It came from a man who topped the rankings in my college, who later completed a PhD from one of the premier engineering institutions in the USA. A brilliant, gentle, thoughtful man: my friend G. In 1984, we were both living in the USA. He was on his way to his PhD; I was in Texas, trying to cope with my first job. One day in November that year, even while 3000 Indians were being slaughtered in India solely because they were Sikh like him, G called.
"I feel completely betrayed by India," he told me. "I will never go back there again."
I tried. But I had nothing to say. No comfort, no argument, no explanation, no rationalization, nothing. G was unable to comprehend how the land that had given him birth, that had nurtured him and his talents, could have turned against him so completely. Through those crisp November days, he was struggling to come to terms with the thought that had he been in Delhi instead of the USA, he would have been murdered. I could feel his anguish pour through the phone. Yet I could offer him nothing.
Consider what we know about those bloody days in November 1984. A Congress government was in power then, though its head, our PM, had just been gunned down. After the slaughter, various inquiry commissions picked out senior Congress politicians like HKL Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar for their roles in the killing: the commissions found that these men instigated and directed looting, murdering mobs. Cases against Bhagat and Kumar, filed by brave
women widowed in the killing, tried for years to find the light of day, stalled by the pernicious efforts of the very men they sought to bring to justice. Eventually they failed. Bhagat himself, having successfully eluded justice for 21 years, died four years ago.
As far as I can tell, three murderers from that time have been punished. (Their crime was exactly 25 years ago today).
3000 murders, three men punished.
In November 1984, India lost much more than a brilliant young man like G. The loss is compounded with every year, every day, that passes without justice for Indians slaughtered.
A quarter century later, we know well the fruits of that compounding. The massacre of hundreds and thousands of Indians -- take 1984, take Gujarat in 2002, take Bombay in 1992-93 -- is considered no more than part of the landscape. Just as the men who dreamed up and led the 1984 massacre have eluded justice, the men who instigated slaughter in Bombay and Gujarat are free and unpunished. Whichever political party it is, it sidesteps the issue of punishment. Criminals dominate politics everywhere you look, whichever party you pick. They are there because they know well, as Bhagat and company knew well, that politics will protect them from their crimes.
That our own, your own, particular partisan leanings will keep them protected.
And even so, even with all that to bemoan, the saddest thing for me is the profound betrayal I knew my friend G felt, that day in 1984.
A sample of the other writing I've done on the same subject:
Inquiry into inquiry.
See you at 3000.