I first stumbled onto Sepia Mutiny as a college student, a confused but curious 2nd genner who had never had brown friends, fresh from my first trip ever to the desh and desperate to find more out more information about the a CD I had bought by some “Rabbi” with a guitar. This was the first result, and after a few more inquisitive clicks around the site, I was addicted and would never be the same again. This was IT, the in I had been looking for but had been denied for so long. Though it seem silly now, my first real desi friends would be those I met online. I was a Mutineer, and I had a mission.
Fast forward to March 2012.
Despite admitting to have shot and killed a 17 year-old armed with Skittles and a hoodie, George Zimmerman remains a free man today. The story struck a chord and has become a worldwide sensation. Just as thousands of ordinary folks of all stripes have taken to the streets to peacefully protest the outrageous impunity, a similar scene is happening right now in Punjab; the difference is that the “criminal” is slated to die for attempting to stop the targeting of his community for extrajudicial torture and killings. Here is the breakdown on Balwant Rajaona and why he was to be hanged from The Langar Hall.
On March 31st, Bhai Balwant Singh Rajoana [was] set to be executed in Punjab for his involvement in the assassination of former chief minister of Punjab, Beant Singh. Chief minister Beant Singh was involved with carrying out brutal and mass killings of Sikhs in Punjab. He is widely held responsible by many Sikhs for ordering the kidnap, torture and death of many young Sikh men. A report by Amnesty International can be found here.
Whereas outrage around the cold-blooded murder of a kid/boy/person/however you’d like to term Trayvon armed with only Skittles and a hoodie has galvanized action worldwide, the imposed media blackout and military presences have in Punjab made sure that most people outside do not learn the facts of the case, and those who do organize are slammed as “terrorist sympathizers.” Just as black boys, girls, men, and women in this country learned that the combination of darker skin and an otherwise innocuous piece of clothing can make them targets for harassment, Sikhs have had to essentially face a death sentence for the same, also in the country they call home. Over the years, we’ve have had many discussions over the realities and pitfalls of being minorities, from having to choose Starbucks names to sharing our stories of insults, harassment, and even violence. From these conversations, I’ve learn that our shared experiences and status as the perpetual other makes the need for solidarity with other minorities groups all that much more necessary: I do not have to be an African-American to be moved by tragedy of Trayvon Martin’s death, nor do I have to be Sikh (I’m not) to be see the incredible injustice meted out to this minority. Though a stay has been put on Rajaona’s hanging, those who were responsible for the murder of as many as a quarter million missing and murdered Sikhs remain free and continue to live and operate with complete impunity. As this Mutiny signs off today, no justice has been served in either cases, but the Mutiny against this impunity grows stronger by the minute.
I’d like to thank Abhi for first inviting me into the bunker to blog about my obscure desi vinyl collection, among other things. The original gangstas, Manish, ANNA, Cicatrix, Neha, The Barmaid, Siddhartha, and Preston have had had more of an impact on how I viewed myself and the world I inhabit than I probably would feel comfortable admitting and I am forever in their debt. This site and the community it subsequently created has given me more than I could have ever hoped for and introduced me to bloggers and commenters who ended up becoming close friends in real life (like Harbeer and Cheap Ass Desi) and those who become something more (like I’m going to tell you). (Check out my tongue-in-cheek tribute to EVERYONE who helped make SM what it is!) But just as Abhi can say with confidence that the Mutiny has completed its mission, I can say that mine has just begun. This Mutiny is standing down, but for me, what began as stimulating, often contentious and always illuminating but ultimately idle conversation slowly grew into a reconnection with a lost heritage, a fledgling awareness of a need for further engagement, and finally a clarion call for action. For this reason, #Iamtrayvonmartin, and #Ipledgeorange, and I hope we can all continue together in our Mutinous ways.