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Front Over 100,000 innocent civilian Sikhs were massacred by the Indian army throughout Punjab during the first week of June in 1984. Following the attack, hundreds of thousands of Sikhs have been killed, tortured, and persecuted by the Indian government. Much of 1984 is forgotten history partly because there are limited resources that provide a fair and balanced political context to the narratives of victims and historians. Lost in History: 1984 Reconstructed attempts to be a primary resource for those who aim to understand the genocide. The second edition, released this year, coincides with the twenty-fifth anniversary of Operation Bluestar.

The second edition retains the same passionate voice as the first, but is more polished, nuanced and objective. New to the second edition is a suggested list of references for further reading. Other lists are provided to help readers with a limited knowledge of Indian history (i.e, me) create a framework: there is an outline detailing the implementation of the President’s rule since India’s independence and a list demonstrating the hierarchy of rankings amongst the Punjab police force. The book also includes over 260 footnotes which substantiate major claims made by the author. The footnotes serve as a useful resource and make the book an excellent reference guide for research.

“The genocide of 1984 demands our attention, for it is in danger of becoming lost in history, buried under communal politics, international relations and the government’s emphatic silencing of human rights workers,” writes the author. We must continue to not forget. We must continue to take action against such abuses, both past and current, both in Punjab and throughout the world. Support the seva of our committed sangat by ordering your copy of Lost in History: 1984 Reconstructed at 1984reconstructed@gmail.com

December has historically been a month comprised of revolutionary events. On December 9, 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was opened for signature. On December 10, 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In December 1995, the FDA approved the first protease inhibitor, one of the now many classes of therapies available for the treatment of HIV infection. December 1 is now designated as World AIDS Day.

On Monday, December 8, 2008, Physicians for Human Rights and Harvard Medical School will be hosting a town hall meeting titled HIV/AIDS and the Right to Health: Leadership in the US and Globally commemorating World AIDS Day and the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. RSVP by midnight and be prepared to arrive super early if you want a seat.

From December 13-15, 2008 United Sikhs will be hosting Global Sikh Civil Rights Conference during which a Global Civil Rights Report will be released, cases will be presented to the United Nations and sangat, and a panel discussion will be held at the United Nations Church Center. E-mail law@unitedsikhs.org to RSVP or visit unitedsikhs.org for more information.

Because of revolutionary thinkers and activists, HIV is no longer a lethal disease but a chronic manageable condition that is now screened for in the same way we screen for high cholesterol and reported (in most states) in the same manner we notify patients about other blood work and studies. Because of raised voices and collective seva, Sikhs are making headway in defending their right to dignity, life and safety, and practice Sikhi. December 2008 marks only the beginning of change to come. Do your part in educating yourself about the issues and diseases afflicting our panth, erasing intolerance and helping to enact interventions through more than just surveillance research. Let us open our eyes and acknowledge past and present human rights violations in Punjab and throughout the world*. Let us reevaluate our own stigmas and acknowledge that HIV/AIDS affects Sikhs of all sexual orientations, backgrounds and ages. Let us raise our fists together and stay committed to change for months and years to come.

*including Zimbabwe, Turkey, Congo, Russia, Lebanon, Nigeria, Thailand, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Kazakhstan, and the United States (Human Rights Watch Weekly Digest, Nov 28-Dec 3)

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Who’s going to join me in running the Boston Marathon as an unregistered bandit and covering those 26.2 miles without ending in last place? Fine, I’ll make it even less challenging: how about just imagining to do so?

Perhaps the legendary “Flying Sikh” Milkha Singh will… or maybe not. For one, he would easily be a time-qualifier. And after what he did today, well, lets just say that the Boston Marathon is a bit beneath him.

Milkha Singh, a three-time Olympian in the 1956, 1960 and 1964 games, carried the Olympic torch through New Delhi in a ceremonial closed route. He had the distinct honor of leading the relay even before the torch changed hands.

“When you are in the Olympic Games, you are a part of the Olympic family,” said Singh, retracing his old days in the Olympics. “Everybody is coming the Olympic Games for competing of course, but more importantly is to make friends, to learn things of different cultures and extending understandings with smile and greetings. Today, it’s another great day for me to be part of the Olympic Games, it’s a day looking back and looking forward for a better world.” (Chinaview.cn)

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But get this: he wasn’t the only Sikh representative in the torch relay. As the second torchbearer, he handed the Olympic flame to Gurbachan Singh Randhawa, the Chinese ambassador in New Delhi (second person from left in the picture).

