Close to the 38th anniversary of the Sikh Genocide, two Indian movies have tried to expose the reality of the world’s so called largest secular democracy.
Laal Singh Chaddha and Jogi depict the state sponsored massacre of the Sikhs in the first week of November 1984, following the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Both are produced by Muslim filmmakers Aamir Khan and Ali Abbas Zafar respectively.
Thousands of Sikhs were murdered across India by the mobs instigated by leaders of Gandhi’s ruling Congress party with the help of police. In the national capital of New Delhi alone about 3,000 Sikhs were slaughtered.
Khan is a prominent Bollywood actor, who had earlier produced a documentary Rubaru Roshni that deals with the same subject.
Whereas Laal Singh Chaddha is a Hindi adaptation of Forrest Gump, Rubaru Roshni is an inspiring story of reconciliation between former Sikh militant Ranjit Singh Kukki and the daughter of a senior politician, Lalit Makan, who was murdered for being allegedly involved in the anti-Sikh pogroms.
Zafar’s Jogi looks deeply into the complicity of the police machinery that openly sided with the goons that targeted Sikhs.
Though a number of movies have been made on the horrific events of 1984 over the past three decades, these two films come at a time when attacks on religious minorities, especially Muslims, have grown in India under a right wing Hindu nationalist BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi was the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2002 when Muslims came under attack after a train carrying Hindu pilgrims caught fire, leaving more than 50 passengers dead. The technique that was once used to eliminate Sikhs was applied against Muslims this time. While Modi was never charged, he was denied US visa until he became the Prime Minister in 2014, for letting this happen under his watch. That the two Muslims chose to make films on the pain and sufferings of the Sikhs instead of the Gujarat episode and the current situation is heart-warming and shows how the two minority groups need each other.
Gurpreet Singh is a journalist