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1984 anti-sikh riots

The release of the Nanavati Commission's findings have given rise to a lot of debate within the Indian Blogosphere. Here is a very stirring personal account of horrible incident witnessed by Amrit during 1984 anti-sikh riots when he was a mere child.
Link: Writing Cave � Blog Archive � Revisiting 1984.

hey were burning him as if playing a normal street game. A few kept him pinned down to the ground while others poured petrol on him. After kicking him to the content of their hearts they torched him. With a burning body, he ran here and there. Someone brought a burning tire and with the help of a long rod and put it around his neck, receiving a great round of applause. They clapped and they chatted. There was no sound coming from him. He just ran like a giant flame, aimlessly flailing his arms in order to capture something in the air. They playfully avoided him, giggling, joking. Then he fell on the ground, giving up the fight against the unknown demons. Some just danced around without purpose, clapping each others’ backs. None looked angry. None of them looked familiar. I watched this from my window.

I vividly remember I had just finished my 2nd year engineering mid-term exams and had gone to Akola, my home towm, to visit my parents. It was January of 1993 and riots had just taken place after the "Babri Masjid" demolition. Akola was severly hit by riots and a major marketplace was almost completely burned down by mobs. After it looked that things have calmed down a little, we (myself and my parents) went to down to the market. After sometime, we saw a sword-wielding mob approach us. I am not sure if the people in the marketplace were their target. Most likely they were chasing some other group of armed people. But either way, we did not take a chance and started running. Fortunately, we found an cycle ricksaw and managed to climb it as the richsaw driver was kind enough to slow down.

The incident is itched in my memory. And even though we did not suffer any physical injury it had a tremendous impact on me. Because if we were indeed the target of the mob that day I really doubt we could have survived. It is not that difficult to chase an cycle richsaw on foot. My experience is nothing compared to that of the actual victims of violence and those, like Amit, who had to witness the violence and had to live in perpetual fear of the violence targetted specially against them. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness, fear and anxiety and guilt because I though I was a coward to run away. I wanted to fight and stop the violent mob obviously did not enough guts and physical power to do that. Therefore, when I see something like this (from Amrit's blog cited above):

Now that I’m grown up, I can feel through what the Jews had to go in the Nazi Germany. I hated Hindus then — not all, but the ones who had taken parts in the killings and lootings. I wanted to take some sort of revenge. When my cousin visited our place and told me that they were collecting iron rods to create make-shift weapons in case there was another attack on the community, I gladly gave him the TV antenna pole that lay behind our door. We used to talk for long hours making strategies to make sure we were not caught off guard the next time. We knew the equal fight was not possible, but half of the mob wouldn’t go back even if they attacked a couple of Sikh guys, because not all stories were hopeless. At many places single individuals had put up fight and chased away crowds of twenty people. A friend of ours, with his two brothers, had saved the local gurudwara from being burned down; they had a gun and a few swords. Wherever a few armed Sikhs could gather, they chased away the approaching mobs.

This is the key to avoid mob violence. Allow people to own arms, including firearms, to defend themselves. And no, giving firearms license to a selected few does not help. Mob can find out, especially if they have help from police themselves, who has licenses and can attack them before they target others. When bandits rob a town they are smart enough to find out who has firearms licenses and then lock their doors from outside before they attack other houses. Only when large number of general citizenry owns weapons then only it can have any noticeable impact on would-be rioters.

Comments

Jason Pappas

Still, being able to defend oneself is a short-term solution. Cultural change and individual rights is the long-term solution.

Thanks for an informative article ... and blog.

James

While I can only agree wholeheartedly about the benefits of private firearm ownership, there is an additional ingredient. Witness that nearly everyone has a gun in many places in the Middle East. So why is it still so violent there? Because governments inspire class identies based on nationality, religion, ethnicity, etc. Such state sponsored propagandization is at least as destructive as population disarmament schemes.

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