1984 - A bad memory

I saw a movie last night - Amu.  The movie starts off light-heartedly before delving into the social unrest and murder (some would say massacre) that took place in wake of Indira Gandhi's assasination.  Now, most movies on social unrest, while interesting and impactful and engaging, do not suck me in as much as this movie because the events happened a long time back.

But this happened in front of my own eyes!  I was in high school and living in New Delhi and...  Well, the torrent of memories flash before my eyes...

I remember 31 Oct 1984 as if it happened yesterday.  Like any ordinary day, I went to school and came back home about 3pm by public bus.  BBC had already announced that Indira Gandhi was dead though the Indian media was deferring to the government which simply said that doctors were working on her.  I remember having my late lunch when my dad came home unexpectedly and he was so worked up!  He dragged me and my mom to the roof and we could see smoke billowing on the horizon from many fires in every direction.  We lived in Defence Colony (a residential area originally intended for retired military personnel) at the time and during the next 15 days it felt that we were on a military base.  There were uniformed and armed soldiers on every corner!

We were lucky.  There were no riots or mayhem in our little bubble.  But just 100 feet outside of Defence Colony, shops were burned and people murdered - all because they happened to be Sikh, the same religion as the murderers of Indira Gandhi.

Life came back to normal pretty soon.  Schools reopened and the debris from the riots swept away and the buses worked again.  But the people who incited the riots, those who wore the police uniforms and did not lift a finger to protect the people from the mobs and the political leaders who were complicit have basically escaped.  One of the accused, Kamal Nath, even serves in the cabinet of the first Sikh prime minister of India, Manmohan Singh!

On the surface things look good but I wonder what is festering beneath the placid surface of the Indian society.  Is this normalcy or simply a prelude to a bigger disaster which would unfold at the next opportunity?

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