There is a genocide happening in a democratic country, and you haven’t heard of it.

The Sikh community has been a significant part of India’s history and culture, with a rich heritage that spans centuries. However, the community has also been subjected to instances of discrimination, persecution, and violence, at the hands of the Indian government. India is known as one of leading democratic countries of Asia; however, that may be changing with many instances of persecution towards religious minorities, such as against the Sikh and Muslims.

Sikhs rally during farmers protest, Nova Scotia.

Recently, the Sikh diaspora on March 25, 2023, held a rally in Vancouver to protest the arrest of Amritpal Singh, a Sikh preacher. Following Singh’s arrest, restrictions on gatherings were enforced, a media blackout was enacted, and internet connection was cut, which effected an estimated twenty-million people in the Punjab region of India. Along with the arrest of Sikh preachers, Sikhs have been suppressed by the Indian government during the farmer’s protests. The farmer’s protest were a series of demonstrations which protested the Indian Agriculture Act of 2020. The most notable example of similar persecution occurred in 1984, when then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered a military operation known as Operation Blue Star to remove armed militants from the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, which is considered the holiest site in the Sikh religion. The operation resulted in the death of numerous innocent civilians, including women and children, and caused significant damage to the temple. The discrimination against Sikhs within India has a profound effect on the Sikh diaspora.

The Indian government has fallen short of taking action to hold people accountable for the anti-Sikh riots, which can be defined as a genocide

Davinder Gill

Grade 11 Riverside student Davinder Gill feels frustration over how Sikhs are treated in their homeland.  “The Indian government has fallen short of taking action to hold people accountable for the anti-Sikh riots, which can be defined as a genocide, or the effort to eliminate a group of people. That’s because they’re the ones responsible for it. The Indian government encourages anti-Sikh incentives by treating Sikhs like second class citizens,” said Gill.

The aggression against Sikhs triggered a chain of events that led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, Oct 31, 1984, by her Sikh bodyguards. In the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Sikh communities across India were targeted in a wave of violence, with thousands of Sikhs being killed, raped, and beaten by mobs. The government failed to intervene effectively, with many police officers and government officials actively participating in the violence or turning a blind eye to it.

Today, Sikhs are still being treated violently by the Indian government and are often subjected to unfair trials, harassment, and even out right lynching’s. Sikhs have continue to face discrimination and persecution in India, and have been threatened and antagonized abroad, with the Indian government routinely using anti-terrorism laws to target members of the community. Sikh activists and human rights organizations have documented numerous cases of extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, and torture of Sikh individuals by security forces. In Canada, the long-established Sikh community continues to support Sikhs back in India. Canadian Sikhs stive to spread awareness online of the relatively unknown persecution of Sikhs. “The Canadian Sikh community can’t do much from across the globe. We’re limited to holding protests locally and spreading awareness online. The latter being the most impactful,” said Gill.

The government’s treatment of Sikh political prisoners has also been a cause for concern, with many being subjected to prolonged detention without trial, ill-treatment, and inadequate medical care. One of the most significant examples of this persecution is the case of Bhullar Singh, a Sikh political activist who was arrested in 1995 and accused of carrying out a bomb attack on a government official. Singh was tortured while in police custody and later sentenced to death based on a confession obtained through torture. Despite international outcry and numerous appeals, Singh was executed in 2013. The Indian government has also been accused of failing to provide justice for victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, with few of the perpetrators being held accountable for their actions. Many of the victims and their families are still waiting for justice and compensation.

The persecution of Sikhs in India is a deeply troubling issue that has not received enough attention on the global stage. The Democratic world watches with worry as India strays further from Democracy and encourages the Indian government to take steps to address the grievances of the Sikh community, hold those responsible for past atrocities accountable, and ensure that the rights of Sikhs are protected in the future. The international community also has a responsibility to speak out against these abuses and hold the Indian government accountable for its actions.

  • Photo courtesy of the BBC