Story on BBC”

  1. Dr Devesh Misra says:

    The film starts its narrative from 1984 which gives the Sikhs a sense of victimhood because of the murderous anti- Sikh riots that all condemn.
    But most Sikhs living abroad are not told of the terrifying phase from 1978-1984, when murdering gangs of Sikh separatists were on the rampage in Punjab, often targetting hindus, in some instances ordering them off buses and gunning them down. Many were under the patronage of Bhindranwale. The Sikhs, particularly those living abroad, are ignorant or are in denial of these events. The most ridiculous statements I have heard is that those Sikh terrorists were actually govt agents.
    I lived in Delhi till 1993 and some of my closest friends were both Hindus Sikhs so I can claim a fairly close hand knowledge of events on the ground. I was also a doctor who treated numerous Sikh victims during the riots, as well as some Sikh terrorists later, who were some of the most dangerous and brainwashed individuals I ever had the misfortune to meet.
    Bhindranwale started a vicious war against India and the Hindus, and when Punjab was on the verge of vivisection and another bloody partition, the Indian govt and Army moved in. Yes, easy to criticise the botched action that followed, but let me emphasise- the temple was not desecrated by the Army moving in, it was desecrated by Bhindranwale and his gang who moved in with rockets and heavy armaments.
    Punjab bled, India bled, it is time to move on.

  2. harinder says:

    It all began when Nirankaris killed 13 Sikhs with out provocation on 13 apr 1978 .
    Sikhs only retaliated against Nrankaris and ther covert supporters.
    Sikhs also fought ( without their knowing ) for India getting converted form a right wing state to a secular state where all religions were treated equally and fairly.
    REST IS ALL HISTORY.
    You all start moving on in life ;
    we are already on the move.

  3. harinder says:

    It all began when Nirankaris killed 13 Sikhs with out provocation on 13 apr 1978 .
    Sikhs only retaliated against Nrankaris and ther covert supporters.
    Sikhs also fought ( without their knowing ) for India getting converted form a right wing state to a secular state where all religions were treated equally and fairly.
    REST IS ALL HISTORY.
    You all start moving on in life ;
    we are already on the move.

  4. Bikram says:

    This was a great documentary. This was never meant to be a investigative doc, I think datz what ppl were expecting. Sonia Deol did show the extent of atrocities of 1984, like showing those women who had lost their husbands and showing pictures of the massacres in the riots. People focused so much on the bad in this documentary that they forgot all the other things, jus cz it wznt that usual khalistani youtube propaganda doesnt mean that it's not a great piece of work. If also shed light on some things which few other docs do, the mass killings of hindus in 1984 and the years following up to it. If some sikhs wanna idolize Bindranwale, then by all means do so, but he does have some skeletons in the closet, he wznt exactly the greatest person.Even in the doc, one of the people who were present at the times of the attack said that bindranwale was smiling and laughing in the middle of all the death and destruction. When Guru Nanak Ji had even heard of som1 dying he would go into mourning for the lost soul and herez a supposed shaheed smiing while looking at all the dead corpses of the pilgrims. This was a personal journey about Sonia Deol, not an investigative doc, I think ppl shud keep dat in mind Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

  5. Bikram says:

    This was a great documentary. This was never meant to be a investigative doc, I think datz what ppl were expecting. Sonia Deol did show the extent of atrocities of 1984, like showing those women who had lost their husbands and showing pictures of the massacres in the riots. People focused so much on the bad in this documentary that they forgot all the other things, jus cz it wznt that usual khalistani youtube propaganda doesnt mean that it's not a great piece of work. If also shed light on some things which few other docs do, the mass killings of hindus in 1984 and the years following up to it. If some sikhs wanna idolize Bindranwale, then by all means do so, but he does have some skeletons in the closet, he wznt exactly the greatest person.Even in the doc, one of the people who were present at the times of the attack said that bindranwale was smiling and laughing in the middle of all the death and destruction. When Guru Nanak Ji had even heard of som1 dying he would go into mourning for the lost soul and herez a supposed shaheed smiing while looking at all the dead corpses of the pilgrims. This was a personal journey about Sonia Deol, not an investigative doc, I think ppl shud keep dat in mind Wahe Guru Ji Ka Khalsa Wahe Guru Ji Ki Fateh

  6. jaggi says:

    the show was shocking sonia deol done a very bad job she just told that golden temple was attacked but there were 35 other gurdwara were also attack REALLY BOD JOBB!

  7. jaggi says:

    the show was shocking sonia deol done a very bad job she just told that golden temple was attacked but there were 35 other gurdwara were also attack REALLY BOD JOBB!

  8. Bhagwant Singh says:

    Come on folks stop criticising start doing something positive. Just becsue something does not match your perspective of things it does not mean that you should be asking for blood. If you know better go tell your story. If someone beleives you then it is your good fortune. Stop moaning about what some else have done. Go out there and do a better job if you can. If not go and learn being a Sikh, a learner, you might jsut succeed.

