Witness to the recent Hindu-Muslim clashes in east Delhi's Trilokpuri, Sikh victims of the 1984 riots living in the area experienced a sense of cruel deja vu, reminding them of a time almost exactly 30 years ago to the day when their families and neighbours were slaughtered by mobs.
"Though no one was injured (among Sikhs this time), the situation was similar to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots," Harminder Singh, 73, said. He resides in Block 29, opposite Block 36, which was the most affected during the riots, which killed 150 people in the area. "I, along with one of my sons and wife were saved by a Muslim family which lived here then," he added.
"On Friday, people gathered in a similar way as they had 30 years ago. I heard that they were going to attack the Muslim families living here. To save myself, even I shut down my shop and asked my children to remain inside the house," Charanjeet Singh, 45, who owns a tailoring shop, said. "For three days (30 years ago) we had remained confined to our homes, and now again we have stayed inside for the last four days," he added.
Charanjeet said most of the survivors of 1984, mostly women and children, had left the area and either returned to their native places in Punjab or relocated to Tilak Nagar in west Delhi. His family survived because they were the lone Sikh family in their block and the mobs had targeted Block 36 where most Sikh families dwelt. "Around 10 Sikh families are still living in Trilokpuri after the riots," he said.
In the wake of then prime minister Indira Gandhi's assassination by her two Sikh bodyguards on Oct 31, 1984, Hindu mobs, reportedly led by politicians, vented their ire on Sikh neighbourhoods, pulling Sikhs out of their homes, plundering them and setting them afire.
The houses left behind by the Sikhs were taken by poor Muslim workers and their families. The area prospered, new homes came up and acted as a magnet for Muslims and Hindus from other places who often set up homes side by side.
Again, by a cruel irony of fate, neighbours overnight once again became sworn enemies - exactly what had happened in 1984.