Friday, September 09, 2005

AMU - withinsanity (with insanity/within sanity - you can be the judge of that)

Shonali Bose, a writer-director, has made her debut feature film, 'Amu'. This movie is related to the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots in New Delhi, India, in response to the aftermath of Operation Bluestar. "The Operation Blue Star (June 4 to June 6, 1984) was the Indian military operation at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, the holiest temple of the Sikh religion. The declared purpose of the Operation was to flush out Khalistan separatists who were using it as a base of operations, many feel that the military went beyond its mandate and destroyed the lives of countless civilians." This definition as precise and shallow is taken from Wikipedia, but the links are available which help discover this episode in depth. After Prime Minister Gandhi was assassinated by Sikh bodyguards in 1984, carnage erupted in the streets of Delhi. More than four thousand Sikhs were killed in three days. Writer-director Shonali Bose was a student in Delhi during those days. She worked in the relief camps set up after the massacre, writing down the stories of those who survived. Bose brings to the flashback scenes in Amu the intense impact of first-hand experience.
There are a few pictures from the 1984 anti-Sikh riots on this web site an also on the Wikipedia. I do not have the heart to post any single one of them here. The eyes get flooded with water. Waheguru! And I do not feel like making a debate no more. If you have the heart to, you can use the link. But this is what visual flashbacks do – tear your heart open and fill contempt, hatred and endless pain in there. The pain that shall infect a lot that it comes in touch with, but the pain that shall never (sadly) cease to exist.

I have not watched the movie yet, but there is a lot of thinking which it has already triggered. These thoughts and questions are not new. I think of them often, especially every time I watch the Gurudwara walls covered with the posters of insane bloodshed and cruelty. Also when every time we hit war; we watch the movies of the partition, the holocaust, the ‘84 Bluestar brutalities @ Amritsar, the ’97 Kargil war, 9/11 attack, Iraq, Lebanon etc. even today. But Iraq/Lebanon, 9/11 stories are recent. It is not history yet. My concern is about history. I must state that this is an EXTREMELY sensitive issue and I clearly do not have a stand on this controversy, if others may see it as one. I am deeply divided at the root of this debate. But I will still try to unleash all the thoughts and maybe be able to derive some conclusions on the basis of that, which might help me formulate my thinking structure, or see its true foundation…

These are my debates:
Is it right to keep refreshing historic catastrophes through media or any other medium of mass awareness?
Is it right to scratch the wounds which with much effort might be on their road to recovery?

"I dont know if I will be able to face watching [Amu] though. Just reading about what happened in 1984, and more recently in 2002, leaves me feeling depressed and full of despair. In fact I find it all so mentally traumatic and horrible. I find it so painful to think of what happened, and the fact that nobody has been brought to justice for these massacres. I find it too painful to contemplate that Indians did this to their own selves. It wasn’t Union Carbide, or the big bogeyman Pakistan, or an Imperial power, but these atrocities were visited upon thousands of innocents by thugs associated with the rulers of India. I hate the bitterness I feel when I think of 1984. So I try my hardest not to think of it. But when I do that I realize that I am in denial, and denial of the horror means it is forgotten, and can happen again."
This response I found from someone who signed himself as ‘Punjabi Boy’ @

This Punjabi boy is not one person. I can bet that his account is a minor generalization of the gazillion Sikhs who witnessed these accounts and were partially or directly affected by this catastrophe. I know that this episode left an impact on all the Sikhs, in New Delhi then, the ones in Punjab, or even those all over the world. But the hurt that was refreshed in this Punjabi Boy is rich and intense. It must leave an impact, on him and the others in his life TODAY! Is it fair to have the terrible history repeat itself in one form or another?

There are movies on the partition of India, and without exception, they make ridges in our hearts. I know living divided from your fellow human beings would never have been easy. But consider the multicultural aspect of today’s society. You have people who are Hindus, Muslims, British, [I’m trying to come up with as many as we have hurtful histories with…sorry.] But my point here is that if you leave my mind unimprinted on, then I might love these people around like my own. Then, one day I get to learn of what their ancestors did to mine and I hate them today for that historic past. I am not trying to state that people don’t have the mind to make fine judgments. The problem is the overwhelming impact of watching these brutalities and their automated response, which shall but reflect through our dealings today.

