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Apr 3, 2005

New generation of Sikhs lives with scars (25 years after Indira Gandhi's assassination)

2009-10-26 16:30:00

Amandeep Kaur clearly recounts that horrific phase when, with all the men folk in her family killed in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, the women had to struggle to make ends meet. She was just a year old and for a few days was even put in jail along with her mother.

'Eleven members of my family were killed in the riots. I was brought up by my mother in the widow colony in Tilak Vihar. I remember when I was growing up, my mother didn't let me go out of the colony because she was scared I would be allured by the toys outside and demand something that she would not be able to afford,' said Kaur, now a mother herself.

Sikh children like her - some were not even born at the time of the riots - grew up to be men and women who were scarred forever, left without a home, a family, an education and a shot at a decent life. Only a few have been able to leave the past behind.

It happened after prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards Oct 31. The murder followed her order for Operation Bluestar, in which the Indian Army attacked Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple, the holiest Sikh shrine.

Over the next four days, Sikhs were killed in retaliatory strikes. Nearly 3,000 people were killed in the gory anti-Sikh riots of 1984.

Beant Singh, a 24-year-old who works as a helper in a small cloth shop in west Delhi's Tilak Vihar - where over a thousand victims' families were rehabilitated after the riots in east Delhi's Trilokpuri - said till date he had been fighting the effects of the riots.

'I was born a year after the riots took place and my parents were shifted to Tilak Vihar. There were no good schools in the area and I had to leave the school after Class 10 to support my family. Now I am studying through open schooling. I hope that I get a god job,' Singh told IANS.

Babu Singh Dukhiya, who runs a welfare organisation for riot victims in Tilak Vihar and lives in a single room flat with his five children, said: 'A majority of the men here in the 20-25 age group are illiterate or school dropouts.'

'When we were shifted here in 1985, there was only one Punjabi medium primary school in the area and that too was only till Class 5. Since they couldn't speak Hindi or English, other schools denied admission to the kids. Therefore most of them left their education after Class 5,' Dukhiya, 52, told IANS.

'The riots ruined the lives of several children and youths in the area. None of our children could get quality education and they are now working as labourers, rickshaw pullers or helpers in shops,' he added.

Unable to deal with the stress that their families were going through, a number of children fell victim to drug addiction.

Balwant Singh, a 25-year-old in Trilok Puri, said: 'I was in my mother's womb when the riots took place. I was born to a family which had no father, grandfather or uncles. Unable to see my mother struggle every day as a domestic help and feeling helpless, I turned to drugs.

'Today, after help from a local NGO, I am fighting drug addiction. In just three years, 70 youngsters in this area have been sent to the drug rehabilitation centre. Despite all assurances from the government, the victims' families have not been given government jobs,' Singh said.

However, on the other side of the spectrum, there are a number of youngsters born in that period who have fought back the odds.

Simran Kaur, for instance, works in a call centre and says with pride that she is the only girl in the widow colony to have completed her studies.

'I realised that there is no point wasting my life by just living in the past. I knew education would give me a new life. I fought against everything and completed my studies and although I don't have a very high profile job, I am nevertheless happy that I am independent and the most educated woman in my colony,' Kaur, 25, smiled.

Similarly Rekha, Dukhiya's youngest daughter, said unlike her older siblings who left their studies because of various problems, she would continue and fulfil her dream of becoming an air hostess.

Rahul Singh, a Delhi university student, said: 'It hurts when I see that 25 years after the riots, justice is still awaited in so many cases. It feels strange when my friends in the open school say they don't know much about the riots, when I live them every day.

'But, then, one has to move on and I am trying to do that.'

(Azera Rahman and Richa Sharma can be contacted at azera.p@ians.in and richa.s@ians.in)


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Thanks for straightening out the mixed up thread problem kanwardeep ji -- I did not understand how your two messages were split.