20 years after the November 84 massacre of people of the Sikh faith

The struggle to punish the guilty must be continued without let-up!

Let us work for a clean break with the colonial legacy!

November 1, 2004 marks 20 years after the barbaric state-organised communal massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, Kanpur and other places.

The struggle to punish the guilty must be continued without let-up!

Let us work for a clean break with the colonial legacy!

November 1, 2004 marks 20 years after the barbaric state-organised communal massacre of Sikhs in Delhi, Kanpur and other places. With voters’ lists in their hands, and the full support of the police forces, mobs led by Congress Party leaders went about setting fire to the homes of people of Sikh faith in slums and resettlement colonies, Gurudwaras, commercial centres as well as in middle class areas. They set people on fire, humiliated them, raped the women and carried out the most bestial crimes with the full support and participation of the state machinery. Innocent people of Sikh faith travelling in trains in different parts of country, particularly in Northern India, were pulled out and burnt alive. Rumours were spread that "Sikhs had distributed laddus on hearing the news of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's assassination". Rumours were spread that "Sikhs had poisoned the water in the wells". As people of Sikh faith, including Generals, journalists and others demanded police action and protection, they were insulted and humiliated and told in no uncertain terms that the state was organising the pogroms.

After the cold blooded state organised massacre sponsored by those in power, a delegation of prominent Sikhs headed by the late Charanjit Chanana actually had to plead with the newly anointed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi that Sikhs were loyal to the Indian state and desired its "protection"!   Rajiv Gandhi publicly justified the communal pogrom saying, "when a big tree falls, the earth will shake".  With the call of "Hindi, Hindu, Hindustan", he led the Congress party's biggest sweep in the ensuing elections in early 1985, held in an atmosphere of violence and terror.   

Curfew was clamped, telephone lines were cut, news was suppressed and the army was deployed in the Punjab soon after the assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi on October 31, to prevent the people of Punjab from expressing their opinion on what was going on.  Following the practice established in colonial times, the army was deployed to prevent people from organising to oppose the gangster politicians and the police, who had orders to ensure that the victims were disarmed.

In the name of restoring order, the army was deployed in Delhi after three full days of mayhem and horrific acts committed against Sikhs.  It was deployed to prevent the communists and other democratic citizens from reaching out to the people and helping them organise their own self defence.

Slogan of defence of "national unity and territorial integrity"— platform for justifying the genocide of Sikhs

The defence of "national unity and territorial integrity" is the justification that the Indira Gandhi regime provided for suppressing the legitimate struggles of the peoples of Punjab, Assam, Manipur, Nagaland and other places. The army was sent in to destroy the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June, 1984; and army rule was established in Punjab. Rajiv Gandhi justified the massacre of Sikhs saying that this was in defence of "national unity and territorial integrity" of India.

Defence of “national unity and territorial integrity" has been the reason cited by the Indian bourgeoisie for the unbridled escalation of state terror in the last two decades. This slogan has been repeatedly used to organise and justify genocide against different nations, nationalities and tribes, as also against religious minorities. They have been used to justify attacking the human rights of Indian citizens.

These past 20 years have witnessed an escalation of state-organised communal massacres in the name of "fighting terrorism” and opposing "religious fundamentalism". Starting with the brutal massacre of people of the Sikh faith in November 1984, the brutal massacre of Muslims in 1992-93 following the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya, and the genocide unleashed against Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 – all reveal a consistent pattern.  They reveal the unmistakable hand of the ruling class and its state in the organisation of the communal pogroms.

Countless youth all over Punjab have simply disappeared in "encounters" or in police custody, their dead bodies unceremoniously dumped into rivers or burnt, while the state security forces claimed "success" in eliminating yet another "dreaded Sikh terrorist". Shoot-outs and "encounter" killings of Muslims, branded as "terrorists" have become routine in many parts of the country. Tens of thousands of people have been and are being slaughtered in Kashmir and thousands more in Manipur, Assam and other states of India by the Indian Army.

To justify the unbridled use of state terror, governments at the centre and in the states, have portrayed those resisting state terror as "terrorists".  They have turned the truth on its head, portraying the victims as the danger and the state as the saviour.  It is precisely this logic that has been used to justify the retention and use of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, National Security Act, TADA, POTA and other such draconian laws that negate even the most basic rights and freedoms of the people, including the amended UAPA (law introduced by the UPA government in place of POTA, which retains all the fascist features of POTA).

If facts are analysed dispassionately, it will reveal that the India big bourgeoisie and its political representatives who do not even recognise the existence of nations and nationalities within India.  They have used the slogan of defending "national unity and territorial integrity" only to suppress any organised dissent to their unrestricted plunder of the land, labour and resources of the peoples of the various nations, nationalities and tribes within India.  It is for this reason that in Punjab and Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland, Assam — everywhere the national aspirations of the peoples have been met with fire and sword of the central armed forces.  Armed might has been accompanied by the divisive politics of those in power, setting people against one another on the basis of religion and nationality, and then intervening in the name of restoring harmony.