I did try to figure out why people would make these movies and why others would watch it. These are but only a few of the possibly causes that I thought of:
- to honour the memory of those that suffered it
- to provide ourselves knowledge
- to refresh the faded memories
- or even to recreate animosity with fresher energy

Reminding history by repeating it on TV works because of the process of personalization. It makes you sink into the situation and blend the line between reality and fiction, so much so that you feel you are in there. The memories of fire are intense and hot only if it touches a part of your own skin. TV helps that experience succeed. It touches your skin. Most of us are not so rigidly structured as to not allow the surrounding of realism to dissolve. We become them. And then, their pain is real to us. We feel for them. The problem however is that they, who caused this, are no more. But the feelings of hatred we just experienced and learned are raw and boiling to the max. Sadly, these feelings must overflow; and if I after the intense experience cannot target no one with this newly developed rage of mine – I shall but target a small part of my brain. I shall store it in my memory. From thereon, I don’t have much to do with it; my subconscious does. I create barriers. I look for differences between me and “them”. This is one of the cruel, long lasting effects that repeating those painful histories produce in us.

"The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was. The world around it will forget even faster. A nation cannot cross a desert of organized forgetting."
Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter & Forgetting

When I first read this statement from Milan Kundra, I thought I’d be able to find peace on this debate of mine. No! I cannot let someone do this to my Sikhs again! To us again! But wait a minute, this is another problem. Who decides on history? Who declares what history actually is? No one has a virtually infallible information of the past episodes. And even if someone remembers inch for an inch, yet they know only their part of the story and not of others. History is not written by one man. But the coming of several men together for the purpose of portraying history for us can be flying off a tangent. It shall be skewed because of exaggerated emotions and exhilarating past injustice which shall unconsciously be biased and extensive.

What does a mother do when her two sons end up fighting? She definitely does not encourage them to avenge themselves through their kids. She tries to bring them to peace and if that is not possible, she tries to remind her grandchildren of the good will among the two brothers and not about their sad, disastrous end.

David Crabtree, says in the ‘Importance of History’ that “The history taught to our children is playing a role in shaping their values and beliefs – a much greater role than we may suspect.” Does it not make this issue extremely sensitive? Are we sure that we want our kids to be raised in multicultural societies, yet teach them how to hate their neighbours, give them reasons to base their judgments on?

There is a noble and base side to every history. And I am sure no one can disagree with that. We all know that there were countless Hindus in that Delhi of ’84 who helped their fellow Sikhs and saved their lives or supported them, helped them after. Should we not be sharing those stories with our children?

I admit that we cannot forget those that were killed aimlessly, the innocent ones. But who we cannot forget or show forgetfulness is to those left behind; those whose loved ones faced those atrocities first hand, those who sadly survived their loved ones, those who are still waiting for justice, those who do not want your pity, but your acknowledgement that they are aware of how hard life is for them, and how misfortunes couldn’t be averted in their faces.

Some may doubt my love of Sikhism…but when I think/read/see all the tortures taken by my Gurus…I just drift in doubt. Am I suppose to hate the Muslims who betrayed Guru Gobind Singh on several steps and tortured the thousands of kids, along with the innocent Sahibzaades? Or am I suppose to consider them friends for it was a Muslim who Guru Ram Das chose to lay the foundation of the holiest Golden Temple, or Baba Farid ji, along with the several other Muslims whose banis (words) are an integral part of Sri Guru Granth Sahib, or Bhai Mardana, for that matter, who was the infallible companion of Guru Nanak. I don’t know. But I remember the first thing Sikhism and bani taught me: Ek Ong Kaar: God is one. If God is one and He created all, then they are all my friends. They are the sons and daughters of Satguru, both the Muslims and the Hindus (and of course all others). All the Gurujis were the kindest souls on earth – they never hurt anyone, only protected people from getting hurt. I do not have a conclusion for this debate, but I like to see this situation as follows:

If movies are made to remind me of the past, I shall but see it with a skeptical eye, continuously reminding myself of the hidden goodness, the kindness overlooked in that portrayal. History I shall remember, but faintly. I will work hard on a pleasant today. Keep my friends. Make a brighter history for tomorrow.

