Fifty-four-year-old Bhagi Kaur and 45-year-old Janki Kaur have justone thing in common: both lost their husbands in the anti-Sikh riots of 1984.
Revisiting the tragedy stirs up choked emotions and stifled tears that tell the story of their trampled aspirations. Apart from her husband, Bhagi Kaur also lost 10 other members of her family that fateful night in 1984.
“To everyone else, the riots took place 25 years ago, but for me it just feels like it all happened yesterday. Almost my entire family was wiped out in front of my eyes and even after so many years we haven’t got any justice with the culprits still roaming free,” she adds.
Her niece Pappi Kaur says all festivals and happy occasions like weddings feel so incomplete and dull without their family members.
Victims who had migrated from Trilokpuri to Tilak Vihar following the riots have a similar tale to narrate.
Gurdwara Sahid Ganj general secretary Mohan Singh Lubana says: “Families of most of those killed in Trilokpuri migrated to Tilak Vihar where we all have bonded in our grief. Like every year, we will be observing a special ‘path’ in our gurdwara to remember the family members who we lost in 1984.”
Mr. Lubana lost two brothers in the riots and has been taking care of their wives as also his own family. On the walls of his house are pictures of his two younger brothers, Mewal Singh and Newal Singh, but neither are original. “Since everything in our house was burnt down, the pictures on the walls are in fact paintings or polaroid snaps that have been reproduced with great difficulty from borrowed photographs.”
Mewal’s wife Janki Kaur says: “Even today when anyone mentions the term ‘widow,’ it hurts me unbearably. Since I did not want to marry again but wanted children I have adopted my brother-in-law’s grandson. If my husband was alive my life would have been different, but now it’s just about passing time.”
“My government job as school peon is hardly paying enough to keep the house going, but I am managing with the help of my family. The Rs.6 lakh given to us as compensation just went into setting up our house and did not leave anything for our children’s future education or their employment.”
According to Mr. Lubana, if the loss was just financial, the family would still have coped with it but the loss of a family member cannot be compensated. “The political leaders who perpetrated violence on us have now become big Ministers and move around in big cars and motorcades. But the families of the victims are still where they were.”