Meenu Kanwal-Ghag: Witnessing The Horrors Of 1984 As An 8 Year Old On Summer Vacation
What was supposed to be a regular summer trip to India for a young Canadian girl turned out to be a life-changing event as I witnessed a horrific part of history
March 2, 2021 | 3 min. read
What was supposed to be a regular summer trip to India for an 8-year-old Canadian girl, turned out to be a life-changing event as I witnessed a horrific part of history. I am talking about the Sikh Genocide of 1984. Even as a young girl, I was able to recognize it for what it was.
Visiting the Harmandir Sahib a few days after the attack shook me to the core.
I remember walking down the hallways of our most sacred and holy place with total shock. As I held my grandmother’s hand, who was visibly upset and devastated, I glanced around at the destruction around us.
So many innocent lives lost.
When I first arrived in India, Darbar Sahib was one of the initial places I visited with my grandparents - just two days prior to the attack. I remember how the beauty and serenity of the place mesmerized me.
I recall my mother frantically calling from Canada once she found out about the Indian army’s invasion of Darbar Sahib. She knew we were visiting but, she was not sure if we were there during that time. She was in a complete panic until she finally had confirmation we were safe.
After the attack, everyone was in shock.
My grandmother had to go again and see the devastation for herself in order to believe it.
Now we stood there, for the second time, as our Akal Takht was left to rubbles. The building was torn to shreds. The bullet holes were visible from far distances. I remember thinking to myself that I could have been there on that day. As a little girl, I felt fear and confusion sweeping over me. Why was this happening?
It was only the beginning of what turned out to be years of horror. I remember hearing conversations of the police coming for young Sikh men. Each one of them was labeled as a terrorist because of their faith and religion. The attacks continued and I witnessed bodies of young men being brought to the village daily. I remember standing on top of my village home and watching the family members and villagers crying so much that there were no more tears to shed.
One night the police even came for my uncle. He was one of the lucky ones that came out alive, but that experience has still left a mark on me. At that early age, I learned that we are the targeted minority in India. We were hard-working, successful, and warriors. This was something that the government feared.
That is still the case today where they fear anyone that does not follow the mainstream ideology of Hindu Nationalism.
The trip that was supposed to last the summer, lasted 4 years. I become entrenched in the culture. I became part of the community. We would travel to Gurdwara’s learning about Sikhi and history. This gave me a sense of belonging and questioned why we were targeted. My people were workers, community members, and honest individuals and they were being killed for their beliefs. They were being labeled as terrorists only because they sought rights. The experience was an eye-opener for me and changed my life forever.
Fast forward to 2021 and they are attacking us again.
Instead of allowing us to voice our opinions or listen to our concerns, they once again have tried to muzzle us. Well, we are too strong and powerful to let that happen. Our Sikh diaspora is more engaged than ever. We are involved and fearless. Thanks to modern technology we can open the world’s eyes to the atrocities against Sikhs more than ever.
The world is listening and watching. We will not allow 1984 to happen again. We will not allow India to try to silence us again.
We have a voice and it will be heard.
Meenu Kanwal-Ghag is a Chartered Insurance Professional and has been working in the insurance industry as a Litigation, Advisor/Consultant for the last 20 years. She is a mother of three girls.
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