THIS book has been written after the killing of Sikhs in Delhi and in other parts of north India following the assassination of the late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards.
The author begins his narration by talking of his ancestors’ displacement from Pakistan and being forced to live in a “house in Lajpat Nagar that had a tin roof which made it very cold in winter and very hot in summer.’ He points out that it was not only they as Sikhs but even the Hindus were rehabilitated in this refugee colony with each of them treating the other as close as any relation.
He describes some of the incidents pertaining to those Sikhs whom he knew and who had been maltreated and a few even killed as news of Smt Gandhi’s assassination spread all over the city. His bitterness can be gauged from the sentence when on 19 November, Rajiv Gandhi while addressing a crowd at India Gate on his mother’s birthday, said, “But, when a mighty tree falls, it is only natural that the earth around it does shake a little,” and which, to the Sikhs, “was like rubbing salt on their wounds.”
This book has some facts which seem to have been written in deep anger when the author is forced to say, “In the Parliament session, after the massacre, not even a single person referred to the tragedy that had befallen Delhi, the Sikh community, though everyone condoled the death of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The fact that the silence on the massacre cut across party lines is remarkable.”
Describing his childhood days, when Indira Gandhi was killed, the author says, “Since Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister, national mourning had been declared…We kids were not happy with this at all. Mourning was for grown-ups; as far as we children were concerned, it was a holiday and we wanted to see the normal programmes on television.” This somehow shows his callous attitude to a death and that too of a popular leader.
The author is unsparing in his criticism of the role played in the killing of Sikhs as a backlash by some Congress party members, like HKL Bhagat, DD Shastri, Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar who are accused of taking an active part by leading mobs of hooligans to attack gurudwaras and Sikh localities.
Khushwant Singh, in his foreword to the book, is no less scathing in his attack on President Giani Zail Singh, “who shrugged off his responsibility as Head of State and Narasimha Rao who abdicated his responsibility to restore law and order as the country’s Home Minister.”
The author is no less vocal in his attack on President Giani Zail Singh, when he says, “For the Sikh community, the fact that a Sikh was the President of the country and yet not able to save innocent Sikhs from slaughter is something they can never forget.”
(Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11, Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi-110 017.)