On Tuesday morning, family members of the victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots woke up with the hope of justice for those excruciating 72 hours of onslaught on them triggered by the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The families took the 8 a.m. bus and swarmed outside the gate of the Karkardooma Court Complex.
Waiting patiently for some news on the case from inside the court complex was 60-year-old Narinder Kaur, who lost half her family in the riots -- over 10 members of her family were killed in the massacre. She saw her three nephews and their father being burnt alive in front of her in her house. She remained helpless then and as news about the verdict spread, she expressed her helplessness once again.
Narinder insisted that her only hope of justice has been quashed by the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar, Congress leader and one of the six accused in the riots. Though exhausted by the heat and the wait, Narinder used all her energy to exclaim: “I am tired of waiting for justice; it has been 30 years and nothing substantial has been done yet. I have lost all faith in this government and its judicial system. Everyone is involved. There is no hope left for us now.”
Harwinder Singh Kohli, who came all the way from Punjab to join the protest on the day of the verdict, recalled how he stood transfixed when the frenzied mob butchered his father and brother-in-law right in front of him. “I was 24 then; they attacked me and broke eight of my bones. Next, I saw they burnt Gurcharan Singh, my father’s friend, in his truck. Unfortunately, he survived and after battling for his life for 25 years, he finally gave up.”
Harwinder alleged that he had seen Sajjan Kumar being actively involved in the riots and had gone to the courts on several occasions to give his statement but he had to return disheartened each time. “The government has failed our expectations and now the time has come to take matters in our own hands,” he cautioned.
While after the verdict of the court, the built-up frustration of people erupted in the form of shouting slurs and slogans against the government, the protests gradually died down and as darkness began to descend, the families also went away with a feeling of emptiness.