1984, loss of memory and indifference

The fundamental problem with blood is its colour. Red rivers turn to brown, and then become part of the soil(ed)scape. The red no longer hits the eye, and the brown is inconsequentional, and the rust is forgotten.

Tonight when you google for Delhi, 1984 comes alive. I was three years old and some kilometers away from Delhi, in Meerut. The three ‘M’s of Uttar Pradesh are famous for burning and rioting – Meerut, Muzzafarpur and Muradabad. Delhi was burning. And so were the other cities. Sikhs were being pulled across the roads and red rivers by their hair and dipped in boiling tar.

Not my memory. But a collective memory that defines Delhi almost. Growing up in that city, one was constantly bumping into someone who had lost a parent, grandparent, a limb or a lifetime to the 1984 riots. The screams of a city, can be louder than 1984 of Orwellian imagination. And they were.

The ironic thing is that we don’t lose hope. So we kept hoping, that even two decades later, that today would bring an honest report, some sort of salvation. How naive are we anyway? Did you and I actually think that justice was going to be distributed like laddoos? Why do we keep slipping at the same spot?

Anuradha, a friend of mine, older to me by 10 years, had grown up without a father. Her father had been murdered by the khakhi killers. Her mother had refused to come out of the house after sundown for many years, and her brother refused to wear the turban. While she twisted prawns in her hands, she almost broke down. And in the intense sadness of her face, you saw the depth of individual devastation.

And then they come out with a report, and then the inaction of it.

What use is revolutionary poetry and cries of Zindabad, in a land, indifferent to its own history and sadness.


Neville Jacob (An Indian who has lived most of his life in Africa) wrote in with his reflections on this post and issue.)An excerpt from what he had to say…

I was caught by your article on the 1984 riots, I had previously read the report on Outlookindia.com. I am an Indian who has lived most of his life in Africa (Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa). It always makes me sad when I read articles on the various riots that have rocked India in recent years. Especially, in cases in which the authorities turn a blind eye. Gujarat comes to mind and from the new report on the 1984 riots. Then the shock defeat of the BJP government made me realize that my fear of a singular India is not the vision of the majority (at least for now). I am a member of a minority group (Indian Christian), my family live in India. Ethnic tensions always worry me. For clarity I am not one of these new evangelistic Christians who go around saying all Hindus will go to hell, and then wonder why they were attacked. A case in point, end of last year I was at Kanyakumari beach in the Tamil Nadu with my sister and mother. We had apparently gone there during a Hindu pilgrimage/festival. A Christian religious guy was standing there handing out flyers saying things that can incite a physical response (possibly harmful) from the hindus who were attending the festival. Sorry I am starting to wander from the point. My point I guess is that, reports such as that on the 1984 riots makes one realize how fragile ethnic harmony really is in India. The reasons for official complacency during the riots most probably had to do with personal interests of a few top officials, who stood to gain from these situations. Moreover, the masses are maneuvered and manipulated time and again by short sighted politicians for political gains. Are common people that gullible? I guess the last statement is a bit simplistic, human emotions are complicated stuff.

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