Monday, March 20, 2006

Dehli; Punjab is asking about 1984 - Part 2

Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh
Pappi Kaur and her family had rushed out for safety when they saw the rioters closing in. But the police made them return home. Then she saw her father being dragged out of their home, tortured and burned to death by men who claimed to be avenging the killing of Indira Gandhi. She saw the murderers dilly-dally with her uncle, then burn him too. She was six years old. As they rebuild their lives in the neglected and almost forgotten colony for widows of the 1984 riots, Pappi, 25, cannot help feeling bitter about the administration that let them down twice
I was very young in 1984. But how can I forget the day on which all the men of my family were ruthlessly murdered? At the time, we were staying in Chilla village, near Trilokpuri in east Delhi. My father came back early from work, looking very tense, and told us about the riots in the city, that people were killing Sikhs all over Delhi. But it was not as if he, or the neighbourhood, felt that everything around us would change in the next few hours.
We went up to the terrace and saw that our neighbourhood gurdwara had been set on fire. That was when we felt the first jolt of panic. The rioting was no longer ‘in the city’. It was coming nearer home. We decided to go to the gurdwara to protect it as best as we could. There was my father, his younger brother, my mother and grandmother and we, the children. On our way, we saw hordes of murderous-looking people and fierce fighting. The police stopped us and told us to return home.
We did, but that was a mistake. At home, we were sitting ducks. A mob broke down the wooden door of our house, dragged out all the menfolk one by one, beat them up and then set them on fire.
My father was first. We couldn’t see what happened, because they took him out of the house. Then it was his younger brother. He had shorn his hair. At first, they were willing to let him go. But then they changed their mind, dragged him out again, beat him up and set him on fire as well. The attackers did not even spare my poor old grandmother. They broke her arm and abused her. They told her that she should leave the neighbourhood immediately or they would kill all the children. I can still see their vicious faces. They were shouting, "Tune hamaari maa ko maara hai. Hum tujhe maarenge! You killed our mother (Indira Gandhi), we will kill you!" They put burning tyres around the necks of the Sikhs they were torturing before the slaughter, and shouted, "Dekho sardaar kaise naach rahe hain! Look how the Sikhs are dancing!"
My grandmother and mother ran away with the children. We hid in a wilderness, away from the residential colonies. For three days and nights, we stayed in hiding. On the fourth day, the army came in and took over from the police. That was the first time we felt safe.
Later, we were informed that we would be resettled and awarded compensation. It is true that we were given a one-time compensation. Widows were given jobs, but not near their homes. Their places of work were scattered all over Delhi. And they have to raise their families on the pittance they make in these ‘Class IV’ jobs. There is an area here in Tilak Vihar called the Widows’ Colony. It’s only for the widows of the 1984 riots. That’s where we were shunted. There was no other attempt to reach out to us in any way. Not one leader, from any community or political party, ever comes this way.
Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh