South Asian activists gathered at Holland Park in Surrey on Sunday evening to protest against Jagdish Tytler and other Congress leaders involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre.
Organized by the Indians Abroad for Pluralist India (IAPI), the rally was held in response to the recent disclosures made by the former union minister and senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler.
Tytler had recently admitted that the then Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and he drove around New Delhi in the same car to take stock of the situation during the violence. The anti-Sikh violence was organized by the ruling Congress party following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984. Tytler faces investigation into the massacre and his statement implicates Rajiv Gandhi, the son of Indira Gandhi who succeeded her as the next Prime Minister of India.
Tytler’s disclosure coincided with the release of a video clip of media sting in which he allegedly acknowledged the killings of over 100 Sikhs. In the light of these incidents, an emergency rally was held to press the Indian government to arrest Tytler immediately.
The speakers were unanimous in their demand for stripping Rajiv Gandhi of Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award he was given in 1991 and swift action against Tytler and other senior Congress leaders who were directly involved in the bloodshed. They also agreed that the current Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government is only taking advantage of the situation with an aim to isolate Congress to win the general election next year and divert the attention of the people from the growing attacks on religious minorities under the BJP rule. They emphasized that the BJP repeated 1984 against Muslims in 2002 in Gujarat when the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the Chief Minister of the state. Some blamed the Indian state for repeated violence against minorities and impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators because of the majoritarian politics being played both by the Congress and the BJP.
Among those who spoke on the occasion included Barjinder Singh of Sikh Nation that organizes annual blood drive in Canada in memory of the victims of 1984 violence, the producer of Final Assault – a documentary based on Sikh Genocide, Sukhdeep Singh, independent Sikh activist Kesar Singh Baghi, Muslim activist Sayed Wajahat, Dalit activist and poet Amrit Diwana, Marxist activist Hardev Singh, Communist Party of Canada (Marxist Leninist ) activist Yoseph Therault, Aam Aadmi Party supporter Gurmukh Singh Deol, an independent journalist Dr. Gurvinder Singh Dhaliwal and the IAPI cofounder Gurpreet Singh.
The rally was started with a moment of silence in memory of Asma Jahangir, a dedicated Pakistani Human Rights activist who died at 66. Since Jahangir also stood for the rights of the minorities in Pakistan – the IAPI decided to pay tributes to her at the beginning of the event that brought social justice activists together.