Breaking the silence: The impact of political violence in Sikh diaspora

Kiran Shahreen Kaur Arora, Syracuse University

Abstract

Sikhs constitute roughly 2% of India's population and are the majority in the state of Punjab. Sikhs have held grievances with the Hindu majority government over land and language rights. Political violence erupted in Punjab in the 1980's. In particular, the Indian government conducted Operation Bluestar in 1984, in an attempt to flush militants and pilgrims out of their holy place, The Golden Temple, as well as other "crackdowns" where Sikhs were disappeared, killed and tortured. The Sikh diaspora who form the greatest South Asian minority group in Canada are intimately tied to the political violence in Punjab. This qualitative study examined the impact of political violence on Sikh diaspora in Vancouver, Canada and their perspectives on the political violence in Punjab, India. The purpose was also to highlight the connections Sikh diaspora make between the political violence and their lives, their relationships and the perceptions people hold of them. A sample of 10 participants who identified as Sikh diaspora, were recruited. Their ages ranged from 21-56 years with a mean age of 32 years. Interviews revealed that several dominant discourses on who Sikhs are as a people exist, and these impacted their lives. Participants discussed how the political violence impacted their lives, relationships, and the perceptions people hold of them, in multiple ways. Understanding the struggles Sikhs have experienced and viewing their lives and relationships on a continuum of trauma were discussed as clinical implications for marriage and family therapists and researchers.