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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Stark Contrast

This is about two events, A and B, which took place in a country called India. Actually, both comprised a series of events, but these have been considered as single entities here, for the purpose of comparison. A large number of innocent people were killed in both these violent occurrences. That, however, is where the similarity ends. These were different in ways that include the following :

1. While A occurred only a few days ago, B occurred about 24 years ago.

2. While less than 200 people were killed in A, more than 4000 were killed in B.

3. While most of the victims in A were shot dead, in B some were hacked to death, while others were burnt alive after their hands having been tied behind their backs, their bodies drenched with kerosene and burning tyres put around their necks. The women-folk amongst the victims were, in the latter case, forced to watch the male members of their families being killed, including young children, after which they were raped and then killed. Some of the youngest victims were tossed in the air, to be killed by falling on to sharp-edged weapons like spears.

4. The victims of event A mostly included those present in the hotels and the railway station under attack, but during event B, people were dragged out of their own homes to be killed, after which their houses were set on fire.

5. While the police force fought hard against the killers in A, in event B it was either inactive or, in some cases, even assisted the killers by blocking the victims' possible escape routes.

6. While the army was called in within hours of the attacks having begun in the case of event A, it was called in after several days of the commencement of event B, in order to give the killers a free run for that long, even though it acted in an unbiased manner, once it was sent into the affected areas. It is a different matter, however, that there was not much left for it to do.

7. Whereas 9 out of the 10 killers in the case of event A have been shot dead and the remaining one arrested, nearly all of the killers in the case of event B are still at large.

8. While the alleged masterminds of A are said to be located outside India and are sought to be captured at the earliest, even if that involves launching attacks on a neighbouring country, those for B are all present within India and yet none of them have been brought to justice over the past 24 years. As a matter of fact, some of them have been legislators and even cabinet ministers in the government of India during that period.

Some of them, ironically, are protected by the men of the same elite commando force i.e. National Security Guards (NSG), which was sent in to fight against the attackers in A. The political party that these alleged masterminds belong to, won a huge electoral victory in the general election that followed event B, almost as if it was being rewarded by large sections of India's population for its 'good work' that was widely perceived to have included the organisation of the massacre.

9. Following event A, the prime minister of India declared that such events are a threat to pluralistic societies, while the (then) prime minister of India said following event B, "Jab baRaa peyR girtaa hai toh dharti toh hilti hi hai." (When a large tree falls, the earth is bound to shake.).

10. Following event A, there has been a large-scale outpouring of grief by various sections of the general public in the form of demonstrations replete with banners, black arm-bands and plenty of slogan-shouting, in addition to candle-light marches, chain-letters circulated through email, etc., while very little of anything like that was in evidence after event B or for the 24 years that have gone by since then.

11. Whereas politicians are being criticised and even being abused following event A, the politicians perceived as being largely responsible for event B were able to build up a huge fan-following, on account of which, as mentioned above, they were able to win general elections with a huge margin of victory, soon after the violence.

12. One of the most prominent slogans that have been raised after event A is, "Enough (of terrorism) is enough!", but since there have hardly been any protests after event B, over the past 24 years, except by some of those belonging to the same community as the victims, there is no question of any such slogans having been raised. However, soon before event B, one of the slogans raised was, "Khoon ka badlaa khoon se laiNgay!" (We shall avenge blood with blood (of innocents who had nothing to do with the incident sought to be 'avenged')!)

Incidentally, if event A is substituted by any other instance of terrorist violence in India and event B is substituted by any other instance of communal riots in the country, the contrast is likely to remain almost as stark.

The foremost question that arises in my mind, in view of all of the above facts, can be summed up in one word i.e. why?

Update: March 7, 2009. Apparently, I am not the only one who has noticed the contrast. The following is an excerpt from a letter published on page 14 of the March 2009 issue of the Indian edition of the Reader's Digest:
"This country is known for its double standards. Orissa was targeted by our "in-house" terrorists and no one really cared about the innocent civilians who were burnt alive or about a nun who was gang raped in front of mute policemen. But when it comes to Mumbai being terrorized, every politician is playing his part and the whole nation is voicing its opinion."


