Third Sikh Holocaust Memorial Events in Chicago
Chicago, IL, USA (June 12, 2005) -The Institute for Conflict and Peace Studies (IFCAPS) and Sikh Religious Society, Palatine organized a three-day program to focus on Holocaust and genocide studies. On June 4 2005, a conference was held on Holocaust memorials and their impact in resolving conflicts and promoting peace. Dr. I.J Singh (New York), Dr. Amrik Singh (California), Dr. Swaranjeet Singh of IFCAPS, Prof. Jaginder Singh (Chicago), Dr. Amarjit Singh of KAC Washington, and S. Kulwant Singh (SRS) presented research papers. Dr. Swaranjeet Singh, Executive Director of Institute for Conflict and Peace Studies (IFCAPS), underlined the importance of promoting peace through resolving nagging conflicts in society. He identified more than 150 explosive spots for the escalation of conflicts. In the second phase, he said that efforts could be made to resolve them for promoting peace in the society. He further declared that the role of IFCAPS was academic and recommendatory in nature. He said he vowed to undertake the conflict studies under IFCAPS as there was hardly any endeavor made in that area. It would benefit not only South Asia but also the other marginalized communities of the world where conflicts were taking a big toll on the society. Dr. Swaranjeet Singh showed his deep concern at the growing trend of animating Sikh history. The animation of Sikh Gurus and Sahibzadas can't be accepted, as it is not different from theatrical production. He said there should be a debate before anything like this raises its ugly head to confuse the masses.At the conference, the IFCAPS took the decisions that the entry of Indian Army into the Darbar Sahib on June, 1984, would be observed as Third Sikh Holocaust (Ghalughara), and the attack on Sikhs following the death of Indira Gandhi would be observed as Fourth Holocaust. Every year the Sikhs Human Rights Day would be observed on October 28. And efforts would be made to set up Punjab Archives. Dr. I.J. Singh, a prominent Sikh scholar, held that the effect of holocaust was tremendous on younger generations. Referring to the attack on Darbar Sahib by Indian Army in 1984, he said that it was not a civilized way to resolve the conflict. The use of force to exterminate innocent visitors in Darbar Sahib, Amritsar was horrendous and tragic. The entire community was traumatized and there was very little effort made to resolve the conflict with good faith. Peace can be promoted only if conflicts are analyzed and solutions are provided. His focus was on the Diaspora Sikh response to this event in Sikh history. Dr. I.J. Singh expressed the need for an oral history project so that the events of 1984 are never forgotten.Dr. Amrik Singh, a representative of IFCAPS in California, analyzed elements that constitute holocausts. The pattern was same in all holocausts that took place in the world. The majority community has exaggerated view of its own superiority and wants all others to accept subsidiary position. If any one doesn't accept the lower grading and becomes an eyesore, a biting attack would take place in the garb of some veiled threat to the fabric of society. Referring to 1984, he said that it was a very systematic invasion on the patriotic people who were in the forefront of freedom struggle. Indian Army was given 48 hours to clean up therefore; the operation was done in accelerated manner without giving any thought to the loss of life of innocent people.Prof. Jaginder Singh Ramdev presented his paper on Akal Takhat and its importance. He said that the institution of Akal Takhat was misused many a time in the history of the Sikhs. Dr. Amarjit Singh of the Khalistan Affairs Center analyzed the resolution passed at Akal Takhat in 1986 and said that it was still relevant. He gave a number of reasons to justify the demand of Khalistan. Mr. Kulwant Singh Hundal spoke on the rampant use of drugs in Punjab villages. The youth of Punjab was threatened to be consumed away in the addiction to many intoxicants. How to wean the youth away from harmful use of drug was the major thrust of his paper.Harvind Kaur conducted the seminar in a very efficient manner giving equal opportunity to the audience who wanted to participate in the debate. A documentary written and directed by Harvind Kaur was screened. The short film titles Keep the Faith gives basic information about the turban and shows how a turban is tied. The documentary is now available in DVD format. Schools, institutions and other interested individuals can contact IFCAPS for a copy of it.
A candle light vigil was held late in the evening at the Palatine Gurudwara to commemorate the Third Holocaust that took place on Darbar Sahib from June 3, to June 6, 1984. More than 200 Sikhs took part in the vigil. A soulful tribute was paid to the memory of all devotees who exemplified calm, courage and sacrifice in the face of death. The artillery, mortar guns, tanks and missiles were used to kill innocent civilians in the Darbar Sahib. It may be the only incident in the history of the world when army turned their aim at their own people. Along with a few speeches the attendees did simran and viewed a slide show of photographs of the actual attack in June 1984.Another attractive event of the three-day program was a discussion of the panel of representatives of different communities held on June 5, 2005. The Documentary Final Solution produced by Rakesh Sharma was shown. It was followed by a penal discussion. Mr. Dinesh Sampat of Hindu Community, Mr. Joe Anthony of the Christian, Mr. Rahul Depankar of Buddhist & Dalit, Mr. Inthiaze and Mr. Rasheed Ahmad of Muslim community, and Mr. Baldev Singh of the Sikh community participated in the Panel Discussion. Mr. Rajinder Singh Mago moderated the discussion in an appreciable manner. First of all, Dinesh Sampat of Hindu community said that Vedas are scriptures of universal values. All the principles of Vedas, if followed in their letter and spirit can end many problems that plague our society today. Mr. Anthony said that Christian community was under a great threat under the communal leadership of India, but their meaningful intervention from USA helped in punishing the guilty ones. Mr. Rasheed expressed a great hope of intercommunity relationships and appreciated the organizers for holding the event. Mr. Inthiaz also held that if no effort is made to resolve the conflicts, they could plague the whole society.The most exponent of all member participants was Dr. Rahul Depankar who said that he had had the opportunity to speak in Sikh Gurudwaras about the condition of Dalits. He said Guru Granth Sahib doesn't support any discrimination of Dalits and seeks to provide equal opportunities to the have-nots. However, he wasn't happy with the practices that allow Sikhs to treat Dalits like most Brahmins do.Mr Baldev Singh spoke about attempts made to isolate Sikh community from the rest of the country. The feelings of hatred were created for political purposes and to overshadow overwhelming contribution of Sikhs in the freedom struggle. The ghostly past of 1984 can never be forgotten, whereas all out efforts have been to erase the tragedy from the memory of the people. The facade of secularism and democracy was against the minority community, he added.The Board of Panel adopted unanimously a motion concerning with the controversial decision of French Government to deny the religious rights of some people. They resolved to write to the Government of India about officially taking the matter with their French counterpart. The response to the panel discussion was really a salutary one. However, the audience requested more such programs.