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‘A cop asked, kitne murge bhun diye’: 1984 riots witness recalls horror

Eight years later, Jagdish Kaur’s account served as clinching evidence in the conviction of Kumar and five other accused by the Delhi High Court on Monday.

india Updated: Dec 18, 2018 10:00 IST
Karn Pratap Singh
Karn Pratap Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
1984 riots,1984 anti-Sikh riots,Sajjan Kumar
Nirpreet Kaur, an eye-witness of the 1984 Sikh massacre, and AAP leader Jarnail Singh rejoice the Delhi High Court judgement sentencing Congress leader Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in connection with the massacre, at Delhi High Court, in New Delhi, India, on Monday, December 17, 2018. (Sanchit Khanna/HT Photo)

“When the chowki in-charge asked the mob, ‘kitne murge bhun diye’ (how many chickens had been roasted)... I felt I had lost faith in humanity,” Jagdish Kaur, whose husband, son and three cousins were killed in Palam Colony’s Raj Nagar in 1984, told a Delhi court on July 2, 2010. Jagdish — witness number 1 in the Palam Colony case — also said that around 9 pm on November 2, 1984, when she went to the police post to lodge a report, she heard Sajjan Kumar delivering a provocative speech, telling the public to “murder Sikhs and kill Hindus who shelter them”.

Eight years later, her account served as clinching evidence in the conviction of Kumar and five other accused by the Delhi High Court on Monday.

The high court said the accused were brought to justice primarily because of “the courage and perseverance of three key eyewitnesses” — Jagdish Kaur, her cousin Jagsher Singh and Nirpreet Kaur.

All three in their statements said they had seen Sajjan Kumar inciting the mobs to attack Sikhs.

According to Kaur’s statement, around 2 pm on November 1, 1984, a mob entered her house with weapons, pounced on her son Gurpreet Singh and dragged her husband Kehar Singh, who died of head injuries. An injured Gurpreet ran some distance before he was set on fire.

Jagdish performed their last rites three days after their deaths, after making a pyre of the furniture and items left in the house.

Jagdish said the police post incharge threatened her when she was filing a report. She claimed the cop tried to intimidate her by saying the people she was naming were too powerful and she wouldn’t be able to protect the rest of her family.

Nirpreet Kaur told the court she had seen a gurdwara being burnt down and her father Nirmal Singh being burnt alive by the mob. Nirpreet said her father was taken out of their Raj Nagar home by two accused — Balwan Khokhar, who used to introduce himself as Sajjan Kumar’s nephew, and Mahender Yadav.

Nirmal Singh, who ran a taxi stand in Anand Niketan, was president of the gurdwara.

Nirpreet said around 5.30am on November 1, 1984, a mob attacked the gurdwara and caught her father when two men took him out for a compromise.

She said one Ishwar Sharabi sprinkled kerosene on her father and a policeman gave the mob a matchbox. “...From his name plate, I could gather his name was Inspector Kaushik. He gave a matchbox to Kishan Khokhar, who set my father on fire. My father jumped into a nearby nala (drain) to save himself. They pulled him out and set him on fire again,” she said in her statement.

The third witness, Jagsher Singh, said he survived as he was not a keshdhari (a turbaned Sikh) unlike his three brothers – Narender Pal Singh, Raghuvinder Singh and Kuldeep Singh – who were killed. “Between 10pm and 11pm on November 1, 1984, a vehicle stopped at our gali at Shiv Mandir Marg... 30-40 people collected there. Sajjan Kumar, MP, came out (of the car) and asked if they have done the work assigned … one of them told him they were helpless as the thekedars ) were being saved by Hindus... Sajjan Kumar told them to kill those Hindus and burn their houses,” he said in the statement.

First Published: Dec 18, 2018 09:11 IST