In this paper an attempt has been made to create a profile of the victims of the 84 pogrom as it emerges from newspaper reports around end 2012. The profile shows a cross section of the victims not only in Delhi but also some who had moved to Ludhiana and Chandigarh.
While the issue of denial of justice is the main issue that irks the community and also the one that has received the most media coverage, the issues that affect the survivors individually are those related to compensation, rehabilitation and any specific situations of inability to cope with the trauma by some of the affected families. It has to be noted that no known study gives an idea of the extent and range of post traumatic stress disorders [PTSD] that the victims and their families continue to suffer from.
Twenty-eight years on, two issues are all important for the survivors of 1984. One that their families’ killers still roam free and two, their lives are still unsettled, still uncertain because of inadequate compensation, neglect and apathy. There are other problems. The children of riot victims and survivors have grown up but with their fathers dead and mothers at work, there was no guiding hand.
There have been two commissions of enquiry and eight committees to probe the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The inaction on the reports of various commissions and committees stems from the fact that Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 while it allows these bodies to recommend any specific punishment for the guilty, it does not vest them with powers to prescribe it and the government can ignore their findings. That is what has been happening in all these years.
Such has been the attitude that for the first two years, no account of the dead was carried out.
Ranganath Mishra commission was given names, addresses and complete details of 3,870 people killed in Delhi. But police said 1,419 were killed and cases of only these people were registered. The Delhi government filed a list of 2,300 people killed. A separate committee later established that 2,773 people died in Delhi alone.
In 2005, the GT Nanavati Commission indicted Jagdish Tytler. He resigned as Minister of State for Overseas Indian Affairs and the government asked CBI to re-investigate the cases. The Commission also touched upon the delay in deploying the Army in the Capital on October 31 itself and expressed dissatisfaction with the then Lt. Governor P.G. Gavai who had the powers to deploy the Army in such circumstances, without waiting for the political clearance. Gavai claimed he gave the go-ahead to the Police Commissioner SC Tandon on the morning of November 1 to seek deployment of Army. The Nanavati Commission also assailed the Police Commissioner for not taking strict action against the defaulting police officers or giving them directions to be strict with the marauding mobs. The Delhi Police is directly under the Central government.
Tilak Vihar is a Sikh resettlement colony built on charred memories of riots 28 years ago. 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 H.K.L. Bhagat,” she says. “My mother went mad. For three days, we were crying on the streets,” she adds. “We were ruined – and have still not got any closure.”
Like Pappy, Baghi Kaur too lost 11 of her relatives in Trilokpuri in 1984. Her son, Balwant Singh, 36 lost his father and uncles, grew up illiterate and is married now, with four children. Permanently ill with a stomach infection, he survives on his mother’s slender salary. “1984 killed us,” he says bitterly. His younger brother, Balbir fared worse. He became a drug addict and died at 28. She names Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler being involved. 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 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.
HS Phoolka, the lawyer who has been fighting cases of riot victims, says convictions have been pronounced only in 12 FIRs. A total of 30 people named in these cases have been convicted for life imprisonment. Barring half-a-dozen of them, the rest are on bail as their appeals are pending before higher courts. None of the senior Congress leaders whose role is suspected in triggering the riots has been convicted so far.
Nirpreet Kaur, 44, whose father was burnt alive in Palam Colony, says “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.’”
“The most important problem facing survivors is making two ends meet. Many families lost their breadwinners. The widows who survived their husbands were (in many cases) not provided jobs. Those who did, earn peanuts,” adds Nirpreet.
In the first two years, the Government hurriedly announced a compensation of Rs 10,000 for those killed. In 1996 after recommendation of the Justice Anil Dev Commission, victims’ relatives were given a total amount of Rs 3.5 lakh as compensation. The community was very dissatisfied with the amount and subsequently the Nanavati Commission recommended an additional amount of Rs 3.5 lakh. This amount was given in 2006 under the PM’s relief fund scheme. Government says that 95 per cent victims have been given compensation. “The rest are yet to prove their links with the victims,” per Kuldeep Singh Kang, special secretary revenue, Delhi government.
For the injured, the government had initially decided to give Rs 2,000 each but in 1998, the government gave them Rs 1.25 lakh compensation on the court recommendation according to Harvinder Singh Phoolka.
Rajinder Kaur, 60, who lives in B-block of Safdarjung Enclave, New Delhi, lost her husband, JD Singh and was left alone with two small children with nowhere to go. She did not get any compensation because she could not provide evidentiary documents. She says that during the attack the trauma was so high that they had no time or sense to look for documents. They lost everything, including documents and their lifelong savings.
