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Anti Sikh riots claimed 21 of a family
Published on 2 Nov. 2009 10:35 PM IST
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She was 20 then, happily married for two years. But Manjeet Kaur’s world came to be covered in blood the night of Nov 1, 1984 when her husband along with 20 other men in the family were butchered right outside their homes in the mindless anti-Sikh violence. Twentyone lives, all from the same family, snuffed out in a matter of hours - can you imagine? “Now my whole life is like this - there is no single moment when the thought of my husband goes away,” says Kaur, now 45. She speaks about the massacre after a lot of persuasion. But no pictures, she says. “It was the morning of Nov 1. Indira Gandhi had been killed a day earlier. News of the (anti-Sikh) riots had spread. All the women and children were hiding in our house. The men were hiding in other places,” Kaur tells IANS. She used to live with her husband and others, including her father-in-law, mother-in-law, three brothers-in-law and sister-in-law, in Sagarpur area of west Delhi. The other members of the extended family lived next door. “Our houses were in a row. When we were hiding, we could hear people raising slogans against Sikhs and talking about killing us,” she says. Her eyes well up from time to time, her hands tremble and she finds it difficult to summon the words. She remembers the night clearly. “There was a tubewell near our house and adjoining it was a small room. In this room, 13 men were hiding. The rioters somehow got information about them and they burnt the room where they were hiding. As the men came out because of the fire, they killed them mercilessly,” says Kaur. “The mob put burning tyres around the necks of our men and thrashed them with rods. Among the 13 were two of my brothers-in-law, my father-in-law Gurnam Singh, his four brothers and their sons,” she recalls, her hands trembling. They were among some 3,000 innocent Sikhs who were butchered, mostly in northern India, in the mob frenzy that followed Indira Gandhi’s assassination. She had been married to Narendra Singh for two years. Kaur’s eyes start to water as she recalls his death. “From the roof, I saw my husband’s body lying on the road in front of our house. He was killed by rods and was lying in a pool of blood. We shouted for doctors and others to help, but there was no one to listen to us. “His death was the end of my world. He was everything for me and he was gone. The women with me took me inside fearing I could attract the attention of rioters,” she says. “One of my brothers-in-law had cut his hair and was with the mob so that no one could identify him,” she says. The women then took shelter in an empty house built just behind her residence. “We were sure that very soon they would come inside our house. So we shifted to an empty house - just behind ours. No one was living there. All the women and children went there as we felt no one would suspect there were people inside,” Kaur says. “The rioters tried to draw us out by shouting that the mob would have to run as the ‘sardars had come to kill’ them. But we knew that wasn’t the case, so we kept hiding quietly. “They had some chemical which they used to throw on people,” she says. At night, these 30 women and children somehow gathered courage and went out. “We decided that sitting in the house wouldn’t help us. During the night, we slipped out and went to our relative’s house in Hari Nagar. I will never forget the scenes I saw at that time,” she said. Later she got monetary compensation and a house in the Tilak Vihar area where she now lives with her mother. Her only source of income is sewing clothes. Her father died a few years ago - a broken man. “That one day changed my life forever. It’s just me and my mother now. Since then, I have never gone to Sagarpur, not even close to that place. “I am living with the memories of my husband,” says Kaur, who chose not to remarry. She didn’t have any children from the marriage. “I was promised a job but never got one. I have again filled a form and hope to get a job,” she added. Asked if she expects justice, she says: “I don’t have any faith that anyone will ever get punished. Twenty-five years have passed since the riots and nothing has happened.”

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