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1984: Thirty-Four years on…

Updated : November 05, 2018 07:17 AM IST

The lives of the families who lost their near ones and survived themselves on the 1984 Sikh pogroms in Delhi.  1984 is not just the name of the Orwell’s dystopian novel but a real year with carnage of Sikh people that would recall in the history to come.

1984 saw the worst pogroms against the Sikhs after Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh body guards on the morning of 31st October. The next day Delhi and rest of India saw the bloodiest killing of Sikhs. Estimated 8000 Sikh were killed pan India with 3000 alone in Delhi. After such carnage, Rajiv Gandhi (son of PM Indira Gandhi and the next Indian PM) commented Rajiv Gandhi justifying the 1984 Sikh Riots after Indira Gandhi's death by saying, "When a big tree falls, earth shakes."

34 years have passed. Judgement(s) delayed, and the perpetrators still roaming freely. Accused politicians like Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler and many unnamed people are leading a free life. Many children who lost their fathers have grown up to be men and women in their thirties and forties with their children still hearing the gruesome stories of the violent massacre that shook India.

My images are a slice of those people who say the arson happening in front of their eyes when their husbands and family members were burnt to death. Tyres were used like rings were used to captive the hands and fire was lit using petrol and other chemicals. In Delhi there were 587 FiR’s (first information report) were filed among with 247 were ‘untraced’ as the police claimed there were lack of evidence. 33 years passed, but the pain and tears among the family members who saw such violence hasn’t seized. The agony and pain still looks fresh. My images takes a look at the families who suffered with no faults of theirs.

Here are the voices heard from the widows and few men who lost a lot during the three day carnage.

In February 2015, the central Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), acting on the recommendations of the G P Mathur committee, constituted a three-member special investigation team, comprising of two senior police officers and a retired judge. The SIT’s terms of reference included reinvestigating criminal cases filed in Delhi in relation to the 1984 Sikh massacre, and filing charges against accused persons where there was sufficient available evidence. The Amnesty International a human rights advocacy group got together the names of the victims still alive and struggling the days with the thought of carnage in their minds.

The SIT was given six months to complete this exercise. However, working of the SIT is marked with non-transparency and with baffling delays. For over two years, the SIT has been seeking extensions.   SIT has filed closure for more than 190 cases, out of a total of the 293 cases referred to the SIT on the anti-Sikh violence.

Bhagi Kaur  Migrated from Trilokpuri  to Tilak Vihar Delhi. Her husband and seven relatives  including her brother in laws and their sons were killed on the evening of 1st November  in 1984. Now retired from a hospital she lives on pension of around Rs 10,000 which is too less for her to run her household. She has to look after five people in total, Bhagi Kaur says. “To everyone else, the riots took place 33 years ago, but for me it just feels like it all happened yesterday. Almost my entire family was wiped out in front of my eyes and even after so many years we haven’t got any justice with the culprits still roaming free,” she says.  We are still fighting the consequences of what had happened.  My life is almost over but my kids are facing hardships that they don’t deserve. The only hope I have is may be my grandchildren will one day see happiness.
Bhagi Kaur 
Migrated from Trilokpuri  to Tilak Vihar Delhi. Her husband and seven relatives  including her brother in laws and their sons were killed on the evening of 1st November  in 1984.
Now retired from a hospital she lives on pension of around Rs 10,000 which is too less for her to run her household. She has to look after five people in total, Bhagi Kaur says.
“To everyone else, the riots took place 33 years ago, but for me it just feels like it all happened yesterday. Almost my entire family was wiped out in front of my eyes and even after so many years we haven’t got any justice with the culprits still roaming free,” she says. 
We are still fighting the consequences of what had happened.  My life is almost over but my kids are facing hardships that they don’t deserve. The only hope I have is may be my grandchildren will one day see happiness.
Shanti Devi  Migrated from Trilokpuri to Tilak Vihar. Her Husband and brother in law were killed. They killed my husband and Brother in law with a sword, my brother in law was lying on ground with his stomach cut open. Blood streams were all around. The impending doom was never realized till the mob led by Congress goons struck our mohallah in Trilokpuri.    ‘’God is witness to my pain, we were begging for water, the images of the atrocities committed during the 1984 haunt me even today’’
Shanti Devi
 Migrated from Trilokpuri to Tilak Vihar.
Her Husband and brother in law were killed.
They killed my husband and Brother in law with a sword, my brother in law was lying on ground with his stomach cut open. Blood streams were all around. The impending doom was never realized till the mob led by Congress goons struck our mohallah in Trilokpuri.   
‘’God is witness to my pain, we were begging for water, the images of the atrocities committed during the 1984 haunt me even today’’