Sidhusaaheb said...

Dont we know why?
Because these are named and famed, irrespective of religions, those were name-less communities.
You have done a brilliant job in enumerating. I know how much pain goes into the making of this list. I wont say brilliant post therefore.
God bless you.
MP | Homepage | 12.10.08 – 11:35 am | #


i would like to see people like Modi answer that question. he’ll easily do it with a straight face, no doubt.
roo | 12.10.08 – 11:18 pm | #


very well written !

Sad reminder of the events.
Anonymous | 12.11.08 – 5:47 am | #


Well written.
Only wish the politicians could be less selfish and the common people not that dumb.
spontaneous mini | Homepage | 12.11.08 – 6:42 pm | #


A very important post. Thank you.

May I get your permission to publish it in the IHRO (International Human Rights Organisation) forum?

Please contact me at
Mai Harinder Kaur | Homepage | 12.12.08 – 12:02 am | #


Please sir! Do not mix up the COMMUNAL RIOT and the TERRORIST act together. We all condemn the 1984 riot. And I personally express my deepest sorrow from my heart.

But I still believe the 26/11 and 31/10/1984 and aftermath was totally different, and the 31/10/1984 was totally unexpected. And they are SIKH that is why they never returns back the same to the others. That was peoples anger over the cross-border terrorism in Punjab. I think and the ‘hallat’ was such touchy, the time toll so many of our friends!

I salute the SIKHISIM that they not only just forget but in reality they forgive the Tytler type peoples. That is the Bagajat Singh sprit!

But the 26/11 was an act to against the nation not against any particular community! We always weaken over this, that is why Mughal’s and British ruled over us over years and years. I believe we and all the community will need to re-united over the terrorism, and that is the only way out to save the beautiful planet.

We should condemn and should stand together irrespective of Hindu, Mushlim, Sikh against terrorist and terrorist country or those supports the terrorism. To support the “Mukti Jodha” or support to the LTTE was NOT like fuelled the terrorism, but was something in a preventing or diplomatic policy.

Come-on be an Indian and stop criticize or mix-up the 1984 Oct-Nov with the 26/11 together. If some-one needs to be learn something and they should be and we are the nationals should take care about that.

We are NOT in fever of the WAR! But if it is required for the world peace, then it is!!!! And we should stand by that.

We are so touched with the PAK BNG or SRI that it is just not possible to just declared the war against as in any case we will lose some of our family members! It was not so easy decision to point the arrow to Kauravs, sir! That was most uncomfortable and difficult decision which Arjuna and Pandavs had taken ever to save the beautiful planet….

Please forgive my friend….

Biplab | 12.13.08 – 2:28 pm | #


Biplab ji –

Please do not confuse forgiveness with a willingness to forgo justice.

Some Sikhs forgive the Tytler types, some do not – cannot. Our religion does, of course, teach us to forgive. Some of us are farther along the path than others.

Whether forgiven or not, justice must prevail. Jagdish Tytler, Sajjan Kumar and all the rest of their cronies and minions must be brought to justice. Anything else is a slap in the face of our honoured shaheeds and the bereaved left behind.
Mai Harinder Kaur | Homepage | 12.13.08 – 10:50 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

well written sidhu…no answer to that why…its all linked to global politics and the power struggle somehow…

the sufferer of course is the common man…regardless of religion or race…
utp | Homepage | 12.14.08 – 2:37 pm | #


@Biplab: It seems like you do not have an answer to my question or the answer is too embarrassing for you to state publicly in a space that is accessible to people from around the world and, so, you do not want the question to be asked at all.

I have not mixed up COMMUNAL RIOTS and TERRORIST VIOLENCE in India. Rather, I have highlighted the different ways in which India, its government machinery and various sections of its people act during and after such events.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 12.14.08 – 4:07 pm | #


Very well written. History never fails to sadden me..
Jonathan | Homepage | 12.14.08 – 8:41 pm | #


Good post, sidhusaaheb.
Zakintosh | Homepage | 12.16.08 – 6:58 pm | #


Good show!!

