August 30, 2006


The museum is a vista of blood and mutilation and weapons. Here a painting of a man being sawn in half, the two grim sawers going at it and the two halves peeling off bending over like slices of butter. There a painting of a man with half his head cut off, looking up at the chopper who holds that half. Man being boiled alive. Man "being martysed by mutilating his joints one by one." Men strapped onto huge wheels, like gears, and crushed between them. Photos of thirteen men, bloody and dead in a 1978 incident, garlanded and robed.

What a history this is. And there's a twist to make you think of a little more than blood and death.

Along one wall -- in fact, just above those thirteen bloody men -- are large paintings of Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh and Kartar Singh Sarabhai, with brief descriptions of their heroism. All called "Shahid", or martyr. On the adjacent wall is a painting of the ruins of the Akal Takht in ruins. Dome fallen down, walls shattered. This paragraph below it:
    Under the calculated move of Prime Minister of India Indira Gandhi, military troops stormed Golden Temple with tanks. Thousands of Sikhs were massacred. Sri Akal Takht suffered the worst damages Sikhs rose up in a united protest. Many returned their honours. Sikh soldiers left their barracks. The Sikhs however, soon had their vengeance.
And to the right are paintings of three men, titled:
    Shahid S. Beant Singh Ji (1949 - 31 Oct 1984)
    Shahid S. Satwant Singh Ji (1967 - 6 Jan 1989)
    Shahid S. Kehar Singh Ji (1940 - 6 Jan 1989)
The first two, Indira's guards who shot her that October morning; the first was shot dead almost immediately. The third, sentenced for being part of the conspiracy, hung along with the second.

These three men, up on this wall and called shahid (martyr), exactly like other revered martyrs from our history. In this place that remembers so much blood; that doesn't mention, but manages to put in your thoughts, the long nights of even more bloodshed right after that October day.

I walk down from the museum and step back into the Golden Temple. The serenity after the memories of great violence, the sense of welcome that extends to every visitor who comes to this magnificent place, is almost overwhelming.

Yes, I have never been in a place of worship that is so clean and inclusive, that is so peaceful, that lets you be yourself so fully. Yet my mind is consumed, vibrating, taut, with the horrific violence remembered upstairs.


Bombay Addict said...

Damn ! It's good to have you back !!

m. said...

(yaaaay! awesome to see you're writing again!) did you take pictures? this is one place i would love to see.

bhelcome back and udder things :)

Anonymous said...

Welcome Back, Dilip. It's rather been a long wait.

Abi said...

Just a minor quibble:

"the second was shot dead almost immediately."

But, in your list, it's the first one (Beant Singh) who died on 31.10.1984.

Thanks for ending your long break from blogging.

Vikrum said...

You stole the words from my mouth, Dilip!

Anonymous said...

Welcome back. The trolls on your previous post have something new to chew on.

And what a grim post.

(My word verification: ftdilp)

30in2005 said...

Good to have you back. Will move you back up to main blogroll.

Very grim piece to come back with....

km said...

This is why I didn't take you off the 'roll.

nevermind said...

'pleasure to have you back.

Prasoon said...

touchy topic..

was it indeed the rdb way then? i wonder..

sometimes i fear a backlash seeing what the ujjain case is now turning up to be - what happened was bad but whats happening now - is worse. the bjp leaders openly saying that 'it' wasn't murder and then again, some others covering up for the real culprits.

have a say on this ?

Anonymous said...

Nice to have you back Dilip.

The Tobacconist said...

Hi Dilip,

Hope you are back for good. Take care.

Pareshaan said...

Back already?
Hope you had a fruitful break and got all that other stuff done.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dilip,
Great to have you back!

Although, I'm pretty damn sure the trolls ate celebrating even more.

kuffir said...

'What a history this is.'

for many..this is not history. so whenever you go overboard pushing your view that one set of tormentors is better than the other.. you'll never understand why 31st october, 1984 happened.

Annie Zaidi said...

Good to have you back, indeed. :)

Rohan Pinto said...

Wecome back dilip. awesome to see you blogging again...

Anonymous said...

kuffir: whaddya mean?

Anonymous said...

Dilip - great to have you back. Let the good times begin.


kuffir said...


any reference to the great dictator brings back bad memories.. i'd like to know if one can really believe the congress isn't as bad as the parivar..

Dilip D'Souza said...

Thanks all. I appreciate it. I'll get going again on this a little slowly, but I will get going.

Abi, sharp eyes! I made the correction.

Kuffir, I'm conpletely befuddled by your comments. The Congress, certainly in its 1984 avatar, is no different from the Parivar. But I still don't follow you. Explanation?

kuffir said...


