Ottawa (June 22,2012): WSO President Prem Singh Vinning has written to NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair in response to a story that was published in the Globe & Mail today which reported that Indian High Commissioner S.S. Gavai accused Mr. Mulcair of distorting the facts surrounding the attack on the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) Complex in Amritsar in 1984 along with dozens of other Gurdwaras across Punjab.
Mr. Vinning's letter is below in its entirety:
The Honourable Thomas Mulcair
Leader of the Official Opposition
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
RE: 1984 Statement
Dear Mr. Mulcair,
On behalf of the World Sikh Organization of Canada, I would like to commend and thank you for your expression of sympathy regarding the 1984 invasion of the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) complex in Amritsar and dozens of other Gurdwaras by the Indian army. Your statement recognizes the enormous loss of innocent lives that took place during that tragic event and the continuing pain of the Sikh community.
According to a report today in the Globe & Mail, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, Mr. S.S. Gavai has taken exception to your statement and has argued that the assault on the Darbar Sahib was in fact an “operation by Indian security forces to neutralize terrorists.”
Unfortunately, Mr. Gavai’s statement is highly misleading and ignores the fact that thousands of innocent pilgrims who had come to the Darbar Sahib to mark the martyrdom day of Guru Arjan (the founder of the Darbar Sahib) were brutally killed during the army’s assault. According to Brahma Chellaney of the Associated Press, who was the only foreign correspondent present in Amritsar during the assault (due to a government imposed media blackout), Sikhs who were suspected of being ‘militants’ were bound and then shot at point blank range. Other innocent pilgrims died of thirst or due to lack of timely treatment of their injuries. Estimates by independent observers of the number of dead during this attack range from 3,000 to 8,000.
The assault on the Golden Temple, far from being recognized as the “legitimate duty” of the army, has in fact even been categorized by India’s leading newsmagazine India Today as one of the “top 10 political disgraces” in Indian history. The magazine specifically refers to the attack as “a political disaster and an unprecedented act in Indian history. Its aftermath and the increased tensions led to assaults on the Sikh community in India.”
We would also take issue with Mr. Gavai’s reference to the genocide of Sikhs in November 1984 as simply “a horrific manifestation of mob violence.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. It has recently been recognized even by India’s own Central Bureau of Investigation that the violence against Sikhs was not spontaneous mob violence “but a well organized operation, which had the backing of the police and patronage of the system.” Several key members of Congress Party have been implicated in orchestrating the killings.
We would agree with Mr. Gavai that the Air India bombing was a tragic act of terrorism for which WSO has been demanding justice for the victims since 1985. However, recognizing the tragic loss of innocent lives in 1984 does not in any way take away from the memory of those lost in the Air India disaster.
In conclusion, I would once again like to thank you for your statement of sympathy on 1984. It reflects an important understanding of the pain Sikhs continue to feel over those terrible events. Mr. Gavai’s attempts at misrepresenting that sad chapter in Indian history are disingenuous and misleading.
Prem Singh Vinning
World Sikh Organization of Canada