  9. Bhagwant Singh says:

    Come on folks stop criticising start doing something positive. Just becsue something does not match your perspective of things it does not mean that you should be asking for blood. If you know better go tell your story. If someone beleives you then it is your good fortune. Stop moaning about what some else have done. Go out there and do a better job if you can. If not go and learn being a Sikh, a learner, you might jsut succeed.

  10. Raj Thakur says:

    Quite frankly

  11. Raj Thakur says:

    Quite frankly, I am deeply offended by this documentary. It completely neglected the fact that bhindranwale and his radical men have been murdering hindus in the years preceding 1984, as well as any sikhs who did not sympathise with his views.

    Why paint sikhs as innocent? What injustice are they crying about before 1984? If hindus have an agenda to wipe out sikhs from the entire subcontinent, do you we can’t do it overnight? Bloody liars. If the army (just a few thousands) can put Punjab under lockdown, imagine what will happen if every hindu in the country joined hands and attacked sikhism? Where does it say that Hinduism is about destroying sikhs? Don’t kid me. If we wanted to do that, there wouldn’t be a single sikh alive. Hindus gave asylum to the world’s most persecuted community – the jews. When sikh students were murdered in Australia, look at how many hindus supported them. How many sikhs do you see in those protests?

    The same sikhs who label hindus collectively as cowards, are the same cowards who hide behind their laptops abroad. If you have to balls, or you want to show off like bhindranwale, come to India and talk. You didn’t forget 1984..and I haven’t forgotten 1978-2011. Not only have you murdered innocent hindus and denied it ever happened, but you are attempting to destroy the name of india abroad. This is unforgivable. We have seen religion destroying many innocent lives in 1948 and in 1978-1984. I do not want to see a repeat. However, if you sikhs want to propagate anti-indian hatred, i will not hesitate to participate in any violence. Now I understand why the Hindu youth of 1984 reacted. After taking shit from sikhs for years, there comes a time when one must stand up and say enough is enough. Let no one take advantage of me for being non-violent.

    And you think we’re cowards? That you saved “India” from moghuls? hahaha don’t make me laugh. Sikhs were part of punjab and were responsible for defending their soil and defeating the moghuls who ruled it. What about the moghuls who ruled the rest of India? Have you not heard of the Hindu Marathas? The Hindu Rajputs? etc. And did you forget about all those Hindu Dogras and Rajputs who were hired by the sikh armies? What is the origin of people like Mair Rajputs in punjab? You bloody ignorant bastards. You think we’re cowards? Then why are you hiding abroad when you can come talk to our face in India?

    Sonia Deol – the ending in your documentary is the worst I have seen. Those blood stains on the golden temple’s walls you say are impossible to forget. I will never forget what you started in me. You have ignited a new flame sonia. A flame in those khalistani terrorists hiding abroad, and a flame in me and other hindus alike. I have had enough of people like you assassinating my religion, my country and my people. You called us cowards- when you make the first move, don’t be surprised if you see a retaliation. This time, everything you said is in black and white, and you will be nothing but a joke to the international community if you go crying for support after instigating violence. No one will support a liar. No one will support a terrorist. I will never view another sikh as my brother again. Never.

    JAI HIND !!!!

    HINDUSTAN ZINDABAD !!!!

    • Jasbeer Singh says:

      You know nothing if anything bad had happened to Hindus in Punjab before June 1984…With the your thoughts above ..u r fully eligible to join RSS , shive Sena and various others in line..

      I would advise dig deep into history…defininately it would change your present thinking..

      dogras marathas I’m not sure if joined sikh armies..but they could have joined Mougals aswell. why they didn’t join them?..

      Again..i would advise dig deep into history .facts are says somthing else.. With RTI I beleive u can find if any hindu were killed in punjab prior to 1984….

      -INDU (indus Valley) -STAN (persian word means Place).. Jindabad!!

  12. RS Sandhu says:

    I am pro-Khalistani, not because I am against Hindus, but because I am pro-Sikh. Sikhism teaches us to respect all, regardless of race, religion or gender. What I am against, however, is Brahmins. Hindus are just people who have been leashed by Brahmins and have been brainwashed into supporting and fighting for them. I am against Brahminism, not Hinduism.

    What is Hinduism? It is a set of "vedic" beliefs which have arisen from India, but have no defined text or rules by which you are obliged to live your life. The core vedic belief of karma is incommon to all vedic religions – Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and spirituality. One can meditate, focus on God, interpret an idol, lifeform etc. as a creation of God etc, which you Hindus worship to show your respect for God. Hinduism really, is freedom to choose what you want to believe, accepting Karma as your central core value.

