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1984 Living History Project ~ Volunteers Speak

It was not an easy and simple experience for the interviewing team....

SikhNet recently asked the 1984 Living History Project management and their volunteer team about their experiences while interviewing / visiting the affected people from the 1984 Sikh massacres.

The questions that were fielded to the Project Team were:

1. What got you interested in this project?
2. What have you learned while working on this?
3. What was the most powerful moment, in your experience, with an interview?

We are glad to present some of the reactions of the volunteer team members for the Sangat. It was not an easy and simple experience for the interviewing team. Witnessing the narratives and recording their experience they often had to transcend their overwhelming emotions when they cried with the persons that they interviewed.

1984 (7K)Living History Project


Arwinder Kaur

1. What got you interested in this project?
The fact that I could help to create some kind of archives for the atrocities that took place during the 1984 massacres.

2. What have you learned while working on this?
I already knew a great deal about this subject but I've learnt a few things about how people really felt when these attacks happened. 3.

What was the most powerful moment, in your experience, with an interview?
It's the moment when the interviewees are so overwhelmed by their emotions that they shake and cry. It gets me crying too and gives me the chills. This is how powerful their narratives are.

Keerit Kohli

1. What got you interested in this project?I saw this as an opportunity to participate in a project that was beneficial and was helping teach others about what really happened in 1984. I had never done anything like this before hand, but it was, in all honesty, relatively simple work that would help tell a bigger story for years and years to come.

2. What have you learned while working on this?
I learned about the power of a dedicated mindset; in these last several months, the videos on the website have amassed thousands of views, helping share the stories of 1984 with the world. This only happened because a group of people decided to not let these stories fall victim to time and death. So, armed with some video cameras they've personified the idea that "where there's a will, there's a way."

3. What was the most powerful moment, in your experience, with an interview?
While watching these videos, I was most touched and affected by stories of people who were my age, and then younger than me. I have never, and to be frank, will probably never have to face the violence that they faced when they were just kids. People who were little kids in that time remember so clearly the attacks and the feelings of fear and defiance of that time, and that's so scary and strange to me. While it's a reminder of my privilege, it's also a reminder of the resilience of Sikhs.

Navkiran "Navi" Kaur ~

1. What got you interested in this project?
I first heard of the project through a friend of a friend, essentially. All I needed was that first time I explored the website for the project to grab my interest. As a first generation Desi/Sikh student at a top tier public university, I have had the privilege to (un)learn a lot about systems of oppression and structures of racism in the US. I have gotten involved with what one may call the “progressive”/”leftist” crowds on campus. However, I always felt a void in whatever I did or whatever I was involved in because of the lack of Sikh/Desi involvement. I always yearned to work with and be involved with my own people, my own community, and to learn/unlearn about my own history, as a Sikh Punjabi. So, upon discovery of the 1984 Living History Project, I was hooked and had to get involved. The Project is so important to our community because it allows us to not only record an important time in history but it also allows our community to collectively learn, heal, and move forward together. Additionally, these stories help us find solidarity with communities of color, as well (I, at least, hope that Sikhs will connect these struggles to the struggles of other communities and that we can really work together in that way). I believe knowing history is critical because to know our history is to know ourselves and only through knowing and understanding our history can we move forward as a community. Most importantly - I think projects such as these brings our community together and I love that.

2. What have you learned while working on this?
I have learned a lot - not only about myself but also about our Sikh history. As someone who grew up in the United States, I knew little to nothing about 1984. For most of my life, all I really knew about was Operation Bluestar and I knew, from some stories from my family and friends, a little bit about the persecution Sikhs faced in India in the 1980s - never to this extent though. I’ve also learned a lot through my parents as I work for this project, as well, and that has been great experience from me. I think this project is a great way to break generational gaps.

3. What was the most powerful moment, in your experience, with an interview?
I’m not sure yet what my most powerful moment has been. I haven’t even interviewed anyone; as a fellow, I’ve been watching the videos for research purposes and have been editing videos. As such, I have been just learning a lot watching the videos and oftentimes, they bring me to tears. I think collectively the videos have been incredibly powerful for me because it is really beautiful to hear the perspectives of these older folks - especially when I hear older folks calling out the Indian government for their actions and discussing nationalism and colonialism. As a progressive Sikh student, I am always yearning for older progressive Sikh mentors, folks that I can look up to, so it is really reassuring to hear that the stereotypes that get attached to our community are not fully true (i.e. that Indians are apathetic or apolitical). I hope that these videos can reach more folks my age and I hope that they energize and wake up my generation to create change for our Sikh community as a whole and that we bring to light these injustices our ancestors faced in the 1980s.


About This Project

1984 Living History Project’s mission is to mark the watershed year of 1984 through capturing the stories of anti-Sikh violence in India, while recognizing the survival and resilience of a people.

Through a do-it-yourself easy process, everyone can contribute videos to the Project and build our archive of Living History. See our step-by-step Toolkit . (http://www.1984livinghistory.org/share-a-story/) for more information

This Project seeks to build awareness of state-sponsored human rights violations, suppression of information & social trauma.

Whether in Punjab, in Delhi, in Calcutta, in California, in Singapore, Nairobi or anywhere else in the world, any Sikh old enough to remember 1984 has a story to tell!

The 1984 Living History Project is a tribute to survival and strength. This Project was born at Saanjh, during a Bay Area Sikh leadership retreat, as young U.S. students and professionals discussed the importance of preserving memories, story-telling, and developing a layered understanding of the 1984 events that changed the Sikh people forever.

The videos we began collecting illustrated one fact: Sikhs will forever share 1984 as a common experience, across differences, as a community; whether direct victims of violence, or then in faraway places; whether bankers or farmers or doctors or government employees; whether men or women or girls or boys; whether young or old; whether rich or poor; whether professionals or students; whether politically left-wing or right-wing or in between …

So, help us with this project of remembrance and solidarity!


Related articles:

As Stories Turn 30, 1984 Living History Project Gains Momentum



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