You must be thinking I forgot all about the Beijing and human rights abuse controversy. I promise, I haven’t. I won’t comment on the number (17,000) of security personnel India provided for the torch to pass through a 2.3 kilometer stretch over 40 minutes without protest and interruption. I won’t comment on China’s arbitrary detention, threats and harassment against peaceful Tibetan protesters and its general disregard for human rights either. For now, I’ll leave this with happy thoughts– thoughts similar to those of spokesman Qu Yingpu: that the Olympic flame represents friendship, peace, and progress.

Can’t run the marathon this year or need some inspiration to get you ready for next year? Read this or live vicariously through this account instead.

Correction Appended

Reseachers at the NYU/Bellevue Program for Survivors of Torture published a study titled “The Effects of Torture-Related Injuries on Long-Term Psychological Distress in a Punjabi Sikh Sample” to determine whether “physical injury moderates or mediates the relationship between torture and major depressive episodes (MDE) or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among survivors of political persecution in India.” Translation: do physical injuries in the setting of torture manifest themselves through mental disease? Major conclusions of the study included that “the diagnosis of MDE was not associated with torture, although depression was associated with chronic injuries” and “injury mediates the effect of torture on longterm PTSD.” Translation: it wasn’t the torture experience itself that led to MDE or PTSD in the sample of Sikhs studied, but rather the “traumatic cues” or reminders of being tortured through the chronic injuries one sustained that led to the manifestation of psychiatric illness.

Some bloggers have noted it was upsetting to not see Sikh physicians associated with the study. Although I agree to some extent, this is where it gets a bit fuzzy for me. It would be inspirational to see Sikhs in the medical world document the physical and psychological toll of human rights abuses in Punjab. Yet, these bloggers are setting a dangerous precedent by narrowing the population to be served to Sikhs alone. We, the Sikh Panth, are a nation defined by an insignia: we must maintain our miri and piri and protect our own spiritual and political sovereignty yet embrace the circular symbol of oneness and our duty to humanity by fighting all injustices and actions of oppression. The atrocities in Punjab have most certainly not been brought to an appropriate scale of attention, and we should use that frustration to motivate us. We must, however, make sure we do not remain blind to our current state of affairs. Genocides are going on right now in Kenya, Sudan, Chechnya, Palestine, and Burma. Right now. Yes, I’ll say it again: genocides are happening right now. In fact, we can broaden the list a bit further: when an individual is denied access to healthcare or medications a human rights violation is committed. Which means I’ve indited nearly every country on the planet, including the U.S. and Canada. Our frustration should not only be with the dearth of Sikhs within the field of human rights but with the number of spirited Sikhs enraged by the brutality currently being enforced on our brothers and sisters. Let us start by reading and getting up to speed with current national and world events and then ask questions, get linked into organizations such as Human Rights Watch or Physicians for Human Rights, sign petitions, blog our thoughts, write letters to the editor, go into the field, march in the streets, shout from the rooftops… okay, I’ll end before I start calling for total anarchy. But you get my drift, I hope.

Correction: February 1, 2007

There is an erroneous statement above, and it has been striked. The blogger did not place limits on the population to be served.

Ensaaf and Human Rights Watch released a damning joint report against the Indian government titled “Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India” along with a slideshow and video testimonials.

Lots of links to click on above, but definitely worth taking a look at each carefully.

As much as I love my Armenian brothers in System of a Down (SOAD), please don’t think like me and conjure up images of rock stars when you hear the word Armenian. Rather, I’d like you to consider this: Interesting how Armenians have creatively switched gears from directly confronting their Turkish-government-in-denial to instead lobbying their US Congressman to declare that the Ottoman Empire authorized and committed genocide against their ancestors. Yes, it may have taken twenty years for Armenian-Americans to get the attention of their legislators and draft a bill. And yes, the chances of the bill being passed by the House are slim to none in our current geopolitical climate. Yet our community may want to take note of this as an example of how powerful we can be if we organized ourselves as one voice with specific and unified goals and employed our collective votes and lobby machines in the same manner. And we shouldn’t forget the role of rock stars: the guys in SOAD have held demonstrations in Washington, D.C. to fight for recognition of their history. Perhaps a Sikh band similar to SOAD could get together to remind people of our “forgotten” history as well.

What can you do right now to be part of the movement? If you’re downright lazy, register to vote. Have a bit more energy? Register to vote and join a rock band.