“When A Tree Shook Delhi” by Phoolka and Mitta

When Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984, what followed in New Delhi, the capital of India was a carnage the likes of which had never been since the partition in 1947. 

Recent developments have aroused new interest in the gruesome events of ’84. I was surprised to find that many people in their 30s didn’t have a clue as to what happened then. Some thought it was about Sikh vs Hindu communal riots in the Punjab. It then struck me that an entire generation has grown up not knowing what transpired in Delhi, the capital of India, resulting in the massacre of 3000 or more Sikhs by mobs of thugs. These were allegedly inspired and led by Congress MPs wanting to curry favour with the to-be Prime Minister if India, Rajiv Gandhi.This 2009 article from TIME magazine provides a quick summary and perspective.

The wheels of justice in India move ever so slowly. Today 29 long years after the massacre which are wrongly described as ” Anti- Sikh riots” a court held that the CBI should re-investigate the role of Mr. Jagdish Tytler, a famous Congress leader of Delhi for his role in the ’84 massacre. I say “riots” is a wrong expression to describe the gruesome events of ’84 because when we use the word, we generally tend to think of communal riots involving more than one community. In this case, I don’t think  even a single person, other than Sikhs was killed. The hapless Sikhs, including women and children in some sections of Delhi were systematically hounded out and butchered.

I commend the lawyer for the Sikhs, Mr. H S Phoolka for his perseverance over the decades in the cause of the Sikh victims. I have just placed an order for his book with Manoj Mitta called, ” When A Tree Shook Delhi.”

The title of the book, of course comes from Rajiv Gandhi’s famous words to the effect that when a big tree falls, the earth shakes referring to his mother’s assassination and the subsequent events. This article in Tehelka is interesting.

The massacre of the Sikhs in 1984 was a blot on our nation’s history. Worse than anything else, it showed that religion could be used effectively to whip up such maniac passions in mobs. It also showed that the rich and powerful remain untouched using their political clout. Nearly 30 years later, we as a country still pay the price for this ghastly incident.

I think every right thinking Indian should read this book.

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