1984: While Delhi Burned
The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 rank as one of the worst instances of communal violence in the world. For something like that to have happened in that day and age and in a country like India, was abysmal. Twenty-one years later, the issue still has not got closure, and perhaps never will till the generation that got affected by it will pass on. That the whole situation was politically induced is no surprise. At the same time, scumbags like Buta Singh are still floating around, makes me wonder, if we as a country are going the same way America is….in that…public memory is so short, that it does not matter in the scheme of things.
A little while ago I had written about the joke that is called Buta Singh.
Today I came across a very good article by the author Amitav Ghosh on the 1984 riots.
The scene my memory preserved is of a moment when it seemed inevitable that we would be attacked.
Rounding a corner, we found ourselves facing a crowd that was larger and more determined-looking that any other crowds that we had encountered. On each previous occasion, we had prevailed by marching at the thugs and engaging them directly, in dialogues that turned quickly into extended shouting matches. In every instance, we had succeeded in facing them down. But this particular mob was intent on confrontation. As its members advanced on us, brandishing knives and steel rods, we stopped. Our voices grew louder as they came towards us; a kind of rapture descended on us, exhilaration in anticipation of a climax. We braced for the attack, leaning forward as though into a wind.
And then something happened that I have never completely understood. Nothing was said; there was no signal, nor was there any break in the rhythm of our chanting. But suddenly all women in our group – and the women made up more than half of the group’s numbers – stepped out and surrounded the men; their saris and kameezes became thin, fluttering barrier, a wall around us. They turned to face the approaching men, challenging them, daring them to attack.
The thugs took a few more steps toward us and then faltered, confused. A moment later, they were gone.