    What is Brahminism? It is a social tool used by brahmins (who are originally from the area between Kashmir, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh – as indicated by their facial features, DNA, and the places they deem to be sacred in their religious texts e.g. Varanasi, Panipat, Sarawati River etc.). It is a tool by which they brainwashed innocent people and manipulated those in power through intimidation (that they will suffer a terrible rebirth as an untouchable if they don't comply) and false assurance that they will receive protection from God (by claiming that as priests, they are connected to God and know the secret mantras to call for God's protection), and spiritual elevation (through the poojas they perform). Why did they divide society into castes?
    1. To maintain power
    2. To maintain racial.ethnic purity (which they lost through raping innocent women for "religious" purposes e.g. devdasis)
    3. To exploit naive people and live a life of luxury by getting them to do peasant work and giving their offerings to the temple to go to God, when we all know that God doesn't need your stupid money when he can create the universe.
    4. To receive protection, so that they can continue their reign of terror.
    How does this relate to caste you might ask? This it Brahminism's promotion of inequality:
    1. Brahmins – priest – sit in temples, collect money, collect gold, collect offerings off other people's heard labour, sing hyms, rape women, do kamasutra, etc etc.
    2. Kshatriyas – warrior- used to protect brahmins, who in exchange, will give them God's "blessings" for courage, muscle, status. They were used to establish contact with the lower castes, so that Brahmins didn't have to directly deal with them.
    3. Vaishyas – business – used to liase with "shudras"/peasants and "untouchables"/dalits, so that they will touch all the raw materials and do the dirty work, and these vaishyas will make it into a clean presentable form and give it to the brahmins or use it for trade. If they have a problem, the Kshatriyas will step in and protect the brahmins.
    4. Shudras – peasants – collect raw material (e.g. wood, metal, clay) etc. from the earth or farm crop from the earth – a so-called "dirty" work. They will do all physical work which the lazy upper castes won't have to do. Once they're done, the upper castes will live off their produce.
    5. Untouchables – Branded as outcastes. They are usually the aboriginal people of the land. If they wanted to join in with society, they had to do the dirtiest jobs -dealing with waste (human waste, animal waste, their dead bodies, their skin for leather etc. etc.). They were forced to believe that if they didn't do it with their hearts, god is watching them and will punish them in their next life again.
    Who ultimately benefited from all this? The Brahmins did.

    • RS Sandhu says:

      I view Hindus as people who were unfortunately brainwashed by the Brahmins. They are even scared to convert to other religions, like Christianity, Sikhism, Jainism, Buddhism etc. for fear of discrimination or rebirth as untouchables. This is pure manipulation by the brahmins. The Brahmins have used society to dance to their tunes. They (the Kashmiri Pandits) have backstabbed our Sikh Gurus. The Nehru-Gandhis are again Kashmiri Brahmins who brainwashed Hindus into attacking my Sikh community, while they sit back and enjoy their power. These Brahmins were all about power. When they're in power, they will retain it by only keeping other Brahmins up there – look at every parliament in India, look at India's cricket team etc. They are all Brahmins.

      Tell me now..who in their right mind should let this continue? Why should Sikhs be happy to work for Brahmins? We are the ones who feed India. What do we get back in return? Nothing. These Brahmins enjoy the fruits of our hard labour, as they have done so for centuries. Why? Because people let them. If you wish to be a "Hindu", which today, means "Brahmin slave", then that is your choice to be part of India. My loyalty is not to Brahmins, but to Waheguru. This is the reason I am pro-Khalistani. I cannot watch my people being torn to pieces by inequality promoted by brahmins, and allowing them to be attacked by brainwashed hindus/brahmin slaves. Sikhism treats all humans equally. There is no such thing as becoming impure by marrying a low caste, or having misfortune because a female was born, or to be ashamed of who you are because you don't have "sharma" in your name.

      Many Sikhs have given their blood selflessly, to protect these manipulative Brahmin snakes, right from the kashmiri pandits during the days of our Gurus, to modern India where Sikhs still make up a major portion of the army. Instead of acknowledging Sikhs as a good example, it is unfortunate that hindus choose to live under brahmin rule – don't deny this, because we all have seen it with the events of 1984.

      Bhindranwale was a Saint. His heart was entirely on Sikhism. His life was on spreading Sikhism, to help people live a better life and to remove injustice from society. When the greedy Brahmin politicians thought they can take advantage of him and enslave him, just like they did the rest of the country, tell me why Sant should surrender to them? I am proud of his assertiveness. His war was never against Hindus, but against injustice. If India was truly democratic, then Sikhs would have a right to practice our religion without having our temples attacked or scriptures burnt by jealous Brahmins. We have a right to not follow Brahminism. If we don't, then we are not Indians. This is what Khalistan is about – a land of purity – a land for the Khalsa – a land free of enslavement by Brahmins or attacks from brainwashed Hindus under Brahmin control.

  13. KAM says:

    at LEAST Sonia Deol has got the braveness and guts to host a show like this. I do not see many other Sikh people trying to put their thoughts across to the nation. Albeit not correct and maybe a soppy programme we have to give her some credit for trying.

    Yes she should not have used a traitor to help with this documentry however al things a side how many sikh people actully try to educate instead of slating yet another sikh sonia deol maybe someone should educate her slightly not use traitors like the fake BHJWA to our sikh comunity.

    However i learnt things from this programme that i never knew before but at the same time highly ennoyed that she used BHAJWA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  14. casey says:

    The 1984 anti-Sikh riots or the 1984 Sikh Massacre or the 1984 genocide of Sikhs was a series of pogroms directed against Sikhs in India, by anti-Sikh mobs, most notably by members of the Congress party, in response to the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

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