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‘Lost in the Pages of History’- 13 January 1989: When Right-Wing Mobs Murdered 14 Sikhs in Jammu


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‘Lost in the Pages of History’- 13 January 1989: When Right-Wing Mobs Murdered 14 Sikhs in Jammu

January 12, 2022 by News Desk

On 13th January 1989, The Sikhs of Jammu arranged a procession Nagar Kirtan to commemorate Gurupurab.

As the procession was passing through the streets of Jammu, a violent mob suddenly attacked the processions with deadly weapons. The attackers were affiliates of Hindu right-wing organization Shiv Sena. Fourteen Sikhs were murdered and hundreds injured, some of them seriously

After the attack, Several Gurdwaras were looted and many more were set on fire that day.

The violent mob set ablaze Sikh-owned properties worth crores. Around 140 vehicles and hundreds of shops were also burnt down on the day.

Relatives of several victims of January 13, 1989, riots stated that the victims were mob lynched, with sticks, iron rods and hockey sticks.

Surinder Singh’s mother, who was among the victims said, “My son, who was part of the Gurupurab procession was caught by some goons sporting iron rods and hockey sticks in their hands. He was beaten to death. The police remained onlooker only.”

The Sikh bodies state that the police and the administration were well aware of the pre-planned strategy of the right-wing mobs to rake trouble during the Nagar Kirtan but did not act to stop the situation.

Economic and Political weekly (EPW) in a paper reported on the violence on January 13, 1989.

Several outbreaks of murderous communal violence, markets en route have a reception event on the eve of the birthday celebrations of Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday.

There are conflicting versions of the size of the procession that year. Estimates vary from 10,000 to 20,000 people processionists including women and children were a part of the procession. Some of the Sikhs, especially those from far-flung areas, had come in these vehicles, singing Shabad kirtan.

The Hindus of the Jammu area accuse the processions of raising ‘anti-national’. Some witnesses, EPW paper states, said they could hear only the chorus of murdabad’ or ‘zindabad to each slogan, but the voice that led the slogans was so muffled that they could not make out what the target of these cries was.Some allege that Khalistan was being hailed, others that Satwant Singh and Kehar Singh (accused of Indira Gandhi’s murder) were being hailed as martyrs.

The procession had covered almost three-quarters of its route before the trouble began. When it came towards Purani Mandi, people both within the procession and outside of it began to sense trouble. The procession was encountering closed shops instead of reception committees.

Several senior police officials including DIG SS Ali were present at the entrance to Purani Mandi. Some local residents and police officials urged Police to stop the procession or to get its route altered. But the police stood and watched as though they were merely spectators.

As the procession entered Purani Mandi, stones and soda water bottles were thrown on the processionists from rooftops. This attack from above threw the procession into utter chaos. Thousands of people tried to escape simultaneously from the congested Bazar, through the only two available narrow outlets.

Many Sikhs were injured and rushed to the hospital, where doctors were harassed and prevented from treating the crowds.

The attack at the hospital was not all, the violent mobs attacks the Sikhs at the main bus stand in Jammu’s bus station in the BC Road area when the Sikhs had managed to reach there and take buses back to their villages. Armed with weapons, the Sikhs were attacked. One young Sikh was dragged out and brutally assaulted. Another Sikh teenager who went to help the young boy was lynched on the spot.

A woman named Aagya Kour came out looking for her young children when she heard of the riots. Aagya was run over by a speeding truck carrying miscreants near Nanak Nagar Gurdwara

“It was after two days that the police informed us about her death. The cause was reported to be an accident,” said Gurcharan Kour, the elder daughter of the victim, who was a part of the procession.

The families were given a monetary compensation of Rs 25,000 each with a job to next of the kin of the deceased.

Gurdeep Singh, a truck driver, who had just come back from the railway station, parked his vehicle outside his home. PS Gill, the then SSP ordered firing and a bullet pierced through his head leaving him dead in a pool of blood, said Amarjeet Kour, who was just 15 years old then.

Sources disclose that the 250-page report holds the police and civil administration responsible for negligence as well as administrative failure.

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