Human Rights

The Widow Colony: Where women tell tales of the Anti Sikh brutality of 1984

Sikhs being rounded up by the Indian Army at Amritsar in 1984. (Photo Credit: Raghu Rai)

As news blared from a dusty old radio in the tea stall outside young Dalprit’s house in Trilokpuri, the area was tensed. The usual bustle was missing.

“The prime minister has been shot,” said the news reporter of All India Radio, as Dalprit hurriedly opened up his turban, looking in the mirror, unsure of what might happen next. Dalprit was too young to understand the politics shaping up his life.

Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, was shot dead at point blank range by her Sikh bodyguards in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar, an event that ended the reign of popular Sikh leader Bhindranwale, in a fierce gun battle in the heart of Amritsar, and devastated the Golden Temple compound, a site revered by the Sikhs.

“It was the evening of November 1st 1984, my mother tied my hair in braids. ‘If anyone asks, tell them your name is Amandeep Kaur, not Dalprit,’ she told me. I was made to wear a green coloured frock and hide in the neighbour’s house,” says Dalprit.

Tilak Nagar Colony in West Delhi was one of the worst hit by the Anti Sikh violence of 1984. (Photo: Showkat Shafi)

Before saying goodbye, Dalprit was made to repeat ‘my name is Amandeep Kaur’ a few times by his mother. “I can never forget that day. That frock saved my life,” says Dalprit, a 75-year-old male victim of the Anti Sikh violence that hit Delhi, post the Indira assassination.

In a mere 6 hours, everything changed and chaos gripped the Sikh dominant localities of New Delhi. For the next three days, armed rioters were unstoppable, as Sikh men were dragged out of their houses and burned alive.

The violence began in Trilokpuri and spread onto Mongolpuri, Shahdara,Tilak Nagar and Palam Vihar.

Surjeet Kaur remembers every detail, and says that it is etched into her memory. “They took away my husband and son. They grabbed me and my younger sisters by our hair, dragging us to watch what they were going to do. They beat my husband and son until they were lying in a pool of blood. When that didn’t satisfy them, they put tyres around their heads and set fire to it. I get goosebumps every time I remember that,” says Kaur.

Surjeet Kaur, 85, lost her husband Tara Singh, 57, and son Joginder Singh, 30. (Photo: Showkat Shafi)

It was only after 2 days of extreme violence against the Sikh community that the military and state police began to intervene, and take action.

Surjeet Kaur goes on to say how the armed mob knew how many men, women, children were there in each Sikh household.

According to Kaur, it was an organised mob who had marked all Sikh homes, pulling out men and boys while raping women, whenever and wherever they could.

Rawel Kaur, Surinder Kaur, Manjeet Kaur, Prakash Kaur and Jamna Kaur are a few women out of thousands, mourning the death of their husbands and sons, and waiting for justice in the locality of Tilak Nagar.

Known as the Widow’s Colony, Tilak Nagar’s Gurudwara has a martyrs’ room, with pictures of the slain, regularly visited by widows to show their children and grandchildren how their parents looked like.

“It was the top leaders of the Congress party who had organized this heinous crime against our community,” alleges Jamna Kaur. According to her, all politicians are selfish and looking for their own benefit.

Jamna Kaur lost her husband, Ranjh Singh and son Jaggu Singh. (Photo: Showkat Shafi)

“We should be ashamed to call ourselves a democratic country keeping in mind the riots of 1984 against the Sikh community and 2002 against the Muslim community, when no one has got justice,” adds Jamna.

Although official figures put the death toll at 2,800 the real figures may be much higher. Some organisations put the number at 8000 deaths, in a span of four days.

33 years after the Anti Sikh violence, Jamna Kaur and countless other widows of the widow colony in Tilak Nagar and other areas of West Delhi, await justice.

Although a petition which sought to recognize the 1984 Anti Sikh violence as “Genocide” was tabled in the Australian parliament in 2002, not much has moved in India, much to the disappointment of the inhabitants of the ‘Widow Colony’.

 

Monisa Nadeem is a freelance Journalist. She has completed her masters in Journalism from MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia. 


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