Review Pen: The Assassinations- A Novel of 1984 by Vikram Kapur

Vikram Kapur

Author– Vikram Kapur

Book– The Assassinations A Novel Of 1984

Previous Works–  Time is a Fire, The Wages of Life

Publishers– Speaking Tiger

Number of Pages– 211

Format– Paperback


“To Deepa, Prem gave no hint of the churning inside him. In front of her he affected a cheery demeanour, indulging her in her plans for their honeymoon, which she kept revising. It was a welcome escape from the mayhem surrounding him. There were occasions where the pretence got to him and a voice rose inside, urging him to tell her everything. He silenced it. Deepa was a Hindu and would never understand. Until then, he had never thought of her as different.”
Prem Kohli, the handsome, ambitious son of a Sikh refugee, has the world at his feet. A glittering career lies ahead, and he has just got engaged to his college girlfriend, Deepa, overcoming her parents’ reservations about Hindus and Sikhs intermarrying. But, while Deepa remains occupied with their marriage plans, the Indian Army enters the Golden Temple. Prem cannot contain his rising anger at the desecration of the shrine and at the people around him who shrug it off as ‘teaching a lesson’ to the Sikhs. He begins growing out his hair and beard, and visiting the gurudwara regularly, where he learns about the militancy in Punjab. Matters come to a head a few months later, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated and anti-Sikh riots break out all over Delhi, as Prem is caught up in a vortex of violence and hate that threatens to engulf all of their lives. In The Assassinations, Vikram Kapur writes with sensitivity about a topic that still holds painful memories, skilfully telling the story of how ordinary lives are distorted by the forces of history. At the same time, he masterfully evokes the New Delhi of the 1980s, with its wide, leafy roads masking the precariousness of its Punjabi middle class. This memorable book captures the turbulence of those times, while chronicling the ways in which continuing to live means coming to terms with many kinds of deaths.”


The riots of 1984 that brought about a period of devastation for the Sikhs in India, and the story of two families who lost a part of their own in those riots. Prem and Deepa, two young people, in love with each other, had managed to convince their parents for their marriage. The couple had managed to dream a life together, despite their religious differences. The assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984, had their lives pulled into a whirlpool of terror. Their families had to witness the atrocities that had once been something in the breaking news section of the television.

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The book features the story of a fictional family, but it also enlightens the plight of hundreds of other families that have faced such injustice on the hands of the so called crusaders of religion. The book paints the picture of the hate, that a single act of rage combined with provocation can bring out.

The 1984 Anti-Sikh riots are a chapter in the dark history of the independent India, which none of the history books talk about. And that was the sole reason why I came to know about it from this book. Apart from being informative, this book is heart- wrenching. Even though it speaks of the turn of evem=nts in the lives of two fictional families, the author had made sure to describe everything the families saw on the way to their safe adobes.

I could feel the Sikhs being tortured on the roads, the way the anti-sikh supporters made the human bodies a play thing. It makes you question, whether humanity has lost in front of blind faith over religion. The genocide that took the lives of the innocent and scarred the survivors for life.

The book was intriguing in the sense that the author, Vikram Kapur, has done a great job at managing the flow of events. It was really easy to complete the book because turning the pages happened on an impulse, I was not forcing myself to complete the book, I was enjoying it. The language used is simple and the book would take maximum three sittings to complete.

The cover is a rather simple one and a bit more investment of thought into it would have been appreciated.


Cover- 3.5 star

Title- 3.5 star

Blurb- 3 star

Plot- 3 star

Writing and Presentation- 4 star

Overall- 3.4 stars out of 5

Though the title of the book is a well chosen one, it changes the epicenter of the story, which deals with the changes in the lives and emotional aspects of the families involved. The title “The Assassinations” makes it seem like the story is based more on Indira Gandhi’s assassination, not the events that follow.

As mentioned earlier, the title and the blurb somewhat speak a different story, which changes the expectations that a reader might have from the book.

The plot, I felt was not much. By the end of the book, I certainly wanted more, I wanted things to reach some destination, or something more. I wanted more out of Prem and Deepa’s story as well. It left me feeling the need for something to continue, maybe I was feeling comfortable with the author’s presentation and I didn’t want it to end, or maybe it was the expectation that I had because of the blurb and the title.


Vikram Kapur’s presentation is something that I really enjoyed and I will be definitely reading more of his works in the future.

Reviewed by- Banaja Prakashini

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About the author, Vikram Kapur-
Vikram Kapur is the author of two other novels, Time Is a Fire and The Wages of Life, as well as the editor of an anthology of short fiction and nonfiction on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 called 1984 in Memory and Imagination. His work has been published widely in India and abroad. His short stories have been shortlisted for major international prizes including the Commonwealth Short Story Prize, as well as being broadcast over the radio. He has received a number of international writing fellowships. He is currently an associate professor of English at Shiv Nadar University. His website is

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