Niranjan Singh (74), a resident of Nai Basti in Gurgaon, had held on to a sliver of hope in the last days of his life. He was hopeful about receiving a cheque of Rs 25 lakh from the Haryana government.
That was the amount recommended by the Justice T P Garg Commission for Singh, who had sustained 80 per cent burns when he was set ablaze by three men during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. The cheque never arrived and Singh, who spent 32 years waiting for some form of compensation, died on July 1.
As first reported by The Indian Express, the commission, in a report submitted to the Haryana government on April 29, had recommended Rs 25 lakh compensation for Singh, who had been bed-ridden and disabled.
The Commission has recommended that the state government pay a total of Rs 12.07 crore to those who lost family members and property in the riots in Gurgaon and Pataudi. Till date, the report has not been made public by the state government.
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The rest of the riot victims have only one question for the Haryana government: ‘how many more must die before we get compensation?’
Singh’s family had to sell off most of their belongings — a house in Delhi, a radiator repair shop in Gurgaon and 300 grams of gold — to pay for his treatment. His teenage children had to give up their studies and begin working to support the family.
Singh became “almost disabled from the waist up”, said his family, adding that he could not work for the rest of his life.
Today, his family of 12, which lives in the same house where he was set on fire over three decades ago, has only one earning member. Two of Singh’s sons are unable to work because of health issues. One of his sons, Ravinder Pal, drives an autorickshaw. To supplement the meagre income, Singh’s grandson, a college student, tutors children.
After successive governments and commissions failed to compensate Singh and his family for the losses and setbacks they have had to endure, his family gave up any hope of compensation, but Singh didn’t.
Singh son Ravinder Pal said, “When he came to know that the Commission has recommended Rs 25 lakh… there was a ray of hope in his eyes.”
“We told him that after so many years, the money was not going to come, but he remained hopeful. He intensified his efforts in the last six months, because he felt that if he managed to get something in his lifetime, it might help his children and grandchildren,” said Gurvinder Kaur, Singh’s eldest daughter-in-law.
“Towards the end, when he was almost delirious, the only thing he would keep talking about was the cheque, telling us ‘my cheque will come, go and check with the gurdwara if my cheque has come. In the end, he died waiting for it,” she added.
An application by Singh, seeking monetary help from the Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee in Gurgaon on July 7, 2014, stated, “I underwent three operations … the treatment was very costly.”
Singh’s wife Jasbir Kaur died 20 years ago, said his daughter-in-law Kulwant Kaur, adding that he had been “lonely” after that. His condition deteriorated after one of his kidneys stopped functioning two months ago, and he developed bed sores.
Santokh Singh Sawhney (78), president of the Riots Action Committee, Gurgaon, and a victim of the riot himself, said, “I don’t know what the government expects from us. Six victims have died in the last six months, waiting for the compensation.”
Saying the file concerned was “under process”, Additional Chief Secretary of Haryana Home department Ram Niwas said, “We have accepted the Commission’s report and will definitely pay the compensation at the earliest as the file is under process.”