(shot in 35mm by baljit singh + rupi kaur | words by rupi kaur)
‘rooh’ - a photo essay exploring the stories of individuals before, during, and after the 1984 sikh genocide.
5 months before the attack he sits by himself and fiddles with his radio. his family came to delhi 37 years ago during the largest mass migration in human history: the partition of india. they’d packed into a train which left their lahore, hurtling past the wanton carnage of the newly mutilated punjab. today it is june 10th 1984. and they’ve tried to carve out the heart of his punjab again. he scrambles the dials on the radio, desperate for any news about his sons and daughters. operation blue star, a systemized attack by the indian state against the golden temple, the heart of sikhs, has finally ceased. for a week, in the villages and gurdwaras of his punjab, his children have resisted the government’s tanks and missiles. his entire life, he’d sung to them. he’d told them theirs was a centuries old tradition of resistance. today thousands of them lay killed. his children had given themselves for their people. his tears tonight are different. revolution is in the air but he cries because he knows the world will never know their hopes and aspirations. they’ll be silenced by the media.
they find him on the 2nd of november 1984, a few months after operation bluestar. sitting on the same couch. struggling to find a news station that works. they knew where to go because his house was already marked. the politicians had circulated a list of all sikhs in delhi and a man had come earlier in the day and chalked off an X. they confirmed the marking when they saw his turban. he smelled them arriving before he saw them. the melting rubber on the tires they were burning gave them up. he picked up his sword and walked outside to meet the mob.
the radio is all that’s left of him. days after when the media blackout is long past, folk music plays from it. someone eventually comes by and turns it off. on the news there was no mention of his death. or the deaths of thousands of others that died just like him that day. the government made them invisible. the newspapers spread lies. those who hear will repeat the government’s rhetoric. his memory will eventually fade. life will go on.