I recently started a blog of mine. I would love it if you would add me to your blog roll and vice verse. http://luscious69.blogs
zeenat | 12.16.08 – 8:11 pm | #


Much that I grieve over 1984 and much that I cannot forget those few days and my own trauma, much that I blame the Congress Party and Rajeev Gandhi for allowing it to happen, I do not see the parallel here.

That there has been no communal aftermath like 1984 after the carnage in Bombay is a blessing..that 2008 did not replay 1984 is something that we should be proud of. even as Sikhs.

Please pardon me if I hurt anyone’s feelings..I do not intend to do so.
Inexplicably | Homepage | 12.17.08 – 12:45 pm | #



The parallel has been laid out before you as explicitly as possible. If you fail to see it, the deficiency is in my writing, perhaps.

Perusing each point all over again might be of some help, however.

The fact is that India acts differently during and after terrorist violence and communal riots.

The examples that have been picked are random and one could draw parallels even by substituting these with other such events. If, for instance, you substitute event B with event C, which occurred about 6 years ago and in which nearly 2000 innocent lives were lost, and compare it against event A, how many of the other facts presented here would have to be replaced? (Hint: Almost none.)

Also, in a blog-post that is largely fact-based, I wonder what reminded you of feelings.

BTW, there already have been echoes of 1984 in 2008. Remember Kandhamal, Orissa?
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 12.17.08 – 1:36 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

I think Mumbai got more prominence because of a no. of reasons:
1. Mumbai is the fin. capital of our country and attacking it is ten times more sensational than targetting any other city.
2. The media in 1984 comprised only of Doordarshan that is censored entirely by the Union govt so naturally there was a lacklustre coverage of the events.
3. The attack on Mumbai has outraged us coz the attackers belong to the enemy country while the attacks on the Sikhs was sponsored by our own state machinery, hence the embarrassment.

Innocent people die every day in large nos. in many parts of this country and sumwhere down d line all of us are guilty of ignoring these events. But Mumbai, being Mumbai grabs national/international attention.

Man has become impatient and cruel n no religion can claim that it has no elements of fanaticism. Not even sikhism
SB | 12.18.08 – 12:27 pm | #



The state machinery angle is present in almost all instances of communal violence in this country.

As mentioned before, the example taken up here can be easily replaced by other instances of such violence, targeting other communities, and the contrast remains just as stark. Apart from the time of occurrence and the death toll, there is very little that requires to be changed in the comparison drawn here.

Considering the huge number of people who vote for the politicians that are widely perceived as having organised and presided over communal violence, in terms of a ‘pat on the back’, post-violence, one wonders how widespread ‘fanaticism’ is in India.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 12.18.08 – 1:45 pm | #


zor ka tamacha.. sataak se lage! Loved this post!

While nothing takes away from the Mumbai attacks their gruesomeness, and while I still am as angry as I was on that first day when I recommended Internal Emergency, the fact remains that India does respond very differently to riots and terrorist attacks like Mumbai.

Your post brings out that parallel incredibly clearly.. and hats off to you for that.
How do we know | Homepage | 12.23.08 – 6:45 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

“I salute the SIKHISIM that they not only just forget but in reality they forgive the Tytler type peoples.”

As others pointed out who said Sikhs have forgotten or forgiven. It seems that to “not forget or not forgive” implies waging a war, more killings of innocent people , more violence, more riots, more chaos and more inhumane acts in the name of vendetta or justice. I am not a Sikh (yesterday’s terrorist) but I still believe that Sikhs cannot forget or forgive because every sikh even today wants justice, trial of the accused, investigation of every wrongful death and incarceration, an apology from the government machinery and from those who just watched the show and lost their sense of outrage. I am muslim (today’s terrorist) and am saddened by the fact that to many my opinion in the Mumbai matter does not even count, especially so if that is more of an introspective and pacifist one.
1984 was done to a community that was and is known for its faithfulness, bravery love and sacrifice for their country, a victim of the 1947 partition with every family composed of jawans and kisans (India’s backbone and pride). What can I expect for a community that is on a trial all over the globe, is despised in India from 1947, even when quite a few of them chose to stay, and has ever since the partition contributed neither much to the Kisan nor the jawan force. But before the partition was an active and equivalent participant to the freedom struggle, was the one that was a major contributing force to the 1857 start of the independence struggle and ruled India for about 1000 years and more often than not assimilated culturally and politically with the natives, unlike the Angrez that ruled for 200 years, exploited, ruled and finally divided us. And even today we tend to take the word and advice of the firang as the holy word. If India had no nukes and vast population of potential consumers and producers of products would US and UK give a damn to India’s interests.