The slogan of the ‘defence of national unity and territorial integrity’ is a slogan to justify the negation and oppression of the different nations, nationalities and tribal peoples of India who constitute the present day Indian Union.  Its aim is to deny them their sovereignty and their national rights. It is a slogan that is used to justify brutally trampling underfoot all efforts of the peoples of India to reconstitute the Indian Union as a voluntary union of consenting nations, nationalities and tribal peoples with the right to self determination, including secession.

The nation building exercise of the Indian bourgeoisie is in the colonial imperialist style of the Anglo-American imperialists.  It is based on the crushing of all nations, nationalities and tribes within India and denying them their identity and right to self-determination. This ‘national unity and territorial integrity’ is imposed through the power of the guns of the central state. It is through the crushing of the aspirations of the workers and peasants, women and youth of this multi-national state of continental proportions that the Indian bourgeoisie has preserved its rule and extended its domination..

It is on the corpses of countless people of the Sikh faith that the "modernisation program" of the Indian bourgeoisie was launched by Rajiv Gandhi.. Every stage in the unveiling of the ‘reform’ program of the Indian big bourgeoisie has been accompanied by bloody massacres, one worse than the other. The liberalisation and privatisation program unleashed by the Narasimha Rao regime in 1991 was followed closely by the destruction of the Babri masjid and the pogroms against muslims, while the ‘second generation reforms’ unleashed by the Vajpayee regime was accompanied by the dance macabre that has become Gujarat.  In both periods, the economic offensive has also been accompanied by wars and threats of wars with Pakistan.

The developments over the past 20 years reveal that the slogan of "defending national unity and territorial integrity”, and the slogan of "fighting terrorism and fundamentalism" go hand in hand with the drive of the Indian big bourgeoisie towards globalisation, through liberalisation and privatisation, in pursuit of its goal of becoming a big imperialist power.

What the past 20 years have clearly shown is that organising communal genocide is part of the preferred method of governance in India, institutionalised into the state apparatus. It is part of the arsenal of the Indian bourgeoisie in its anti-social offensive. Regardless of which party is in power – whether it is an alliance led by the Congress Party or an alliance led by the BJP, state terrorism and communal violence remain the reality, justified in the name of fighting terrorism and of defending the unity and integrity of India.

For every Narendra Modi there will be a corresponding Jagdish Tytler on the other side. The guilty will never be punished as long as the political process remains criminalised and dominated by such self-serving bourgeois parties that stop at nothing to grab and retain power in their hands.

Justification for the state terror and communal violence

In spite of all that has been revealed in this short span of twenty years, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) continue to be the most ardent defenders of the ‘unity and integrity’ platform of the Indian ruling bourgeoisie. Whether it is Kashmir or Manipur, Assam or Nagaland, both the CPI and CPI(M) think and act in unison with the chauvinist outlook and colonial policy of the big bourgeoisie.  They repeat the chauvinist slogan of the bourgeoisie to justify suppressing the rights and struggles of the nations and nationalities within India, denying peoples their right to sovereignty.

It cannot be forgotten that in the 1980s the CPI and CPI(M) assisted the Indian bourgeoisie and its political representatives, led by  Indira Gandhi and then Rajiv Gandhi, to confuse the working class and people about the true situation in Punjab and the issues underlying the conflict and turmoil there.  Instead of organising the workers and peasants to wage a united struggle against the bourgeoisie, they acted in the opposite direction, contributing to line up the workers and peasants of India behind the bourgeoisie. They repeated from the rooftops the slogan of defending national unity and territorial integrity and blamed the Sikhs and "fundamentalism" as the source of the problem. Army rule in Punjab, the destruction of the Golden Temple, the subsequent reign of terror in Punjab and other parts of the country—all this had the support of the CPI(M) and the CPI. They justified the violation of human rights most blatantly and called upon the working class to defend the very state that was raining death and destruction on them.

All facts of the November 1984 massacre as well as subsequent massacres of people in different parts of India reveals the hand of the ruling class, its state machinery and the major parties contending for power. They also reveal that these are not communal massacres in the sense of the people of one community getting together to kill people of another community, but state-organised targeted massacres of definite peoples.

Even before the reality had unfolded itself to the broad masses of people, the Communist Ghadar Party of India declared, right in those bloody and riotous days of November 1984, that it was not any ‘Hindus’ who were killing Sikhs but those in power who were using the state to organise the massacre and humiliation of people of the Sikh faith.  We boldly opposed and criticised the outlook and approach of the CPI and CPI (M), who were calling on the people to defend and rely on the ‘secular foundations’ of the Indian State and its Constitution.  We criticised this line for spreading harmful illusions about the communal state, which is a colonial legacy.  We criticised the leaders of these parties for conciliating with the colonial and bourgeois lie that the Indian people, and some extremists among them, are to be blamed for the communal killings..

