Gurpreet Singh: Director of film on anti-Sikh massacre wins national award and calls it a victory for justice seekers

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      Indian film director Teenaa Kaur Pasricha is a very happy person.

      Her latest documentary, When the Sun Didn’t Rise, recently received India's National Film Award for Best Investigative Film.

      But her happiness has nothing to do with her personal achievement. It's because that the award has given recognition to an important issue and marks a victory for those who have been fighting for justice for victims of the anti-Sikh massacre of 1984.

      Speaking to Straight over the phone from India, Pasricha said that the award helps in breaking the silence over such a heinous crime against humanity. She also said that it's helping the cause of the human rights activists who have remained steadfast in their campaign for justice.

      The film is based on her interviews with survivors of the violence and orphaned children who have grown into drug addicts because of a lack of support.

      When the Sun Didn’t Rise is perhaps first serious effort to open a dialogue with those who continue to suffer long-term effects of the bloodshed.

      Watch the trailer for When the Sun Didn't Rise.

      Thousands of Sikhs were murdered across India following the assassination of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on October 31, 1984.

      The massacre was well-organized by the slain leader’s ruling Congress party with the help of the police. Years have passed but no justice has been served to the victims’ families. The high-profile perpetrators remain unpunished.

      Among the people interviewed by Pasricha in the documentary include senior Congress leader Jagdish Tytler, who has been accused of being involved in the crime but who continues to deny the allegations.

      Being a Sikh woman herself, Pasricha was personally affected by the violence. One of her uncles was attacked by the mob and his hair was forcibly cut by the mob.

      For a practising Sikh, keeping long hair is a sacred duty. “I learned from my mother how my uncle remained depressed for some time because of the humiliation,” Pasricha said.

      She is aware of the competitive politics between the current ruling Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party and the opposition Congress. And she remains vigilant to the growing attacks on religious minorities under the present government and feels that had justice been served to the victims of 1984, it wouldn’t have given impunity to political parties to attack other minority groups in India during the years that followed.

      Pasricha emphasized social consciousness has to be raised to stop this culture and make political forces indulging in violence accountable.

      She has gone beyond making the film and has been trying to help people suffering long-term consequences of the massacre, especially those who have become drug users.

      “I saw this as part of my social responsibility and tried to connect them with agencies that provide resources for drug de-addiction.”

      She is tentatively planning to come to Canada this fall for special screenings of her film.

      Gurpreet Singh is cofounder of Radical Desi magazine. He's also the author of Why Mewa Singh Killed William Hopkinson: Revisiting the Murder of a Canadian Immigration Inspector and Fighting Hatred With Love: Voices of the Air India Victims' Families. Both were published by Chetna Parkashan.