The answer to Sidhu’s why is that we are a bunch of hypocrites who do not love our country. To us love for country is more of an expression than a silent deeds and that is why to us Tendulkars and Khans and Roshans and Tagodias and Modis and Bukharis are Sardesais are people to be followed. But people who are making differences in people’s lives like the Dr. Trehan who chose to live in rural areas to serve the needy, the Sradarji in my hospital in bhopal who would bring free milk to pateints in general ward, the uncleji who refuses to give bribe to a TTI, the constable who stood his ground and even went after the attackers on CST and lost his life are to be forgotten. I am presently in USA and one thing I like about the right or the left wing people here is that they love their country. And that love is expressed not just in words and flags but also in their actions. Even Barack Obama and John Mccain stood in a line and waited for their turn to buy food during their campaingn
Ashar | 12.23.08 – 9:00 pm | #


First, thanks to Ashar for those kind words about the Sikh community.

I want to congratulate Sidhusaaheb ji for this post being named by at least one of the authors of Langar Hall, Jodha, as the Sikh Post of the Year.

My highest compliment is that I wish I had written it.

Thanks for this ji!
Mai Harinder Kaur | Homepage | 12.24.08 – 7:52 pm | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

Another WHY to Ponder about: newspor…_100132317.html

Why would one be hailed by the media, wins accolades and swiftly flown across to other end of the continent, and the other not even worth a mention? I am not promoting any conspiracy theory here but may be a “partiality/disparity” theory. Between an Assamese Muslim at a Jewish place vs. an Evangelical Christian at a Jewish place, one was considerd more exciting and TRP worthy.
Diaz | 12.26.08 – 5:44 pm | #


Hi, Sidhu. Very well written. Thankyou for sharing.
Le Mystique | Homepage | 12.28.08 – 11:18 am | #

Sidhusaaheb said...

Two weeks of melancholy pondering over your post and one chance movie called Amu last night has brought me here again.

Have you watched Amu ? Just curious. I thought of your post while watching that movie. Just one of those chance cross connections.

Have you also wondered that there were not enough ( or none at all) books ? No movies ? No TV serials? Websites ? blogs ? talking of 1984. Such little documentation of an instance that impacted 10,000 lives.

24 years too late, can we make it more visible now ? Or do you think there is little point. I am struggling to find answers.
Inexplicably | Homepage | 01.07.09 – 1:01 pm | #



No, I have not had the chance to watch the movie yet.

As for books on the subject, you might want to take a look at ‘When a Tree Shook Delhi’ by Manoj Mitta and H. S. Phoolka.

BTW, as mentioned in my earlier comments, this blog-post was meant to compare the way India’s government, its agencies and various sections of its populace act during and after communal violence, in general and not just the one instance that has been taken as an example here, as against during and after terrorist violence.
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 01.07.09 – 4:36 pm | #


hmmm….thanks for suggesting the book, I will get it ASAP.

About other things, I wondered from your stern, almost crypt ( is there a word like that?) reaction if you were a grand old wise man who did not like to be disturbed by rambling nerds like me. Then to my utter amazement I discovered that you are a 33 year old youngster !!!

For that, you come across as really wise and ummmm mature. Thats the good part bit…
Inexplicably | Homepage | 01.09.09 – 12:23 pm | #


You are welcome!

Well, I suppose we are all complex people, being able to act really mature in some situations while being not so mature in others.

BTW, I meant only to be clear and concise. Please accept my sincerest apologies if it appeared any other way!
Sidhusaaheb | Homepage | 01.09.09 – 7:56 pm | #