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Article written by Tarlochan SIngh - Press Secretary to Giani Zail SinghPress Secretary to President Giani Zail Singh in 1984. Former Member of Parliament from Haryana, Tarlochan Singh has served as the Chairman of National Commission for Minorities, been a member of the National Human Rights Commission and has tremendous work for the benefit of Sikhs around the world to his credit. I clearly remember on 31 October 1984, I was in Sanaa, the capital of North Yemen, as part of the official delegation of the state visit of the President of India. Early in the morning, a telephone call came from Air Vice Marshal R.S. Naidu, the Military Secretary to the President of India, that everybody has to reach the airport as the President had cancelled the State visit and was going back to India. When we reached the airport, the President also reached after some time along with the President of Yemen. Aboard the Air India aircraft, I immediately went to the cabin of Gianiji and there he told me that Shri Alexander, who was the Principal Secretary of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, had called him to inform that the PM had been shot by her bodyguards and she has been taken to the hospital. Nothing more was disclosed to Gianiji. After coming out of the President’s cabin, I briefed the media contingent about the happenings in New Delhi. Prabhu Chawla, Sardar Satinder Singh, Inderjit and other journalists started forming their opinions. Prabhu Chawla and Satinder Singh said Indira Gandhi must have died, as she was shot from a close range by her bodyguards. Gianiji discussed the future course of action with his Secretary and Romesh Bhandari, the then Foreign Secretary. Gianiji had made up his mind to appoint Shri Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister and he disclosed this to the journalists. As there was no facility of telephone in the aircraft during those days, no further information was forthcoming. The special aircraft of the President landed at Delhi airport at 16:00 hrs. From airport, he went straight to AIIMS with the normal convoy of officers following him. The security on the route was less than expected. My car was fourth in the convoy of the President and when we were passing through RK Puram, some miscreants were seen shouting slogans. They immediately rushed towards our car and started hitting it with lathis and even threw a burning torch inside the car. However, my alert driver threw it out and drove the car out of harm’s way towards Rashtrapati Bhawan. I was saved with the grace of Akaal Purkh. No policeman came to help us at that time. When Gianiji returned to his car after looking up Shrimati Indira Gandhi, slogans were being raised against him and the mob was closing in on his car .The President’s security could clear the way for his car with great difficulty. Immediately after reaching the Rashtrapati Bhawan, he asked for the Vice President R. Venkataraman and requested him to go to All India Radio to announce the death of Shrimati Indira Gandhi. At 18:00 hrs, Shri Rajiv Gandhi was administered the oath of Prime Minister, along with four other Cabinet Ministers, including Buta Singh. At about 20:00 hrs, I started receiving telephone calls that anti-Sikh mobs were on a rampage targeting Sikhs and their properties. I immediately went to Gianiji’s room and his daughter Dr Gurdip Kaur and Sardar Kulwant Singh, his private secretary were already there. He was surprised initially, but when the complete report was given to him, the seriousness of the situation dawned upon him. I came back to my house and throughout the night, I kept getting reports of atrocities against Sikhs. In the morning, I was informed by Kulwant Singh that Gianiki kept trying to get in touch with the newly-appointed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi till late night, but in vain. This was very surprising, as a few hours ago he had been administered the oath of the PM by him. This fact was recently confirmed by Dr Gurdip Kaur, the daughter of the President, as she was present at the Rashtrapati Bhawan when the situation was unfolding. She also confirmed that the President felt helpless. The next day the situation became worse as there was large scale genocide of Sikhs and destruction of their home and properties. The situation in the outer areas was worst and the rage had spread even to the posh areas of Delhi. The Sikhs were attacked very systematically and burnt alive. The historians compared it with the genocide under Nadir Shah’s rule centuries back in Delhi. The gurdwaras in the colonies were burnt down and the police was nowhere to be seen. The police was assisting the mob in targeting Sikhs and was seen to be attacking Sikhs who were defending themselves. I remember that I.K. Gujral, Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh and General J.S. Arora had come to the Rashtrapati Bhawan and painted a very grim picture. They asked for the intervention of the President and also met the Home Minister P.V. Narsimha Rao. The whole government was busy with the funeral arrangements of Shrimati Indira Gandhi and nobody bothered about the Sikhs. Even the Sikhs belonging to Congress Party were attacked while on way to Teen Murti Bhawan to pay their last respects to Shrimati Indira Gandhi. Same day, Gurdwara Rakab Ganj was also attacked and granthis killed and all this was visible from the Rashtrapati Bhawan. Even though the situation was so grim, the Army was not summoned before evening and that too the government called the Army from Meerut and not from Delhi Cantt. It arrived the next day on 2nd November 1984 and, till date it is not clear as to who was responsible for the delay. I remember that in that hour of difficulty, BJP leaders V.K. Malhotra and Madan Lal Khurana had met the President and told him that Sikh passengers were being dragged out and killed at Saifabad and Ghaziabad railway stations. Malhotraji took team of volunteers to Saifabad and saved many Sikhs. For three days, Delhi was orphaned and there was no sign of law and order. Thousands of Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and at other places in India only because they were wearing turbans. Many Sikh army officers and other rank officers were also killed in trains and other places. This cruel reality cannot be forgotten and there are many unanswered questions: Why were innocent massacred? Why did the police connive with the mob? Why was the army not called immediately? Who were the conspirators in the genocide of Sikhs? We are still waiting for the answers! www.lokmarg.com
I thought Sikh organisations were planning huge publicity drive to highlight what happened in amristar at sri harmandir sahib in 1984. And to try and pressure the UK govt to release more classified secret documents in regards to its involvement and collusion in an act of state terrorism against Sikhs and Indian civilians. All I see is coverage against China and tianamin square crackdown in 1989 yet hardly any chinese are speaking out against china in countries aboard or in china. Sikhs have been consistantly asking UN and western countries for help and support. Last year saw 30,000+ Sikhs come down to demonstrate in London in june against Indian govt and seek justice for 1984. Yet slience from UK govt, UN and western countries in general. Where is that publicity drive? Where is that coverage from major newspapers, news media channels? and NGO's? There are so many Sikhs working in professional bodies are they all asleep that is the 30th year anniversary and no coverage in the mainstream media so far?