The city of Santa Clara in California proclaimed February 4 as ‘Saka Nakodar Day’ in memory of the four Sikh youths killed in a police firing during a peaceful religious protest at Nakodar in Punjab’s Jalandhar district 37 years ago.
In the proclamation letter, the mayor of the city, Lisa M Gillmor, said the city stands in solidarity with the victims’ families as they continue pursuing truth, justice, accountability and closure.
“By virtue of the authority vested in me as mayor, and on behalf of the Santa Clara city council, [I] do hereby proclaim February 4 as ‘Saka Nakoda Day’ in recognition of the ongoing pursuit for truth, justice, accountability, and closure,” the mayor said.
On February 4, 1986, four unarmed members of the All India Sikh Student Federation — Ravinder Singh, Baldhir Singh, Jhilman Singh, and Harminder Sing — were killed while peacefully protesting the desecration of the Sikh scripture Sri Guru Granth Sahib in Nakodar. This tragedy has come to be known as ‘Saka Nakodar’. ‘Saka’ in Punjabi means a historic incident or tragedy involving sacrifice.
The mayor further mentioned in the written proclamation that the city, which “takes pride in its diverse population and supports all those from different nationalities, backgrounds, and cultures that value democracy and human rights for all”, on this day, “honours the memory of the victims and renew our commitment to promoting mutual understanding and respect among all people”.
Many Sikh Sangats attended the Saka Nakodar remembrance event at the Sikh Gurdwara of San Jose to commemorate the 37th anniversary. Dr Harinder Singh, a relative of one of the victims, made an emotional presentation that showed how the state authorities, lawmakers, police and judiciary delayed justice.
He said most of the perpetrators, that too without facing trials or punishment, died, just like most of the witnesses. Three of the victims’ parents also passed away, he added.
Only Ravinder Singh’s parents are alive, and they sought justice at every level of local, district, state and union administration. It took 33 years to receive only part of the state-constituted commission of inquiry’s report and the rest remains buried, he said.
He said the grievances filed with Punjab governors and Indian Presidents and petitions to state assembly representatives, chief ministers and parliamentarians did not help bring the atrocity’s aiders and abettors to justice.
Sukhdev Singh Bainiwal, in charge of religious affairs and other members of the San Jose Gurdwara management committee, honoured family members of Ravinder Singh and Jhilman Singh and promised to stand in solidarity and extend support in arranging proclamations for Saka Nakodar Day in the City of San Jose and County of Santa Clara.
They also appealed to the chief minister and Speaker of the Punjab Legislative Assembly to make Justice Gurnam Singh Commission of Inquiry’s full report public and bring the perpetrators to justice by issuing an action taken report as required by the rule of law without any delay.
The 37th anniversary of ‘Saka Nakodar’ at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, Canada, had prominent speakers like Sunil Kumar, who volunteers for an annual blood drive in memory of the 1984 victims, as well as Ranjit Singh, Dharam Singh, Gurmit Singh Toor, and Hardip Singh Nijjar, who serves as the president of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Society, Surrey. Jatinder Singh, a relative of the Saka Nakodar martyrs, was honoured during the commemoration.
Singh Sabha Gurudwara in Bobigny, France and Singh Sabha Gurudwara in Fairfax, Virginia, United States, also commemorated the day.
Another commemoration event has been planned at the Gurdwara Sahib in Fremont, California, on February 12, 2023.