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Man behind one of the first authentic field reports on Sikh Genocide being incarcerated, will the world pay attention ? Featured

Gurpreet Singh 

As we head into the first week of November, which marks 37 years of the Sikh massacre, a scholar who was behind documenting the tragedy is struggling for his release from an Indian jail.  

Gautam Navlakha was arrested on trumped up charges along with other prominent scholars and social justice activists in April 2020. He is currently lodged in jail near Mumbai. His only crime is daring to question the power and always standing up for the minorities and the oppressed.   

In spite of health issues and the danger of the pandemic in prisons, he is not being released on compassionate grounds. He hasn’t got any respite from the courts either.  

Navlakha is associated with People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR), which published a report on the Sikh Genocide in partnership with People’s Union for Civil Liberties shortly after the pogroms.  

Thousands of Sikhs were slaughtered across India by political goons following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Who are the guilty? was probably the first authentic field report revealing the complicity of the Indian state in the anti-Sikh violence.  

Navlakha, a journalist and author, remained steadfast in his position to name the influential political figures involved, even as others expressed their reservations. He has always maintained that while the then-self proclaimed secular Congress government was directly responsible for the massacre, members of the currently ruling Hindu nationalist BJP cannot be vindicated, either because of their silence or direct support to the mob violence targeting a particular minority group.  Notably, the Congress won the general election following the massacre with a brute majority by polarizing Hindu majority and riding on anti-Sikh wave. The BJP was routed in that election, as its vote share shifted to the Congress with Sikh blood on its hands. Thus, an era of impunity for mass murderers had begun. 

The story did not end there. For years, Navlakha has exposed the pattern behind othering minorities in India, and has never failed to remind people through his writings how 1984 had set a precedent. In 2002, the state of Gujarat witnessed similar violence against Muslims under the watch of then-BJP Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose rise to power as Prime Minister in 2014 can only be understood through an analysis of the Sikh massacre. Navlakha is a published author and has been writing hard hitting columns for Newsclick and Economic and Political Weekly. Today, the attacks on religious minorities and political dissidents have grown under an outright Hindu supremacist government.         

Since Navlakha has been vocal against ongoing repression of Muslims and marginalised communities such as Dalits and Adivasis, he has been facing assaults and backlash from the supporters of BJP.  

Hopefully, Canadian politicians, especially those of Sikh heritage who do not fail to remember 1984, will pay attention and raise their voices for the release of Navlakha and other jailed scholars who have been thrown behind bars by the world’s so called largest democracy.   

 

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