‘Just another riot in India’: remembering the 1984 anti-Sikh violence


  • Jasneet Aulakh University of Oxford, United Kingdom


In this article, I aim to problematize the ‘riots’ label that defines the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom following Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Focused in, though not limited to Delhi, the pogrom included the death of approximately 3 000 Sikhs, the destruction of homes and gurdwaras, and mass rape. By remembering the attacks as ‘riot’, both the government and the public depict the violent acts as unorganised and spontaneous mob activity, trivialising the systematic nature of the pogrom and denying central government and police complicity. This effectively silences the victims who  have yet to earn any recognition or rights as victims, including death certification and arrests of perpetrators. Using interviews, unpublished police reports and court affidavits, I explore the ways in which voices are silenced for the sake of preserving national integrity, and how national narratives can continue to oppress victims.


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