Wives of victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots recount their horrific memories, fight for justice

“I have been living the horror everyday for the past 28 years. My entire family, including my husband and two sons, were mercilessly killed by the rioting mob. I recount my story every year to the media, but what difference has it made? Have I got justice?” says Surjeet Kaur with moist eyes.

On Thursday, the 28th anniversary of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which hundreds of Sikhs were killed by rioting mobs, Ms. Kaur and some other riot victims were nowhere closer to justice than they were in 1984.

“We have not forgotten the fact that the riot changed our lives forever. How can I forget that my husband and sons were dragged out one after the other by the mob and burnt? Will the perpetrators ever be punished?” she says.

Swarn Kaur, who is in her early 70s now, vividly remembers the morning of November 1, 1984. Around 10 a.m. her husband Balbeer Singh had warned her that hundreds of people had gathered in the ground near the Janakpuri Gurdwara. They were not locals, but had come from different parts of the city, transported in trucks and buses to Sikh populated areas.

When Ms. Swarna Kaur suggested to her husband that they flee to some other place, he told her that the mob would never hurt any human being.

“I never imagined that it would be my last meeting with him. Stone throwing was followed by burning and killing. At every house, the mob was looking for Sikh men and boys. They dragged my husband, poured oil over him and burnt him. That was what they were doing to every Sikh,” she adds. She now lives with her daughter.

There was a marked similarity in the narrative of a majority of the riot victims — that of an apathetic administration and the partisan role of the police which was a “mute witness” to the killings.

Staying in the “Widows’ Colony” near the ISKON temple in South Delhi, the life of the widows highlight the fact that in spite of their decades old relentless fight for justice they still cannot live peacefully.

They took pains to explain that all that they got in the name of justice was a job from which they retired a decade ago and a small house for which they will never be able to pay the full amount.

“At least, the authorities can let us live peacefully,” says Labh Kaur who lost her entire family in the riots. In her late 70s now, Ms. Labh Kaur says of the promised Rs.10 lakh by the government, the widows got only Rs.7 lakh over a period of 28 years.

“It was after much hassle that we managed to get Rs.7 lakh. We demand the rest of the promised money.”

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