As Gurjal Kaur, 75, stares blankly at the dirty, moldering wall of her house, her nightmarish memories of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots turn into fresh bleeding wounds. With Punjab going to polls on Sunday, Congress leader Sam Pitroda’s flippant remark that “1984 hua to hua” and the BJP’s relentless offensive over it has brought the anti-Sikh riots back into the political discourse.
The survivors of the riots in the CRPF colony of Ludhiana claim that successive Congress governments delayed justice to the affected families. Kaur, who lost two of her sons, Harbhajan Singh and Amarjit Singh, in the 1984 communal flare-up, claims the Akalis have helped the survivors of the riots the most and that the previous Congress governments at the Centre and in the state “ruined our lives”.
Charanjeet Kaur, 59, who lost her two sons and husband in the riots, says, “We saw what people would not have seen during Partition. Mobs burnt thousands of Sikh men alive and raped the women.” Gurdeep Kaur of the women’s wing of 1984 Sikh Katle-Aam Peerat Welfare Society alleges former Punjab chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal did not let the grant given by the Centre reach the victim families in the state.
“The Akali government took some steps, but those were not enough. There are around 35,000 riot-affected families in Punjab, and the Badal government gave flats only to 3,000,” she rues. “Four commissions, nine committees, and two SITs were set up to probe the killings. Why? It is clear that the Congress governments wanted to hide someone’s role in the riots,” she says.
Former AAP leader and senior lawyer H S Phoolka, who has been representing victims of the riots in court cases, says that instead of punishing leaders involved in the anti-Sikh riots, the Congress had elevated and promoted them. A state Congress leader on condition of anonymity says no one can question Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on his commitment toward ensuring justice to the victims of the riots. “He had himself resigned from Parliament to protest against what had happened…,” the leader says.