Lakshmi Kaur Migrated from Mongolpuri to Tilak Vihar. Her Husband and 5 Brothers and other relatives were killed. ‘’My husband’s neck was ringed with tyre filled with petrol or kerosene oil and then they set him on fire outside police station”. A middle-aged man from the mob came back at night and tried to touch me inappropriately, when I resisted; he went out and called his entire group, they searched my house and killed all the 8 men hiding inside. Her infant son was thrown in fire. Since then he became paraplegic. The mob creating arson thought her son dead. Later when rescued the infant was found semi burnt and physically challenged. Since then Lakshmi has been in a financial distress. Taking care of a maimed son and two other daughters she id still struggling to survive. She says ‘ I was regularly threatened and harassed so I decided to withdraw my case. I was scared to pursue my case.  Government should come and see how we are living. ‘ But her fight against the Congress and the men who killed her people is still on.
Lakshmi Kaur
Migrated from Mongolpuri to Tilak Vihar.
Her Husband and 5 Brothers and other relatives were killed.
‘’My husband’s neck was ringed with tyre filled with petrol or kerosene oil and then they set him on fire outside police station”.
A middle-aged man from the mob came back at night and tried to touch me inappropriately, when I resisted; he went out and called his entire group, they searched my house and killed all the 8 men hiding inside. Her infant son was thrown in fire. Since then he became paraplegic. The mob creating arson thought her son dead. Later when rescued the infant was found semi burnt and physically challenged.
Since then Lakshmi has been in a financial distress. Taking care of a maimed son and two other daughters she id still struggling to survive. She says ‘ I was regularly threatened and harassed so I decided to withdraw my case. I was scared to pursue my case. 
Government should come and see how we are living. ‘ But her fight against the Congress and the men who killed her people is still on.
Hukumi Kaur Migrated from Trilokpuri to Tilak Vihar. She lost her Husband, brother in law, father in law and 11 other members in the family. All were slaughtered on 1st November of 1984. Such carnage cannot be forgotten. It still blinks in her mind. She still remembers  “Men in my family were burnt at the main door of the house. My husband was killed three days later, his eyes were gouged out and burnt alive”
Hukumi Kaur Migrated from Trilokpuri to Tilak Vihar. She lost her Husband, brother in law, father in law and 11 other members in the family. All were slaughtered on 1st November of 1984. Such carnage cannot be forgotten. It still blinks in her mind. She still remembers  “Men in my family were burnt at the main door of the house. My husband was killed three days later, his eyes were gouged out and burnt alive”
Joginder Kaur  Migrated from Sagarpur to Raja Garden. Lost her husband, and mother-in-law is missing since 1984. ‘’My husband was attacked with swords and sticks, he was lying on charpoy like a vegetable for three days,  kids were sitting close to him and not ready to move. Mob again entered our home the third day and killed him’’. It was 3rd November. ‘’We have lost everything in 1984, our future, our right to progress everything. My younger son was in depression and now he is missing from 5 years’’ I am in living hell. Looking at her husbands’ photograph on the wall of her tiny home, she wipes her tears with no hope.
Joginder Kaur
 Migrated from Sagarpur to Raja Garden.
Lost her husband, and mother-in-law is missing since 1984.
‘’My husband was attacked with swords and sticks, he was lying on charpoy like a vegetable for three days,  kids were sitting close to him and not ready to move. Mob again entered our home the third day and killed him’’. It was 3rd November.
‘’We have lost everything in 1984, our future, our right to progress everything. My younger son was in depression and now he is missing from 5 years’’ I am in living hell. Looking at her husbands’ photograph on the wall of her tiny home, she wipes her tears with no hope.
Amarjit Kaur Migrated from Tri Nagar to Raja Garden. She lost her husband and brother-in-law. ‘’My husband and his brother were killed in Badli, they were burnt alive by a mob of hundreds’’. They were throwing some white inflammable powder which immediately catches fire and explodes’’ We are the forgotten citizens of India. Since then, Amarjit lives on hypertension drugs which she says has made her immobile.
Amarjit Kaur
Migrated from Tri Nagar to Raja Garden.
She lost her husband and brother-in-law.
‘’My husband and his brother were killed in Badli, they were burnt alive by a mob of hundreds’’.
They were throwing some white inflammable powder which immediately catches fire and explodes’’ We are the forgotten citizens of India. Since then, Amarjit lives on hypertension drugs which she says has made her immobile.
Santokh Singh Migrated from Sultanpuri to Tilak Vihar. He lost his father and grandfather. He was three years. “My mother dressed me in my sister’s clothes to save me. They were shouting slogans against Sikhs, they called us snakes. They burned my father, those scenes have not left me. There is no closure to it.
Santokh Singh
Migrated from Sultanpuri to Tilak Vihar.
He lost his father and grandfather. He was three years.
“My mother dressed me in my sister’s clothes to save me. They were shouting slogans against Sikhs, they called us snakes. They burned my father, those scenes have not left me. There is no closure to it.
Amrajeet Singh Migrated from Mongolpuri to Tilak Vihar. He lost his elder brother and brother-in-law. ‘’ My mother was heartbroken after the death of my elder brother, I was only 11 years old, couldn’t help her much. I saw them killing people with a weapon used by butchers in their shops.  The most haunting memories were of the gloves, I saw this middle-aged man wearing gloves and throwing white powder on Sikhs and our homes which was immediately catching fire. They burnt a young man in front of my eyes.”
Amrajeet Singh
Migrated from Mongolpuri to Tilak Vihar.
He lost his elder brother and brother-in-law.
‘’ My mother was heartbroken after the death of my elder brother, I was only 11 years old, couldn’t help her much. I saw them killing people with a weapon used by butchers in their shops.  The most haunting memories were of the gloves, I saw this middle-aged man wearing gloves and throwing white powder on Sikhs and our homes which was immediately catching fire. They burnt a young man in front of my eyes.”
Harbans Singh  From Bhogal ‘’They burned all the trucks which has Sikh religious symbols on them. They burned one young guy after putting tyre around his neck, police was not doing anything they were watchers.’’
Harbans Singh 
From Bhogal
‘’They burned all the trucks which has Sikh religious symbols on them. They burned one young guy after putting tyre around his neck, police was not doing anything they were watchers.’’
Published : October 31, 2018 11:21 AM IST
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