Playing in his mother's lap, four-year-old Harjap Singh is looking for his father. "Where's papa," he asks his mother Manjit Kaur, oblivious of the fact that he will never see him again. Harjap's father was among 18 devotees, who were killed in a road mishap on the Moga-Ferozepur National Highway no. 95 near Dagru village on Monday.
At the cremation ground in Daulatpura in the evening, as villagers were busy making arrangements for cremating the dead, Manjit Kaur had no answers to her son's queries.
Harjap and his mother could not undertake the pilgrimage with his father as they had gone to his mother's maternal home. "Why are you crying mom? Where are Ranbir and Tarun, with whom I used to play? Where is my sister Nannu and Sonu?" says Harjap, who lost 11 members of his joint family to the road accident.
It is not only at adjoining villages of Daulatpura Neewan and Daulatpura Uchha, where a pall of gloom has descended, but many adjoining villages too are in a state of shock after death of 11 members of a family and all five of another.
Hundreds of people from nearby villages reached the cremation ground, where bodies were set on pyres in a row. Pain was writ large on the faces of survivors, who were inconsolable as tears rolled down their cheeks. Markets in both villages remained closed for the day.
Balwinder Singh (16) was among 18 pilgrims, who had gone to Nanaksar Thath, Jagraon. However, he survived the tragedy as his maternal uncle met him at Nanaksar Thath and took him in his Alto car, which followed the ill-fated jeep.
They were witness to the tragedy and called ambulance, police and family members of the victims to the site.
A government teacher at Government Primary School, Balkhandi, Shinder Singh (25), son of Pala Singh, lost his wife Manpreet Kaur, two sons Tarnbeer and Ranbeer. Shinder Singh, who had injured his feet some days ago, refused to accompany his wife and children.
Villagers found it difficult to arrange sufficient wood to cremate the dead.