29 years later,that feeling of helplessness all over again

Families of ‘84 riots victims pledge to take their fight to a higher court.

Written by Ananya Bhardwaj | New Delhi | Updated: April 15, 2014 5:29:15 pm

That feeling of helplessness returned on Tuesday when Gurdeep Singh heard that a city court had acquitted Congress leader Sajjan Kumar in a 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

The feeling took him back 29 years,when Gurdeep was only six years old. “I watched helplessly through a ventilator as a mob barged into our house and beat my father to death. Then they caught my brother,poured something on him and set him on fire as he shouted for help. I feel the same sense of helplessness today,” he says.

A day after the court verdict, the families of the riots victims — including the three eyewitnesses in the case — gathered at Gurdwara Rakabganj to weigh their options.

“The burnt bodies of my husband and eldest son were lying unclaimed in the verandah for three days…. I was helpless. Everyone asked me to leave the city,but I wanted to cremate their bodies with dignity. That day I decided,I will fight for them till my last breath. This acquittal will not shake my resolve,” says Jagdish Kaur,Gurdeep’s mother who also lost three cousins in the riots.

“So what if the lower court has acquitted Kumar? I will go to the High Court,Supreme Court and even the United Nations if need be. This will not end here,” she says.

Life after November 1984 has not been easy for Jagdish. She had to look after four children,the eldest only 12 then,and no means of earning a livelihood.

Jagdish says she left for Amritsar after the riots and worked as a part-time labourer. She stayed at a camp in the Golden Temple and worked hard to educate her children.

“I could not close my eyes at night for years after the incident. It all runs like a film in front of my eyes every night. On November 1,standing beside my husband’s body,I had told my children,that from now on,I am also their father. I did not let them shed one tear. Even though my son finished his Class X and started a business to lend a helping hand,I made sure that my daughters complete their education so that they can help me fight this battle,” she says.

Nirpreet Kaur,who was 16 when her father was dragged out of their house in Tilak Nagar and burnt alive before her,says the acquittal verdict has shaken her faith in the judiciary.

“It was a very sad day in the lives of hundreds who had watched their families being burnt. We will appeal in a higher court. This battle will not end. No one can save the culprits,” Nirpreet says.

Jagdish and the other families also met Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal,asking him to support their battle for justice.

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