Twenty-four years ago, they refused to immerse the ashes of their family members who had resisted the guns of terrorists with their bare hands because they wanted to keep their memories alive.
Now as former CPI MLA from Shahbad in Haryana, Harnam Singh, and his wife Jaswant Kaur enter the dusk of their lives, they finally immersed the ashes of their son, daughter-in-law and nephew at the Sutlej river that flows beside the Kiratpur Sahib gurdwara near here on Sunday.
On March 23, 1988, then CPI Shahbad MLA Harnam Singh, speaking at a public function, criticised terrorists for killing innocents. On April 9, 1988, four terrorists attacked Harnam’s house at Shahbad, Haryana.
With no weapons in their possession, the family fought back with bare hands. The attack left Harnam and his wife injured and their son Khushdev Singh, 27, daughter-in-law Gurpreet Kaur, 25, and nephew Gurdeep Singh, 26, dead. The family was awarded five Shaurya Chakras — two for the elderly couple and three for their family members who died.
The two-year-old daughter of the young couple, who survived the attack, is now an engineer — she was also with the family on Sunday. Surinder Kaur, daughter of Harnam Singh, said, “My parents had kept aside a part of the ashes so that after the death of either, the other would immerse the ashes along with those of the deceased.”
Harnam Singh said, “Khushdev wondered why people didn’t resist when terrorists pulled them out of buses and told them to stand in rows before spraying bullets on them. He wanted people to fight even if unarmed. If one has to die, why not die fighting, he would say.”
Harnam said, “We tried to snatch their weapons. We lost three of our family. But my wife held a terrorist by his hair and didn’t leave him even after he pumped bullets into her body.”