The victims that time forgot

Tilak Vihar could be just another congested neighbourhood in west Delhi until you take a closer look. Everywhere, there is a profusion of turbans and beards - a traumatic reminder that this is a Sikh resettlement colony built on the charred memories of riots 28 years ago. The lapse of time has done little to dull the bitterness or erase the images of fathers, sons, brothers and husbands killed mercilessly in the rioting that followed the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards on 31 October 1984.

For three days after that, mobs trawled the streets of the national capital, massacring an estimated 3,000 Sikhs.

The memories live on, singeing the present.

In one of the apartments of the shabby flat complex in Tilak Vihar lives Pappy Kaur, 43, who saw 10 of her relatives killed in the east Delhi colony of Trilokpuri.

‘I was 15 then,’ she reminisces. ‘We were eight brothers and sisters, living in Trilokpuri. Ten of our family, including my father and elder brother, were killed by mobs encouraged by HKL Bhagat,’ she says, referring to the late Congress leader who many alleged had prompted the riots.

‘My mother went mad. For three days, we were crying on the streets,’ she adds.

Pappy Kaur is just one of the many survivors for whom 1984 was a black year. ‘We were ruined - and have still not got any closure.’

Twenty-eight years on, two issues are all important for the survivors of 1984. One, that their families’ killers still roam free. Two, their lives are still unsettled, still uncertain because of inadequate compensation, neglect and apathy. The stories are the same in house after house.

Like Pappy, Baghi Kaur too lost 11 of her relatives in Trilokpuri in 1984. She too refers to the allegations of Congress leaders being involved and names Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler. Until they are punished, she asserts, there will be no closure. ‘Frankly, I have no hopes. I have attended so many rallies and still, there is no justice for us.’

The level of frustration can be gauged by the fact that the conviction rate in cases is abysmal. ‘No precise figure can be given for the convictions as tabulation has not been done. But I can tell you the trend is very small.

I myself took a sample of 100 odd murder cases and there were only eight convictions. So one can say that the conviction rate is very nominal and, most importantly, the big leaders who led the riots have not been convicted at all,’ says human rights lawyer Vrinda Grover. Nirpreet Kaur, 44, whose father was burnt alive in Palam Colony, offers her perspective.

‘Even if the lower courts sentence the guilty, they are acquitted by the higher courts. Even when somebody is sentenced to death, they often commute it to life (imprisonment), like what happened in the case of Kishori Lal, ‘the butcher of Delhi’,’ she says. [IANS]
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