Anti-Sikh riots of 1984 marks one of the ‘darkest’ years: US senator

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 was one of the “darkest” years, according to a US senator who emphasised the significance of remembering the horrors committed against Sikhs so that those responsible may be held accountable.

Following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984, by her Sikh bodyguards, unrest broke out in Delhi and other regions of the nation. In India, around 3,000 Sikhs were killed, largely in the capital.

“1984 marks one of the darkest years in modern Indian history. The world watched as several violent incidents broke out among ethnic groups in India, with several notably targeting the Sikh community,” Senator Pat Toomey said in his speech on the Senate floor.

“Today we are here to remember the tragedy that commenced on November 1, 1984, following decades of ethnic tension between Sikhs in the Punjab province and the central Indian Government,” he said.

As so often in such cases, the official estimates likely do not tell the whole story, but it is estimated that over 30,000 Sikh men, women, and children were deliberately targeted, raped, slaughtered, and displaced by mobs across India, said the senator from Pennsylvania.

According to Senator Toomey, a member of the American Sikh Congressional Caucus, Sikhism has roots in the Punjab region of India and has been practised there for close to 600 years. Sikhism is one of the world’s main faiths, with 700,000 adherents in the US and about 30 million worldwide.

Sikhs have a long history of showing a dedication to helping people from all religious, racial, and ethnic backgrounds, exhibiting their kindness and strong sense of community.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, Sikh communities across Pennsylvania and the United States came together to deliver groceries, masks, and other supplies to tens of thousands of families in need no matter their race, gender, religion, or creed,” he said.

Toomey claimed to have experienced firsthand the Sikh way of life and to now have a deeper understanding of the Sikh tradition, which is based on peace, equality, and respect.

It is clear that the presence and contributions of Sikh communities have thoroughly enriched their neighbourhoods across the country, he said.

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