I shall do my part. For I believe:
"So many gods, so many creeds;
So many paths that wind and wind,
While just the art of being kind
Is all the sad world needs."
Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Blogger ਿੲਕ ਿਸੰਘ said...

hmmmmmmmmm i am guilty of not having read your novel (pretending to be a post) :)) but i did scan through it.

i probably won't watch it. i do have a stand on this issue(s).

it's funny for those who preach us to be open minded and try to point out that it's the government and the few in India that's responsible...

my question to them is:
1. who elects the government?
2. where is the outrage?

1. people elect the government. majority elects the government.
2. there is no outrage.

movies, rhetoric...all the same!

we lost! plain and simple! we killed their innocent they killed our innocent.

all other stuff is nonsense! it's just like the US apologizing for dropping A-bombs in japan! US would do it again! so what's the point in apologizing?

sikhs in india are living under a hindu rule which does not recognize sikh as a different religion but rather a sect of hinduism. on prabhu's blog he pointed out that sikhs are classified as hindus in marriage or birth certificates (even in punjab!!!). i apologize in advance if i got it wrong prabhu...but it was the (your dream) entry blog...

Friday, September 09, 2005 1:07:00 PM  
Blogger Sikhi Seeker said...

Yes, it is true that Sikhs are still registered under the Hindu Act of Marriage. Dad told me that its cuz we are considered a sect of Hindus and therefore, no Sikh signed on the Indian Constitution. It is partly this enforcement which started the Khalistan movement.

And about my novel ;) The message/debate was different. Although I can see what you are talking there!

Friday, September 09, 2005 2:27:00 PM  
Blogger Kate Da Great! said...

I didnt have time to read this post because my friend is sleeping over, but i will tomorrow, i promise!

if u would like to see i bigger picture, go to and click view more pics...u need an account, but its free and if u dont put any pics then it take about 2 seconds!

another comment tomorrow!


Sunday, September 11, 2005 1:53:00 AM  
Blogger Kate Da Great! said...

wrong url, go to

Sunday, September 11, 2005 1:53:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I came across your blog 3 years too late and identify very strongly with your thoughts, in my case being raised a hindu but currently agnostic and privately desiring desperately to find the truth.

Again, I know this is probably too belated to matter to the person, but I wanted to respond to the first comment and your response to it. My parents lived in Chandigarh during the time of the riots, and my mother emotionally tells of the time our Sikh milkman risked coming out during curfew to deliver the milk so that 'baby' (i.e., me) wouldn't be hungry. She also tells me that the daily chanting of the Sikh prayer that she woke up to (I am blanking on the correct phrase) was the most soothing sound in the world, and she often reminded me growing up that the Guru Granth Sahib says that while some may call Him Ram, and some call Him Allah, God is only One. I have always been bowled over by organized religions that actually bother to preach a message of tolerance.

Re: the relations between Hindus and Sikhs: None of my hindu friends have ever said one bad thing about Sikhs to me. On the contrary, many of them are very appreciative of Sikhs. I am not familiar enough with the Hindu Marriage Act, and will take your word for it that Sikhs may be classified as a sect of hinduism for the purposes of that specific law only. In all other matters, Sikhism is considered one of India's major religions, completely separate from Hinduism. Laws that were drawn up during the formation of an independent country will often be archaic and incomplete- recently a distant relative married a Muslim, an event that caused us to discover among other things, that a Hindu and a Muslim cannot just walk into a court and get married, but must have their intentions registered for a certain period beforehand. This was pretty surprising news to me.

I can empathize with the struggle of being a minority. As an Indian hindu, I am a minority in the US, where I currently live. The US constitution makes little to no effort to recognize the rights of minorities. All things considered, I believe the signatories of the original Indian constitution had good intentions, however flawed in its execution it has ended up. I am indeed ashamed that the riots of 84 occurred, in which hateful generalizations lead to the targeting of innocent people in the desire for revenge against a few misguided folks. I was encouraged that we as a society have moved past that to some degree, seeing as how the recent attacks in Mumbai did not cause any widespread targetting of innocent Muslims.

I believe collective memory is important, but it is just as necessary to consider that the rehashing of past outrages (human beings are nowhere near as civilized as we consider ourselves to be, alas!) just perpetuates the pain for future generations who have been fortunate enough not to have been directly affected by those tragic events. In some cases, it best, for one's own sake, to forgive, and even more importantly, forget.

Sunday, January 11, 2009 11:12:00 PM  

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