'The Congress, certainly in its 1984 avatar, is no different from the Parivar.'

you demand a longwinded explanation when i think you are quite, at least intuitively, aware of what i am trying to say.
you don't see the congress in its 1984 avatar because.. it's not 1984. that doesn't mean it has progressed beyond 1984.. bring in 1984-like situations (or situations leading upto 1984)and you'll see the old avatar..
i blame the congress more for the ..emasculation of institutions that are supposed to oversee & ensure that the rights of citizens are protected..the congress is responsible for not only weakening the institutions within the the bureacracy, the law enforcement agencies etc.,.. but also institutions functioning outside like political parties that ignore all democratic norms in their functioning (right from panchayat-level functionaries to the highest 'elected' officers in the land..everyone is nominated - and the congress started and legitimised this trend)..civil society was sought to be polarised along pro-stability:anti-stability lines..and similar dichotomies, political discourse was corrupted and..and the focus shifted from issues to individuals (this is specially evident during elections..but is conducted at a much subtler level at other times)..because the congress itself stopped discussing issues..and started coalescing around a few individuals. the press, the judiciary..every institution was infused with this virus (and we still haven't fully recovered) - you're with her/him..or against him/her. citizen x ceased to be the focus..
what the congress did/does has become the norm.. the rule book, the standard for other political parties to follow - political parties which aim/aimed to 'succeed' like the congress. tell me which 'supreme' leader of any small/big/national/ doesn't want to wield..the kind of power over his/her party the way indira gandhi did? which political party doesn't wish to spot..and cash in on an issue which could yield..huge electoral benefits ( but could also boomerang and blow up into a huge in 1984)even at the cost of ..sacrificing larger national interests?.
my initial comment might have seemed a little off-context to you.. but i've been reading your views here and elsewhere..which seemed to indicate that you're, shall i say, satisfied the congress is back in power..i'm pleased that the bjp has been kicked out. i don't see any major difference in our views there. but you also seem to indicate that the congress is better than the parivar..history before and after 1984 tells us otherwise. so there go its 'secualar credentials'.
you seem to think the congess has changed..why..and how? what has changed in the congress after 1984? do you mean the individuals at the top have changed ? i still see congress chief minister/ministers/leaders/workers....literally bowing down at the supreme leader's feet.. diversity of opinion is still stifled, 'leaders' are still nominated..democracy still remains dead within the party.. and its major goal is still power at any cost.
the congress is better because it doesn't openly advocate..communal politics? well, that might ensure that communal riots don't occur in the short term..but i'm sure the law of averages would be catch up with that..and as many people would die under congress rule as they'd under bjp rule in the long term.
because the congress has, as i said, weakened the institutions which would have ensured that communal riots ..could/would be prevented before they occur.. and justice would be delivered the normal course of functioning of these institutions.

Cosmic Voices said...

Thank God You are back. Since the death hasn't occured, the fun shall continue.

@ kuffir

You are right in saying that if pushed to similar situation, Congress shall show its 1984-avataar. But it has a higher threshold than BJP to reach such a point.

Congress anyday is more inclusive than BJP. It could be due to its thirst to represent every single Indian or to retain its virtual pan-indian presence. But anyday it would have more internal checks and balances than BJP.

And yes, we are yet to see the parivar's true colours.... and Govt without a coalition

Anonymous said...

Now that you're back, what was the "Goodbye" about? I thought you'd abandoned this blog, now that would REALLY end the fun.

It's good to have you back, I was actually gravitating towards believing in the free market once more! Not any longer. Now I'm back to being a secular communist.

I sincerely hope you and Mr.Vij keep blogging, it provides me with many hours of hilarity.

Red Watch

Dilip D'Souza said...

kuffir, in a previous comment somewhere on this site, I wrote what I thought of the Congress: a craven party that has no use for justice.

As you say, this is a party that taught us all we now know so well about corruption, sycophancy, assaults on democracy, stoking religious hatreds and divisions, need I go on. As I've written before and many others have said too, these are the reasons the country -- me included -- turned away from the Congress to what we hoped were credible alterrnatives -- e.g. Janata Party in 1977, e.g. BJP in the 90s.

Only, once in power those parties showed that they had learned well from the Congress: they were just as bad in all those respects as the Congress, in some ways even worse. This is the profound disillusionment: the crumminess of the BJP has left us with no alternative: Congress stinks, BJP stinks.

Of course I was glad that the BJP lost power in 2004: I think they gave us our worst-ever government and so had to pay the price Indira's and Chandrashekhar's and Gowda's crummy governments before them had to pay.

The one minor silver lining I see this time around is that the government is led by a man I don't always agree with, but who has a measure of integrity.

Other points quickly: no party has any secular credentials, so I don't even care about that word when it comes to politics. Every party's major goal is, and has to be, power -- and I would be suspicious if it were not so. I'm hardly satisfied the Congress is back in power; the only satisfaction I have is that previous crummy government(s) got thrown out.

Dilip D'Souza said...

RedW, thank you. May I say the admiration is entirely mutual.