We shall overcome !


Dehradun, India, 31st October 1984: It is one of the darkest memories of my childhood. I was 16 but perhaps turned 61 that day, in terms of my apathy towards the politicians.

By the afternoon, the news of Indira Gandhi’s assassination had spread like wild fire. Grieved and disturbed, Biji my grandmother, felt as if she had lost her younger sister and wanted to share her sorrow with a larger number of people, as she always believed in ‘Vasudeva Kutumbakam’- the whole world is one family. Maybe this also became as personal to her as the grief she felt when her husband, a popular leader of Lahore Congress, was assassinated at the time of Partition. Old wounds, were being scratched and she was restless. She asked me to join her in the march to Congress House at Rajpur Road, Dehradun where the ‘Shok Sabha’- the mourning assembly, was being held.

We walked all the way, joined by many others, who were perhaps sharing the same feelings. What I saw there would scar my memory for ever.

Slowly the public present was turned into a riotous mob by a selection of small and big leaders of Congress, all trying to compete with each other in using the most inciting words they could muster in the name of ode to the departed soul and ensuring that her sacrifice does not go waste.

And then the mob erupted. First it threw stones and then burnt the Hotel right in front, owned by a Sikh family, shouting and spreading hatred, being led by the so called leaders of Congress. Then it spread and continued with its journey to torture, hurt and perhaps, if possible, kill the identified enemy.

I was standing shell shocked and when one man asked me to pick up a stone and throw, I knew how easy it was to arose the animal inside. Biji and I, walked away from the scene as we could not take it anymore. The Police and administration- they just stood and watched.

What followed was a period of riots, though not as murderous in Dehradun, since the city still belonged to the educated elite who had the courage to control such instincts.

Yet in Delhi and in many places, all over India, where the bigger leaders of Congress like Tytler, HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and their likes, could instigate and manipulate the mob, a genuine sorrow was converted into a mass hysteria leading to death of thousands of its devoted, innocent citizens and a massive scar in the face of modern India. All this from a party which had non-violence as its guiding principle.

What about the administration? The leader could just muster a perverse slogan- “When a giant tree falls, earth shakes”. Delhi and many places in India were a free for all territory for days where goons ruled and mother India cried.

Unfortunately the mob can be easily made to rise, by perverted politicians and religious leaders of India whenever they want. Such is the power of religion and politics in India.

But when the judiciary and entire administration, becomes the tail which wags to such leaders, be it Sajjan Kumar or Modi or their brothers-in-arms, the country becomes a banana republic.

Today with Sajjan Kumar declared free and innocent through a botched up investigation, my heart goes out to the victims and their families, who would have seen justice being denied to them for not one, hundred or thousand, but MORE THAN 10,000 DAYS !

The system breeds and supports evil. And then we feel call it foul when people misbehave. Or seek revenge!

But what is the solution? Another battle cry? Getting tangled in the claws of secessionist forces  and a call for another division in the name of religion and language? No, definitely the time for such an idea has passed and the Sikhs who have been the pillars on which India was founded, have themselves shed it to pieces.

The solution does not lie in breaking away, but in joining forces together. Citizens of India where ever they live, activists, media, judiciary, educated elite and all who care, need to rise and say that we care and we cannot accept this to continue.

We need to clearly send a message to Sajjans and Tytlers and Modis that your agenda is not our agenda and your victory is our loss.

While my thoughts and prayers go to the families of the people who lost their loved ones, saw their world coming to an end and still fought in the hope of getting justice, which now has been denied to them, yet they need to remember that India and Indians are made of a vast number of people who are equally pained at the injustices of the system and stand by them at all times in their grief.

I still look up to the spirit of my grandmother, Biji, widowed at the young age of 31 by a Muslim mob in Lahore, who refused to hate and made a Muslim lady, as much a part of her family as her own daughter.

That is an India, we all carry in our hearts, where ever we go.

Posted in Times of India on 14th May 2013. Link below-



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