Swaranjit Singh Khalsa (2nd from right) and visitors to the Norwich “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day”
By Local News | United States |
Norwich ― Although it was 38 years ago, many religious community members who practice Sikhism continue to feel the effects of what they call a government-backed genocide.
Community members were welcomed to the Sikh Art Gallery on Saturday to learn about the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots for an exhibition on “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day” and to hear personal accounts by survivors.
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, a city council member and the gallery’s director, said the local Sikh community has done events in Hartford and at city hall but now they want to focus more on educational initiatives, especially as campaigns from opposing Indian groups claim Sikhs are terrorists.
He added Saturday’s event allowed Sikh people to share their experiences as the gallery is working on an oral history project.
During a presentation for attendees, Khalsa said Sikhs had their own country, known as the Sikh Empire, from 1799 to 1849, then a partition in 1947 divided the nation, splitting it between India and Pakistan. Khalsa said more than one million Sikhs were displaced.
Khalsa said Sikhs were not treated fairly in India. He said it led to the June 1984 attack of the Sikh Golden Temple in the state of Punjab by the Indian army as well as the widespread violence and murder of Sikhs across India in November 1984. The violence is said to have started after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.
The violence included burning and beating deaths and rapes of Sikh civilians and destruction of homes and businesses.
He said the Indian government has denied the genocide in the aftermath of violence as politicians and congressmen were allegedly involved. “We know what happened to us,” Khalsa said.
Even after investigations, Khalsa many still hold power and the Sikh continue to seek recognition of the genocide, justice and the sovereignty of Punjab, also known as Khalistan― translating to “land of the pure.”
He noted that the state of Connecticut has passed legislation recognizing Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day on Nov. 1.
Other members of the Sikh community were invited to talk as well as local officials who have faced opposition for supporting the Sikh community. Mayor Peter Nystrom and the city council have had emails, texts, phone calls and letters circulated by the Indian community demanding that they rescind their proclamation declaring April 29 as Sikh Declaration of Independence Day.
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