Visit from Amitabh Bachan
In late October and early November 1984 many thousands of people were killed in pogroms that started in Delhi and spread across India. People were pulled from buses, from their homes, beaten up on the street. Many people were burned to death after being doused with paraffin (kerosene). There was a degree of complicity, involvement and incitement from the police and other state and political workers.
Keith Vaz MP is celebrating 25 years in Parliament, 25 years of playing an important role in democracy in this country. Many Indians, politicians amongst them, accept that the violence of 1984 is a shameful stain on the largest democracy in the world. The protection of life, the rule of law, equality before the law and freedom from persecution are all basic human rights and all were offended against in 1984. Justice should be done. Questions need to be answered.
Below is a joint letter from Amnesty and the Leicestershire Sikh Alliance (LSA) to Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP addressing the invitation to Amitabh Bachan, who has been implicated and charged with encouraging hate and violence by his televised public statements back in 1984.
OPEN LETTER FROM AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL (LEICS BRANCH) AND LEICESTERSHIRE SIKH ALLIANCE IN REGARD TO BOLLYWOOD ACTOR, AMITABH BACHAN’S, INVITATION TO YOUR 25 YEARS IN PARLIAMENT CELEBRATION PARTY
Dear Rt Hon. Keith Vaz MP
Leicester 's Bollywood fans always enjoy seeing the stars that come over here, but are you aware, an organised protest by SEVA 84 (Sikh Human Rights Group), is to be held outside the Platinum Suite in Leicester on Sunday 16th June, the venue for your 25years in Parliament celebrations. The protest has been arranged questioning the wisdom of the invitation given to Amitabh Bachan.
Amnesty International (Leicester Branch) and LSA are proud to celebrate the triumphs of democracy and good governance the world over, and congratulate your work as an MP in promoting these important principles of civil society over the past 25 years. We do, however, condemn any action that undermines the rule of law, incites hatred or avoids justice. We ask you and Mr Bachan to make a clear statement condemning the 1984 massacres in Delhi and across India and to take a stand in calling on the Indian government to hold party and government officials, the police and the judiciary and others to account for their role in the massacres of 1984. A true celebration of 25 years of your personal involvement with the government of this country would be greater if it were to include a call for justice and the defence of the human rights of thousands of individuals and families affected by the events of 1984.
Currently Mr Bachan has a criminal complaint filed against him in Australia, as following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, he publicly called that, "The bloodstains must reach the houses of those who killed Indira," (Khoon ke chheente Indira ko marne walon ke gharon tak pahunchne chahiye). We also call on you to urge Mr Bachan to respect the rule of law and respond to the Australian investigating authorities of a criminal complaint against him for inciting hatred. These remarks were allegedly made (and televised via a primetime news show) after the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indra Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, which unleashed widespread, systematic and organized attacks against the Sikh population resulting in the massacre of 3000 Sikhs in a short span of 2 days in New Dehli. This massacre was organised by high ranking officials and further killings was prevented by sympathetic Hindu neighbours who risked their own lives by hiding and protecting their Sikh neighbours- a commendable act of mutual respect. However, a pogrom ensued with a further 20,000 Sikhs were reportedly killed across India.
The assassination was a result of the violent storming, by the Indian Army, of the Golden Temple (Sikh’s most Holiest Shrine) ordered by the late Mrs Indira. Thousands of innocent worshippers were killed whilst the Indian Army used tanks to flush out a small group of armed militia.
Mr Kuldeep Singh aged 47 of Oadby whose nephew was killed by Indian Army forces whilst he innocently worshipped on the day of the attack says:
"Pilgrims packed the Golden Temple as the day of the attack was the death anniversary of the Golden Temple's founding Guru. Why did the Army choose this day? They must have known of the immense collateral damage. Bachan’s presence in Leicester bring back bitter bad memories of the time, the pool's water around Temple actually turned red with the amount blood spilled"
International journalists were excluded from the region and even to this day Amnesty International has been denied access to the Punjab region. It has been difficult to form an objective view of events during this dark era due to Draconian clampdowns, states of emergency and effective martial law. There is evidence of the involvement of Indian government forces is 'fake encounters' in an autobiography of a retired Head of Punjab Police.
We are deeply concerned that an individual who has a criminal complaint lodged against him with Australia’s Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions for inciting organized attacks on Sikh population of India in November 1984 is appearing as the main celebrity guest for a prominent Leicester MP who also holds the reputable Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee.
Taking all the facts into consideration and pending criminal complaints against Bachan, and account that Leicester is a city which contains tens of thousands of Sikhs, the LSA feels that Amitabh Bachan’s presence at this event is deeply insensitive and hurts the sentiments of the Sikh community and all who are aware of the massacres of 1984.
We respectfully urge you to examine the evidence himself and make a statement with your view on Bachan 's criminal indictment in commonwealth country of Australia in which Our Queen is supreme Head of State. Bachan clearly has a legal case to answer but it seems the Indian Judiciary has been impotent to act. In 2011 India was ranked 95th out of 178 countries in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions Index.
We ask you to use your influence to urge Bachan to submit himself to the due legal process. If natural justice is not seen to be done and the rule of law is not applied then that situation can give rise to direct action aggressive protest, something the LSA is proactive to prevent. Leicester's worldwide reputation as harmonious community of folk from many countries, shown in our defiant and dignified stance against the EDL must not be allowed to be compromised. As you have tirelessly helped many of your Sikh constituents, it would be a matter of regret if you inadvertently allow the perception that you are not the measured and thoughtful voice of Human Rights of the community.
Jonathan Ure (Amnesty International Leicester Branch) &
30 Cambridge St, Leicester, LE3 0JP
07929 187 500
Amandeep Rai (Public Relations Officer for LSA)
Leicestershire Sikh Alliance
48 Kenilworth Drive, Oadby, Leicester, LE2 5LG.