Darshan Kaur, 53, of Karol Bagh worked for years as a maid after her husband and father-in-law were killed, earning as little as Rs.50 a day. For the last 12 years, she has been working in a beauty clinic, on a salary of Rs.5, 000. “I am doing it because I have no option. But I fear for the future,” she says.
Harbans Kaur had been married for five months when the riots took place. Hours after her
husband was killed, she was told at a local health camp that she was one month pregnant.
“I got the job of a Class IV employee in the Delhi Municipal Corporation in 1986. It has been 26 years, but I haven’t been promoted. I wrote to the President in 1998 and despite his assurance, no promotion came my way. My daughter is now married and settled in Punjab, but my struggle continues,” says Kaur, now 46.
Mohan Singh, whose two sons were burnt alive, fled from Palam Vihar to Punjab. He says that though he got a compensation of Rs 3 lakh, the loss he suffered cannot be compensated. “With the compensation amount, they bought our silence,” Singh said.
There are some cases of people who have had modest success in putting their lives back in order.
Joginder Singh, now 56, was at the house of his father-in-law Harwant Singh, who worked as a security guard at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Raj Nagar in Palam area when the violence broke on November 3 and the house was set ablaze by rioters.. “I took refuge at Baldev Ram Khanna’s house but we couldn’t save my father-in-law. I met my parents who hid themselves at Dharam Dev Solanki’s house until we were rescued by the Army. I then set out in search of my pregnant wife. I found her at Air Force gurdawara,” he said. He and his family were taken to the Golden Temple Sarai where hundreds of families had taken shelter. He realized it was very difficult for him to earn a living for his family in Amritsar and decided to return to Delhi in 1988 to start life afresh. He now runs Mother’s Pride Public School from a rented building in Vishwakarma Colony of Okhla Phase II.
Gurpreet Sethi, then 10 and now 38, was taken to Ludhiana by his mother after the pogrom. They returned to Delhi in 1986 on her mother’s insistence and tried to rebuild their lives. “My mother took up sewing to fund my education. It took me a long time to move on, but I did. I graduated from Delhi University with a correspondence degree and kept trying to work my way back into the retail clothing industry, like my father. We now have a shop in Chandini Chowk and one in Lajpat Nagar,” he says.
Early on 8,000 riot-hit families were living in Ludhiana with red cards. ‘Every riot victim was given a grant of Rs 2 lakh, a flat or a booth, besides reservation in educational institutions for the children. Around 1,000 families were given flats while they are in the process of giving flats to another 2,000 families’ according to the DC reported on 10/30/12.
Veeran Vali lost her son during the riots and lives with her other two sons. “Our lives have never been the same since the day we were uprooted from Delhi. My sons failed to get proper education due to lack of money and are now doing meagre jobs to sustain themselves. I had Rs 2 lakh in savings but I repaid my loan with the money. Now I am struggling to manage a square meal,” she said. Some men from the families are vegetable vendors, while others work as “pathis” at gurdwars. The women chip in by doing stitching and knitting jobs.
Kailash Kaur, who came to Ludhiana during the riots, is still repaying her debt. “I am unable to marry off my daughters as I do not have enough money,” she rued.
“While we were able to get an accommodation here, most of our relatives had to return to Delhi and start afresh. My brother’s family had to start a business in readymade garments in Delhi. Though it took him some time to settle down, he is doing fine now,” said Bhajan Kaur.
It took the Arora family a lot of time to get back on their feet after moving to the city. Amar
Singh, head of the family, opened a “dhaba” and his son now manages it.
Mohinder Pal Singh was just nine-year-old when he saw his family-run dairy at Shahdara, New Delhi, going up in flames. He used to help his father, Pritam Singh, in running the business. The family survived the communal carnage but the violence, loss and deaths of their relatives saw parents of Mohinder Pal slipping into depression. Leading life of a nomad, Mohinder Pal in the last few years has been forced to take up jobs of part time granthi at different gurdwaras in Chappar Chiri, Sohana, Fatehgarh Sahib and Chandigarh.
Surjeet Kaur was a 15-year-old married girl, when she along with her family members deserted their well-established business in Dhanbad. Lucky to survive the carnage, she saw her husband losing his mind after slipping into shock. “The incident altered our social and financial equations forever. My husband went missing soon after. We found him in a pathetic state in 2008 but he died soon after in a road accident near sector 20 gurdwara”, she said. She ekes her livelihood by stitching clothes feeding her three children single-handedly over the past 28 years, without any financial help or gainful employment from the government.
http://www.tribuneindia.com/2012/20121031/nation.htm#top Reports by Syed Ali Ahmed and Himani Chandel/TNS
Tuesday, October, 30 2012