6 June 1984: Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a charismatic militant Sikh leader, dies in the course of Operation Blue Star. What follows is the shocking assassination of our then Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, which then leads to the horrifying massacre of Sikhs across the country.
Why should a travelling children’s bookshop recall a traumatic episode from our history 36 years after? Simply because one of our finest books for young adults, Ranjit Lal’s, ‘The Battle for No. 19’ (published by Penguin India), is set against the backdrop of Indira Gandhi’s assassination. It is the gripping story of eight schoolgirls who come to Delhi the day the PM has been shot dead and violence erupts across the city. What happens when the girls flee to seek refuge? Can they survive an adventure gone terribly wrong? Lal’s book is a must-read for anyone who wishes to understand the moral dilemmas young people face, especially when “the line between right and wrong runs dangerously thin.”
Why should this book be read by anyone young or old who hasn’t read it yet? Well, just one reason really: those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.