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Still haunted by the ghost of 1984

Tuesday 9 August 2005, by NAYAR*Mandira

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SHADOW OF L984: Eighty-year-old Jassi Bai at home in Delhi on Monday with photographs of her husband and son who were killed during the 1984 riots. PHOTO: SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

NEW DELHI: The only "proof" Nirmal has that she had a family once is an old faded photograph. Standing outside her dilapidated flat here in Tilak Nagar — a Sikh-dominated area in West Delhi — Nirmal is just one of the many victims of the 1984 Sikh riots who say they have lost all faith in the Government after the tabling of the Nanavati Commission report in Parliament on Monday. With those accused of participation in the riots virtually being given a clean chit by the Commission 21 years later, the anger she feels is palpable.

"My children keep asking me where my family is. All that I have to show them is a photograph. My mother and I were the only ones in my family to survive, but she died last year waiting for justice. My family never killed Indira Gandhi, so why should they have been slaughtered? This Government might not be able to give us justice. But God will,’’ she says, tears welling up in her eyes.

Living with memories of the riots, the residents — who had pinned their hopes on the tenth inquiry commission that was set up to investigate the riots — are now left grappling with a sense of overpowering rage and frustration. With images of her son and husband being burnt alive still vivid in her mind, there is no reassuring 80-year-old Jassi Bai.

"Is this justice? Jagdish Tytler, H.K.L Bhagat and Sajjan Kumar are all free. The killers of Indira Gandhi were hanged, so why are they not punishing those who killed thousands of innocent people? Manmohan Singh is just a puppet in the hands of Sonia Gandhi. He is a Sikh. How can he still head such a Government?’’ wails Jassi Bai.

Having walked across from Pakistan during the 1947 Partition "believing in Jawaharlal Nehru’s dream", Jassi Bai now believes that justice will always be elusive for her in independent India. "I escaped without a hair singed during Partition. But here in the Capital, I lost everything. The whole Commission is eyewash. No one has heard us for years. I have no hope or expectations from any Government.’’

For Harbans Kaur, who has been a widow longer than she was married, the Nanavati report "is just one more reason to be disillusioned with the system": "It is a conspiracy. It was not a riot but a massacre of innocent people. I was 18 years old. I saw my husband tied to a pillar and burnt alive. These were not riots but killings supported by the Congress party. Otherwise how is it that they could drag out innocent people and brutally kill them the way they did?’’

With more questions than answers, the residents of this colony say the reality of the riots will always haunt them. "The fire still burns in us. We are still burning with the memories of the riots. It is not easy to lose your father, your grandfather and your brother,’’ states young Gurmeet Kaur who was a little child in 1984.

For the elders, the nightmare is far from over. "Even after we die, our young ones will continue this fight. We have not given up,’’ says Paramjeet Kaur.

See online : The Hindu

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