//Two victims of 1984 Sikh riots, join hands to go after killers

Two victims of 1984 Sikh riots, join hands to go after killers

8 nov. 2011

Two riot-hit women close ranks to nail the ‘killers’
By Naziya Alvi in New Delhi

Nearly 30 years after the 1984 Sikh riots, two victims’ only wish is to see Cong leader Sajjan Kumar punished in their lifetime

NIRPREET Kaur, 42, first saw Sajjan Kumar when she was only 16 years old.

The Congress leader, she says, was instigating a mob at Palam Colony. Encouraged by him, the rioters burnt her father alive. His only fault was that he was a Sikh. The tragedy changed her life forever. Bent on exacting revenge, Nirpreet joined the Khalistan movement.

The year was 1984. The day, November 1, a day after the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was shot dead by her Sikh bodyguards. Over the next four days, rioters killed thousands of Sikhs in response to Gandhi’s assassination.

Twenty- seven years later, Nirpreet came face to face with Kumar once again in a city court in January this year. She was there to tell the court if Kumar incited mobs to kill Sikhs during the ’ 84 riots.

“At least I got the chance to identify him ( Kumar) in court. I have done my job. Now, it’s the state’s turn,” Nirpreet says.

For the first time in nearly three decades, Nirpreet, who had lost hope that the guilty would ever be punished, feels there is a glimmer of hope that Kumar would be punished after all.

Her fight to nail the accused, particularly Kumar, was not easy.

Nirpreet was subjected to threats, intimidation and slapped with false charges as serious as TADA, for which she reportedly spent several years in jail.

“ I was sent to jail for raising my voice. My first husband couldn’t take that and left me,” Nirpreet, who runs an NGO that rehabilitates riot victims, says. She lives with her two sons in Tilak Nagar.

The story and anger of Jagdish Kaur, another riot victim, is no different. She lost five family members, including her husband and son, in the massacre.

The 69- year- old, who relocated to Amritsar after the riots, is another gutsy woman to have come forward to depose in court against Kumar.

“ My son and I were told several times to take back the case and not depose against Kumar. We were threatened,” Jagdish says.

“ But we want justice. For someone who lost her family, there cannot be anything more important than justice.” She came to Delhi in June last year and stayed in the city for the next three months to record her evidence. “ Although I was made to feel more like an accused by the system than a victim, I am glad that I have done my job,” she says.

Recalling the horror that unfolded at her home in Raj Nagar Colony in Delhi Cantonment, Jagdish says: “ It was around 9 am. I was preparing breakfast. Shree, a friend of my elder brother Gurpreet, came to our house to tell us that a mob had set a Sikh military jeep on fire and was approaching our area.” Around 10 am, rioters entered the colony and set several houses and vehicles on fire.

Then, they entered the lane where Jagdish lived. The rioters, she says, were shouting slogans like “ Kill, kill, kill the Sikhs. No Sikh should be spared”. Soon, the mob barged into her house. They first beat up Gurpreet.

The assailants then hit her husband with a rod, killing him.

The rioters then dragged her son out of the house where they thrashed him until he died.

Jagdish promptly moved her three daughters — Harvinder, Harjeet and Gurjee, then aged 13, 11 and 9 years respectively, to the terrace. Minutes later, her three cousins who lived close by — Narendra Pal, Ragvinder and Kuldeep Singh — were burned alive by the mob.

Kaur’s only hope now is those responsible for the riots are punished.

“ I wish to see it in my life,” she says.

NIRPREET KAUR ( 42)

Joined the Khalistan movement after losing her family to the riots. Rioters burned her father alive after smearing him with a white inflammable powder outside their house in Palam Colony. The house, too, was set on fire

JAGDISH KAUR ( 69)
Mail Today, 1 November 2011
Lost her family in the massacre.

Kaur lost five family members, including her husband and son. She shifted to Amritsar after the violence. Daughter of freedom fighter Harnam Singh Trilok, Kaur lives with her son and his wife in Amritsar