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1984 Anti-Sikh Pogrom For Them, It Was Partition Revisited


Jun 1, 2004
TWENTY years ago, for three days, armed mobs had a free run - killing Sikh men, destroying their properties, molesting their women and assaulting their children.

[FONT=Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif]Just when the painful memories from the Partition had almost faded, the incident brought back everything in a more grotesque manner.[/FONT]​

It was the biggest massacre faced by independent India. When one section of the community was trying to survive the terror, the other section of the community seemed to be reliving the trauma of Partition.

"My family managed to cross the border during the time of Partition. It was not an easy job but we knew once we reached our land, no one could harm us. But we were wrong," says Shyama Rani Bhatia (52). Her parents had to face the trauma of both 1947 and 1984.
Shyams's mother, who now lives in Lucknow, was just 13 during the Partition. For her, escaping those brutal hands in Pakistan was definitely a matter of chance. But that was not the end.
37 years later, when Shyama's parents had forgotten the turbulent past, there was a knock.

"My parents house was the fifth one in the lane. Their neighbours were also Sikhs. My parents called the police when the first house was set on fire. Only to hear 'Ab jo kiya hai, uske liye bharo' (You have to pay for your deeds)."

"In 1947, they took refuge across the border. But 20 years ago, which border could they cross? Where could they hide? We had become outcasts in our own country," exclaims Shyama.

Life had indeed taken an ugly turn. More than 4,000 people were killed in three days.

People ran for their lives, desperate for refuge. Many Sikh families cut off their sons' hair to shield them. But for some it was sacrilege.

"My sister-in-law's family was attacked. The women tried to escape but failed. The mob spilled petrol on the men and lit them. But a Hindu neighbor rescued one of her sons - he plaited his hair and dressed him up in woman's clothes. He was the only one to survive in his family," Shyama Rani says.
Burning people with tyres round their neck, chopping off their hair, burning their turbans - these were common sight during the time. Even the Granth Sahib was not spared.

"My blood boils when I think of those days," says Virender Singh, who is Shyama's neighbour.

"We were living in Khyber Pass (located in north Delhi). We (his father, sister and himself) decided to go to the house of our brother - Urvinder Singh - who was the Tihar Jail Superintendent. On the way, a mob (not a very big one) stopped us. They forced out our turbans and burnt them. They even tried to cut our hair but I resisted. In the process I was stabbed in my chest," Singh says.

[FONT=Georgia, Times New Roman, Times, serif]"We are the strength of this nation and will always be."

"We somehow managed to escape and hid in a Hindu household for five days. My younger brother was not so lucky. All his belongings were burnt along with his turban. He spent a night at the Nigambodh Ghat (a cremation ground) amongst burning bodies," recalls Singh.

Three days of trauma, and then the life began to take its normal fold. But Singh's father had forgotten to smile. Just when the painful memories from the Partition had almost faded, the incident brought back everything but in a more grotesque manner.

Like any other migrant, the Partition for Singh's father was synonymous to horror and disgust. Being robbed of all his belongings and running away from the same hands that he once held wasn't easy.

Crossing the border might just imply moving ahead few hundred kilometres but for Singh's father it was slaughtering his emotions. He was a 'Hindustani' who could not afford to spend a minute in 'Pakistan'.

When the train from Pakistan arrived loaded with dead bodies, his father was among those who managed to escape the brutal hands. When the entire atmosphere smelled of blood and terror, Singh's father was relishing the thought of coming home.

But not for long. For this home had become another slaughter house. He was reliving every moment he dreaded.

"It was as if his life had lost its importance," says Singh.

A period of 60 years and two deep scars. It might have been 20 years but the fear has not died down yet.

It happened first, when they wanted to come and relax in the warmth of their motherland and again, when they were secured that nothing could harm them in their own country.

"But our community does not know how to give up. Hume mitti me mila diya tha aur hum phir se sona ban kar dikha diye hai (we were razed to the ground, but we have fought back). We are the strength of this nation and will always be," says Shyama with much pride and satisfaction.