“Pakad lo, pakad lo, Sardar hai,” shouted a middle-aged man about a teenage boy as he caught hold of the boy’s spindly arm, on an afternoon 34 years ago. Fifty-one now, Rajender Singh still trembles recounting how he escaped the tight grip of the man, as riots broke out in Palam Colony’s Raj Nagar II.
On Monday, as Sajjan Kumar got life term, wounds were still fresh in Raj Nagar-I, Raj Nagar-II and Puran Nagar. “For three days, we hid in other people’s homes… on the fourth day, we left for a gurdwara in Delhi Cantt. A barber there shaved the head of my sons… two months later, we returned home. It had been burnt down, furniture was broken and our shop looted. We never recovered,” said Rajender’s mother Karam Kaur (80), inside the same home, unaware of the HC verdict.
The court noted Nirpreet Kaur’s testimony about how her father Nirmal Singh was killed, and the attack on the Raj Nagar gurdwara. Two shops away from the gurdwara is Nirmal’s home, now owned by another family which runs an electronics shop.
Metres away, Shingara Singh Saini (60), who claims to have witnessed Nirmal being killed by a mob, said: “Do you see this empty plot opposite my shop? This is where the mob got mitti ka tel from.” The verdict, he said, was “overdue, and brings some closure… but zakhm kaise bharenge 34 saal baad?”
Next door in Puram Nagar, Gurmeet Kaur (65) recalled how she hid her three daughters at a Hindu neighbour’s home as a mob entered her lane.
In Raj Nagar-I, Promila Khanna (72) was among those who helped young Sikh men escape. “I am Hindu, and I was equally scared for my neighbours. I didn’t do anything… I just let some Sikh boys exit from the back door of our house and then lied to the mob.”