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1984: when brutal barbarians roamed and death danced.

Image from Outlook Magazine

Memories are terrible things. Ethereal and intangible but potent enough to spoil the reality. This is what is happening today. Today is Dhanteras, the day for worshiping the Wealth or Gods of wealth. Diwali is a festival of celebration of wealth. Happy Dhanteras to all.

Remembering 1984:

On 31 Oct 1984, Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India, was killed by her own body guards. The news spread like wild-fire. Special editions of news paper were published. I came to know from one such news paper. That road was strewn with torn newspapers carrying news and pictures of Indira. Roads were getting deserted. By late evening it was revealed that some Sikh pedestrians or bikers were roughed up by unknown mobs at various places.

Economy of riots:

Next day i.e. 1st Nov. 1984, we woke up to see mobs in hundreds pounding at the gates of a neighborhood Sikh family. The couple was away but all their goods were plundered by the mob. There was no police. Calling 100 the emergency police Number resulted in engaged tone. This continued for three days. Mobs would attack and plunder the houses of Sikhs. Fortunately, in that locality no one was hurt. The moment mob was seen, neighbors took their Sikh neighbors into their homes or from one terrace to another. But it was not the same elsewhere.
In massacre that took place in next three days took lives of thousands of Sikhs.
Next day on 2nd, we searched the number of army head quarter and called them for help. They responded that they have dispatched help and their trucks are just a Kilometer away awaiting instructions from civilian administration to respond. I still wonder why the respondent was so honest?
It was only on the fourth day that army patrol begin and things calm down.
All these days we were ourselves almost trembling with fear as to when the mob may turn to us. After all Punjabi ethnic names/surnames are same except for Singh. But mob had identified targets and they swept the streets with precision and professionalism.

Who were the mob:

This is the most difficult part and the reason why I am writing this today. The mob consisted mainly of servants, scullion, migrant labourers, drivers etc. All those ‘have nots’ who until the other day were taking orders from us or perhaps even those whose houses they plundered. For three days there was no governance. Complete anarchy.

It is always same everywhere. USA had over a decade back on racial discrimination and UK also had on similar grounds. But reasons are inventions of mind. Riots are initiated by vested interest, led by few criminals who step aside and thereafter it is carried on by greed especially of poor people who suddenly see opportunity to posses things they could only dream of.
It is impossible to orchestrate riots without the help of police or at least a part of it. We all see one policeman or the other everyday but those three days, there was none to be seen. Curfew was imposed but helped only mobs as there was no policeman. Till date nobody could explain, where had they gone.

Fear:

Fear is neither founded in fact nor truth nor reality. Fear feeds on inability of action. So long mind is occupied in one action or the other, fear remains buried but erupts at every pause. Those three days were days of unseen freight. As a young boy, my parents were consoling me with wrong information. They were telling what worse they had seen in 1947 riots of partition. It did not help that young boy, back then. It does not help this grown man now either.

Epilogue:

There is a reason for remembering rather licking old wounds.Today is Dhanteras. A day of worshiping the wealth or its God.

Riots are something that happen everywhere. Whatever may be the cause of origin, eventually it becomes a plunder by have nots. We may like to accept that the fact that poverty in some form will always be there and accumulation is law of nature (though that is fantastic!). But if we do, we be prepared for being vulnerable to those who do not have and are virtually sitting at fence to enter our world. The security, order and peace in life, we so gracefully discuss over drinks is only as far away as a poor and hungry is from next stone he finds and the moments when he overcomes his humanity.

(2)

English: The saree Indira Gandhi wore at the t...

English: The saree Indira Gandhi wore at the time of her death (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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About Sandeep Bhalla

A lawyer, thinker, author, Linux/Ubuntu power user but often an economist or gardener or philosopher or cook or photographer depending upon the current thought and environment. View all posts by Sandeep Bhalla

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