Delayed Justice

A Letter from the Director:

“You must make a movie and tell the Indian government we are not terrorists.” That is what an elderly Sikh said to me in Punjabi when I first proposed my idea to make a documentary. Initially I simply wanted to document the flourishing Sikh community in Northern California and analyze how their religious and cultural identity contributed to their success. But the group of elderly Sikhs I sat with on my first visit to a gurudwara hardly talked about how they came to a new country and started from scratch. Instead I heard stories of displacement, of the horrors Operation Blue Star and the 1984 Massacre. This inspired me to work harder and delve deeper to understand the state of the Sikh Diaspora.

As an Indian I am ashamed of witnessing the Indian government commit numerous injustices towards the Sikhs, starting with the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. The Indian government dismisses the killing of thousands of Sikhs in 1947 as a mere consequence of territory re-division. And the government can’t begin to excuse their part in the violence that culminated in the Sikh Massacre of 1984. After the 1947 partition cut their home Punjab in half, Sikhs pressed for their own state. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi responded to the separatists by ordering an attack on the Sikh’s Golden Temple, and was shortly thereafter assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. For the actions of two individuals, the government retaliated by facilitating the murder of thousands of Sikhs. Still, they continue to deny their involvement, and many perpetrators still hold seats in Parliament.

When we talk about the Indian diaspora, we always talk about scientists, doctors, and educators who came to the US in early 70s. Less is talked, written, and filmed about the wave of Sikh immigrants in 1984. Our documentary will study the Sikh Diaspora in the US within the context of 1984. We hope to capture the ways in which the US Sikh community both preserves its roots and creates new identities, with special attention on the still-present effects of 1984.

For this project we will be conducting interviews with survivors of the 1984 massacre, established Sikh scholars and professionals, and members of the flourishing Sikh community here in Northern California. We want to capture the voice of the Diaspora today and acknowledge the strength with which Sikhs are moving on from their past and taking the future in their hands.

We hope the documentary will inspire today’s generation to demand justice be done, for the Indian government to apologize, condemn the perpetrators of the massacre, and rectify the aftermath of 1984.

— Brajesh Samarth, Director