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23 years later, invalid Sikh seeks justice

A barely living Gurcharan Singh is demanding justice after being reduced to a cripple in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi.
IANS | By Ritu Sharma, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAR 13, 2008 01:05 PM IST

Twenty-three years after a mob threw him into a burning truck, a barely living Gurcharan Singh is demanding justice after being reduced to a cripple in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi.

Confined to bed for life after the horrific incident, Singh reached the Karkardooma court in an ambulance Wednesday along with a group of other victims of the 1984 mass violence that left around 2,700 people dead.

A 17-year-old at that time, Singh was a resident of Uttam Nagar in west Delhi when reprisal violence swept Delhi following the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi by two of her Sikh bodyguards on Oct 31, 1984.

Mobs incited by politicians immediately took over the streets, killing and raping innocents. Hundreds were injured and traumatised.

The mob that invaded Uttam Nagar killed Singh's father and maternal uncle before catching hold of him and throwing him into a burning truck. This happened on Nov 1.

That terrible act of violence destroyed Singh although he didn't die.

"When I gained consciousness, I found myself in a hospital bed. I was discharged after 10 days to live a miserable life. They (mob) had burnt our shops, homes and killed our people," Singh recalled.

"My brother was also attacked with bricks, leaving him injured in his spine. He has been incapacitated for life. From my family of seven, only two of us are alive," a grieving Singh told IANS in the court complex, speaking from the stretcher that has since then become his permanent shelter.

It was the start of an agonizing life.

Singh registered a case with Delhi Police, accusing Sajjan Kumar, a Congress MP who has been widely blamed for the 1984 mayhem but the police refused to name the MP in the first information report.

And then fear took over.

Living under constant threats of life, because the killers did not want him pointing his accusing fingers against them, Singh quietly moved out to Mohali in Punjab.

The Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the Sikh religious parliament, finally came to his rescue, dishing out - in Singh's words - a monthly pension of Rs 10,000.

When the government set up the GT Nanavati Commission to probe the anti-Sikh violence, Singh refused to depose. "I feared for my life," he said Wednesday, as two armed policemen from Punjab stood by his side.

One day, prodded by the court, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) came to him to record his statement at Mohali.

And the volcano in Singh burst out.

"I told the CBI that the mob attacking our area was led by Sajjan Kumar. He met the local 'sarpanch' and said: 'They (Sikhs) have killed 'maa' (Indira Gandhi), kill them'," Singh told IANS.

Sajjan Kumar has denied similar allegations against him in the past.

The SGPC also promised to protect Singh, giving him the courage to travel to New Delhi.

Singh has nothing much to look forward to, but he feels strongly that justice needs to be done and those who killed innocents in 1984 should be punished.

He knows that even if that happens, he will remain a cripple for life - for no fault of his.

Babu Singh Dukhiya, president of a forum seeking justice for the 1984 victims, told IANS: "Singh is living a miserable life. His only wish is that the court must record his statement. He knows he may die soon."

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