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1984 - Anti Sikh Riots

Anti-Sikh Riots in India - following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. communal violence directed against Sikhs resulted in thousands of deaths 

During Indira Gandhi's time as Prime Minister, militant members of the Sikh population, led by the extremist Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, began pushing for special status for their majority Sikh region of Punjab. The situation became volatile and many were killed in incidents across the Punjab region.

In July, 1983, Sikh political party's president Harchand Singh Longowal invited  Bhindranwale to take up residence inside the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar to evade arrest. Later, Bhindranwale made the sacred complex an armoury and headquarters of Khalistani militants.


As a result, in June 1984 Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star to flush out the Sikh militants and remove Bhindranwale. The army surrounded the holy Sikh temple complex, and then stormed it. In the subsequent fighting, nearly 500 were killed by the Indian army, including Bhindranwale; the army suffered over 300 casualties.

The assault also caused widespread damage to the temple’s structures, which further angered the Sikh populace. Calls for revenge became widespread. Just a few months later, on October 31, 1984, Gandhi was assassinated by her own Sikh bodyguards, sustaining over 30 gunshot wounds.

Gandhi’s death was met with outrage, particularly by members of her Congress party and many Hindus. Anti-Sikh riots erupted in some areas for several days, killing more than 3,000 Sikhs in New Delhi and an estimated 8,000 across India. The perpetrators carried iron rods, knives, clubs and combustible material such as petrol and diesel. They entered Sikh neighbourhoods and killed Sikhs indiscriminately.

Many Congress leaders were believed to be behind the 1984 anti-Sikh massacre. Several cases were registered against Congress leaders HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Dharamdas Shastri, Lalit Maken, Babu Ram Sharma and Jagdish Tytler for alleged criminal conspiracy to engineer riots, although no-one has ever been prosecuted.


Further Reading


The Asian Age - The Horrors of 1984

ADST - Indira Gandhi’s Assassination and the Anti-Sikh Riots

QuartzI Lived Through the Sikh Riots—I’m Not Ready to Forgive or Forget

Hindustan Times - Images of the 1984 Anti-Sikh Riots

1984 - Miners strike

UK Miners' Strike - a year-long industrial dispute marked by hardship and violence as pit communities from South Wales to Scotland fought to retain their local collieries - for many the only source of employment 

The catalyst for the strike was the announcement by the National Coal Board (NCB) on 6th March 1984 that it intended to cut national capacity by 4 million tonnes and close 20 pits with the loss of 20,000 jobs. Cortonwood Colliery in South Yorkshire was to close imminently.

On 12th March 1984, Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), called a national strike against the pit closures. The decision to strike was technically illegal, as there had been no national ballot of NUM members. Miners in Yorkshire and Kent were the first to go on strike, followed by miners in Scotland, South Wales and Durham. Britain was to witness a fierce, hard fought battle involving the government, police, press, and the NUM.

Bitter disputes still remain over the tactics all parties used; the use of the Metropolitan Police in local mining villages, accusations of biased press coverage, flying pickets used to discourage strike breakers (or 'scabs' as they were known in mining communities) from working. As the demonstrating increased, spreading to other economic targets, there were violent confrontations between pickets and police.


A key confrontation occurred in the 'Battle of Orgreave' when one mass picket on 18th June 1984 was 10,000 strong and the pickets were met with police in riot gear, police horses and dogs. The strike also saw the holding of mass meetings and great marches as for example in Mansfield in May 1984, when dockers and railway workers joined miners and their families. However, opinion was divided in the face of picket line violence and tragedies which occurred, for example the death of one flying picket outside Ollerton Colliery and in South Wales where David Wilkie, a taxi driver, died taking two 'scab' miners to work at Merthyr Vale Colliery, when a concrete post was dropped from a bridge onto his car.

An important source of support for the miners came from within their own communities, particularly from the women. Locally they set up Women's Action Groups through which they organised soup kitchens, distributed food parcels and organised Christmas appeals for miners' families. The women also actively joined picket lines, were involved in confrontations with the police and travelled the country speaking at political meetings. Nationally, women organised the 'Women Against Pit Closures' conference and, following the 'National Women Against Pit Closures' rally in London on 11th August 1984, handed a petition to the Queen. International support was also evident as lorries brought Christmas toys for striking miners' children from Germany, Belgium and France and some children went abroad to spend Christmas holidays in Europe.

Despite strong support in the mining communities, by January 1985, the strike was beginning to disintegrate as miners facing increasing financial hardship, returned to work in increasing numbers. The NCB had offered incentives to return to work before Christmas. The NUM had failed to gain support from other key industrial trade unions and Nottinghamshire were threatening to form a separate breakaway union (which they later did, forming the Union of Democratic Mineworkers).


Consequently on 3rd March 1985, a year from the start of the strike, the NUM's National Executive voted 98-91 in favour of an organised return to work. The miners returned to work defeated but not broken as they defiantly walked behind colliery bands and lodge banners, and alongside the women and children who had provided them with such immense support.


Further Reading


The Guardian - 'I Fought Not Just For “My Pit” But For The Community'

Daily Mail The Bitter Industrial Dispute that Tore Britain Apart

Vice - Keith Pattison's Images of the Miners' Strike in Durham

Martin Shakeshaft - Strike '84

New StatesmanHow the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85 Changed Britain Forever

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