From June 18-21, 2009, the Jakara Movement completed its tenth conference. Over 160 Sikh youth from throughout the United States congregated in Fresno, California for an educational and inspirational weekend that sought to “Remember 1984.”
Following an evening of Kirtan and Ardas at the Gurdwara on Thursday night, the 2009 Jakara conference was initiated at Fresno State University with a powerful introductory video describing the events of 1984, followed by a presentation highlighting the relationship between the central government and Sikhs. Throughout the first day of the conference, larger collective presentations were contrasted with small group workshops where participants were placed into conversation with each other through facilitator coordinated discussions. The first group workshop centered on learning about the events leading up to both the Battle of Amritsar and the Pogroms of Delhi. This was followed by a gurbani sessions where participants learned and translated shabads such as ‘Jo tho prem kahlon ka chao/Sir dar thale galee mere aao’ that were markers of courage and defiance and acted as a call to action for Sikhs in the 1980s. Another workshop dealt with recollecting eye-witness accounts from the 80’s and voicing the narratives of victims directly affected by the actions in Punjab. Not only did participants read individualized histories but thereafter used these to theorize about the interactions between Sikhs and the state. Following a Rehras Sahib diwan, the day concluded with an emotional candlelight vigil which visualized the intense trauma of the 80’s in a slideshow presentation on the Shaheeds.
Saturday shifted the focus from the past to the present and future. An impressive morning diwan led into the workshops and lectures centered on reacting to the events of Friday. After an initial lecture on the ways by which Sikh institutions and personalities interacted with each other following the partition of India, participants reaffirmed their commitment to the Sarbat Khalsa and Gurmata tradition of consensus building through small group workshops. This was followed by an eye opening panel discussion narrated their individual stories about 1984 and how these attacks on Sikhi served as their personal call to activism. The day continued with a presentation on the role of the media in formulating opinions and perceptions of Sikh and the description of upcoming activist projects throughout California such as the Alliance of Justice Week and Silent Marches. For many students, the events of Saturday acted as a personal call to action as many began to figure out ways that they could articulate their own desires and feeling through an activist response. Following evening Rehras diwan, Jakara participants gave voice to the voiceless victims of the 80’s through eye-opening displays of hip hop by up and coming Sikh artists included Humble the Poet, Sikh Knowledge, and GNE, alongside Jagmeet Singh.
The Jakara Movement is dedicated to creating avenues for the Sikh youth to engage and respond with recent Sikh histories. Following the successful “Sukhmani Sahib for the Shaheeds” project during the first week of June, the Jakara Movement conference will be followed by events including “Visions for Truth: 1984 Movie Screenings” in August, Jakara Junior Camps that will teach young Sikh children about the bravery of the Sikhs in recent history in October and “Silent Marches” that will provide a solemn forum for the entire community and other community leaders in a silent candlelight march in November, and finally “Alliance for Justice Week” which will highlight and unify all victims of genocides to stand together. The entire Sangat is welcome to get involved.
One of the greatest lessons for the Sikh community to learn from in light of the events of 1984 was – divided we fell; united we’ll stand. It is only with unity that we can build a brighter future; it is only as a united Qaum that we have the power to change tomorrow. For more information or to get involved with any of the upcoming events visit the Jakara webpage and follow updates as well as see pictures from the live-blog at the Jakara Movement blog