Violence Against Religious Minorities in India: A Conversation with journalist Rana Ayyub and Dr. Kamal Arora

In 1984, approximately 3500 Sikh men were killed in Delhi in violence following then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination. 18 years later, in 2002, almost 3000 Muslims were murdered after a train caught fire carrying Hindu pilgrims, killing more than 50 people.  What is striking is the similarities between these two events, even though they are almost two decades apart: the complicit role of the police and state, sexual violence against women, and the seemingly “unplanned” nature of the violence. As these and other such occurrences before and since indicate, the persecution of religious and cultural minorities continues in India. Join journalist Rana Ayyub and anthropologist, Dr. Kamal Arora, as they share their experiences working on the Gujarat violence and with the Sikh ‘widow colony’ of 1984, respectively, as well as the lived experiences of those affected by such violence.

– There will be a short question and answer period after the talk.


Facilitated by: Anne Murphy, Department of Asian Studies & co-Director, CISAR


Sponsored by the Centre for India and South Asia Research (UBC) and Radical Desi, a monthly grassroots magazine 


Rana Ayyub is a journalist and author. She worked for India’s leading investigative magazine, Tehalka till 2013, when she resigned to protest its handling of the accusation of sexual harassment against its Editor-in-chief. She went underground for eight months in 2010 posing as a filmmaker sympathetic to RSS, the parent Hindu-nationalist organization of the ruling Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), to secretly record interviews with bureaucrats and policemen in Gujarat regarding the violence and “encounter” killings by the police following the pogrom on 2002 and preceding Modi’s consolidation of power. Her book, Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up shows how the bureaucracy and the police have been ideologically radicalized and facilitated the establishment of policies of lawlessness.


Kamal Arora is an anthropologist and recently completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia. Her research consisted of an ethnography of Sikh women living in what is known as the “Widow Colony” in Delhi – the housing colony given to some Sikh widows and their families after the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. Her work was financially supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada as well as the University of British Columbia. Kamal has been engaged in feminist activism on issues relating to Sikh women for the past 11 years.