My times today.
Sixty-four-year-old Satpal Singh, a pharmacology professor at the University of Buffalo in New York state, vividly remembers the timely advice proffered by a kind man, which ultimately saved his life on the night of November 1, 1984.
Singh had just received an offer to start and head a new division at the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in the central Indian city of Hyderabad.
While returning to Amritsar, in the northern Punjab state, from Hyderabad, the train made an unscheduled stop at a railway station close to the city of Bhopal.
A mob of nearly two dozen people barged into Singh’s compartment and beat him unconscious.
Two army officers in my compartment assured that they would protect me, but nobody intervened,” Singh told Al Jazeera by phone from Buffalo.
Assuming that he was dead, his body was thrown on the railway tracks.
On October 31, 1984, Indira Gandhi, then India’s prime minister, was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, in apparent retaliation for the Indian army’s action in June that year to flush out an armed separatist group led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple, the holiest place of worship for the world’s Sikhs.
The military operation, code-named Blue Star, claimed up to 700 lives, according to some estimates.
Following Gandhi’s assassination, attacks on Sikhs erupted across several Indian cities, including Delhi, Kolkata, Bokaro and Kanpur. At least 2733 Sikhs were killed in Delhi alone in the carnage.
The Prime Minister of the country was shot dead by her own bodyguards belonging to a particular community. What could be more wrong than that? She was warned and suggested to change her guards. Still she kept them. But she was betrayed and brutally killed. The present case was a sudden flare up. There was no pre-planning,” the defence counsel said.
His submission was opposed by senior advocate H S Phoolka, who appeared for the victims.
“Every Sikh condemned the act of killing of the Prime Minister. It was tragic. But does that mean that Sikhs be killed? Does that give licence to kill?
“Father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi, was killed by Nathuram Godse. But did anything of that short happened against anyone? The accused were leading the mob. The whole world is watching that how we treat such cases,” Phoolka had said.