According to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the threat of communal violence comes from the BJP and its allies; and if these parties are kept out of power, then the danger of communal violence will not be there. This is the biggest lie, as the history of pre and post independence India reveals that communal massacres have been repeatedly organised when the ‘secular’ British were in power as well as when the ‘secular’ Congress Party has been in power. The aim of this lie is to prettify the Indian state and prevent the workers and peasants from seeking out and uprooting the root of communal violence, which is the rule of the bourgeoisie and the entire colonial legacy, including the capitalist system of plunder and its democracy that is designed to exclude the majority from power.

Colonial legacy

The Indian people must never forget that this country was born out of a bloody partition in 1947, in which millions of people of all faiths were slaughtered, mainly in the then Punjab, Bengal and Assam, but also in other places. Rape, loot and murder were the order of the day. Over ten million people had to leave their homes and belongings and go to another land.

The British colonialists deliberately divided the Indian people according to religion, and concocted the thesis that India consisted of warring communities of Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs. They encouraged the newly emerging Indian bourgeoisie to organise itself on communal lines and played one section against the other in order to keep colonial rule intact. They concentrated their fire on the revolutionaries who were fighting to free India from colonial rule. Whenever their rule was under threat, they set their toadies in various communities and in motion, to inflame communal passions, and then went about systematically organising communal massacres while preaching tolerance and harmony. The communal massacres that were organised in August 1947 by the British colonialists and their Indian agents were aimed at partitioning the country and ensuring that independence was not accompanied with a social revolution. The states that were set up in India and Pakistan, and later on in Bangladesh, did not make a break with the colonial legacy. Instead, they were created in the image of the colonial state.

The Indian state is organised along communal lines. The 1950 Constitution was written by a communally elected Constituent Assembly; and it explicitly divides Indians along communal lines. The army, the police and the bureaucracy are also organised along communal lines. The parliamentary parties organise their vote banks along communal lines. Communal massacres are regularly organised to divide, disorient and paralyse the masses of workers, peasants and other middle strata of society; and to advance the program of the bourgeoisie.

The Constitution adopted on January 26, 1950, denies the existence of nations, nationalities and tribal peoples within India, and their respective rights.  It does not recognise the human rights of people, including their right to conscience, and their national rights.

What the past 20 years have clearly shown is that since communal genocide happens to be a preferred method of rule that is institutionalised as part of the Indian state, the guilty are never punished, regardless of which party is in power. The existing state power and political arrangements in India, far from providing protection to all citizens, are themselves the biggest danger to the security of the people and their right to conscience. The struggle against communalism and communal violence must therefore be directed to transform this state power, to end the colonial legacy of a state that divides the polity on communal lines. It must be directed at transforming the existing political process, which enables parties in power to organise communal genocide for their narrow political ends and get away with it.

Workers and peasants, women and youth, organised in their collectives to actively fight the forces of communalism and defend the unity of the people, are the only reliable force that can counter state-organised communal violence in India today.   Committees for defending the lives and dignity of the people and for affirming their rights can and must be built and strengthened as organs of struggle today, and as potential mechanisms for the people to exercise power in the future.

The peoples of different nations, nationalities and tribes, the people who are targets of state organised communal and fascist terror, need to unite around a modern vision of India and dare to transform this vision into reality. We must fight to reorganise the Indian Union as a voluntary union of consenting nations, nationalities and tribal peoples, with each enjoying the right to self-determination including secession, guaranteed in the fundamental law. We need to reconstitute India so that human rights of all are guaranteed, including the right to conscience.  All members of society must be free to exercise their right to conscience, to follow the religious or non-religious beliefs of one’s choice, without being discriminated against.

The present system marginalises people from political power and vests political power with the bourgeoisie and their political parties. We need to renew the political system and process so that political power vests with workers and peasants, women and youth of the different nations, nationalities and tribal peoples of India.

One of the key aspects of this worker-peasant program for the democratic renewal of India consists of reforms in the political process to restrict and end the monopoly of the so-called recognised national parties.  If workers and peasants have to actually become the rulers and decision makers, then the supreme power to make decisions cannot be handed over to a political party at the end of every election, as is the case today.  Nor can the right to select the candidates be left in the hands of criminal parties and their ‘high command’ or politburo.  We must demand changes such as, for instance, taking the right to select candidates out of the hands of political parties and placing it in the hands of local sabhas and elected committees established among the electorate. We must set our target as the establishment of a system and political process where people do not vote for this or that party to rule, but parties enable the people to exercise power and rule themselves.

The Communist Ghadar Party of India calls upon the workers, peasants, women and youth, to step up the struggle for the building of a new India – based on making a clean break with the legacy of colonialism. This will be the lasting contribution to the victims of the genocide of 1984. This is the way to ensure that the demand of the people that the guilty be punished is actually fulfilled, and for the desire of our long suffering peoples for an India free from communal violence to become a reality.

Share and Enjoy !


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *