A candle-light march at Jantar Mantar on Saturday; a memorial foundation laying at Punjabi Bagh a day later; a mobile photo exhibition that is travelling across the Capital — like every year, the family members of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims will be part of many more such events this weekend to seek justice for the carnage.
What has also not changed — and is fuelling greater anguish in the community — is the fact that a number of accused in the riot in which thousands were killed are yet to be brought to book.
Shiromani Akali Dal’s (Badal) Delhi unit president Manjit Singh said, “Those who killed people have stalled justice. In Gujarat, riots took place in 2002. A special investigation team was set up and culprits are already getting severe punishment. In Delhi and across the country, thousands of people were killed in 1984. So many of the accused are still walking free.”
“No case was registered by the police for years. Several commissions of enquiry later, some of the perpetrators were offered election tickets, ministerial berths and special security. We have faith in the country’s judiciary but evidence must reach the judges,” he added.
RS Chhatwal of the Sikh Forum said, “The then government did nothing to stop the riots. Today’s government is letting the culprits go scot-free. We urge the prime minister, who is himself is a Sikh, to bring the culprits to book.”
The All India Sikh Conference (AISC) members said they had submitted a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee, demanding action against the culprits. “We want an SIT probe similar to the one in Gujarat riots,” they said. Citing an example of inaction on the part of authorities, they said, “Seven years after the riots, an FIR was lodged at the Nangloi police station in connection with the killing of five people. The chargesheet should have been filed in 90 days. Yet no action has been taken to date.”
‘Every Diwali, the memory of that morning haunts me’
Labh Kaur had a happy family comprising her husband, Mahendra Singh — a worker in an ironware factory — and two sons, Billa, 20, and Babba, 15. But exactly on this date, 28 years ago, she lost all three of them. That morning, armed assailants barged into her house and killed them in front of her.
“I couldn’t do anything but cry. My neighbours later tried to console me. After a while, a military vehicle came and the personnel asked me to go with them,” Kaur said, recalling how she had to leave behind the bodies of her near ones.
Now she lives with her nephew’s family. “They are my family now. But every Diwali, the memory of that morning haunts me and it hurts like hell,” she added.
‘I roamed around with my son in my arms entire night’
Surjeet recalls how she and her three sisters-in-law were widowed within moments on that black morning in a Nand Nagri locality. “The mob was baying for our blood. They set the local gurdwara on fire. Then they started killing the sardars,” she says.
One of her sons, Kamaljeet, and her husband, Joginder Singh were dragged away and killed. Surjeet saved her other son Parvinder by hiding him in an almirah.
“They burnt down our house too. The whole night I roamed around with my son in my arms,” she says holding back her tears.
Today Surjeet is somewhat happy with her son, who runs a shop, and his family. “We lived because God was with us.”
‘Local people murdered 10 of my family members’
Gurcharan Singh Gill
39, property agent
An 11-year-old back then, Gurcharan remembered how nearly 10 men of his family were “murdered” by known faces in Malkaganj.
“People who attacked us were all locals — one sold us vegetables, another delivered milk.
My engineer father was killed. They murdered my grandfather, a retired army man, with my uncles and cousins. My mother, aunt and we cousins finally got shelter at the Sabzi Mandi police station,” Gill recalled at his small office in Lajpat Nagar’s Garhi locality, where nearly 300 riot victims’ families were rehabilitated.
And he is tired of so-called associations and political parties coming to provide “aid”. “I don’t want to use the fire of the funeral pyres to bake bread,” Gurcharan says.