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‘He Should Have Been Hanged’: For Victims of 1984 Riots, Verdict on Sajjan Kumar is Too Little, Too Late

A victim of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots asked, “Everyone knows he (Kamal Nath) was at Rakabgunj that day. Now murderers are chief ministers. Congress should drown in shame.”

Manas Mitul | News18.com@ManasMitul

Updated:December 18, 2018, 10:18 AM IST

New Delhi: Darshan Kaur looked on helplessly in horror at the bloodthirsty mob that set her husband Ram Singh on fire at their residence in Trilokpuri. She recalls vividly the horde of angry men set upon their house, swords in hand, intending to kill, burn and reduce everything to rubble. “They killed 12 from my family. My husband and his two brothers were burnt alive in front of my eyes,” Darshan, now 57, told News18.com.

She is one among the thousands of women who were widowed, lost families and homes, during the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom in New Delhi. On Monday, 34 years after the violent retaliation to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, Congress’s Sajjan Kumar was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment by the Delhi High Court, reversing a trial court judgment that had acquitted him in 2013.

After Cham and Sheela Kaur, witnesses in the case, identified and placed Kumar at Raj Nagar in Delhi Cantonment locality, where a mob murdered five Sikhs, the High Court held the Congress leader guilty of criminal conspiracy, promoting enmity and acts against communal harmony and directed him to surrender on December 31 to start serving his life sentence.

Darshan says he should not have been accorded time before going to prison. In fact, she believes life imprisonment is not enough. “He will appeal his life sentence in Supreme Court. He even got time till December 31. He should have been sent to jail immediately. He should have been hanged,” she said.

Challenging the verdict, Darshan said: “They killed 5,000 Sikhs in Trilokpuri, Mangolpuri, Nandnagari and many other places; burnt thousands of Guru Granth Saheb; raped women. Now a life imprisonment is supposed to give us justice.”

After the massacre, the government provided living quarters to Darshan and other victims’ families in a residential locality known as ‘Widow Colony’ in Tilak Vihar. She now lives in Raghubir Nagar with her three sons.

Darshan had testified against the perpetrators in court multiple times and also accompanied other widows, who lost the families in the pogrom, to testify. During the course of her fight for justice, she says she received threatening calls where people offered her Rs 25 lakh to either change or drop her testimony. She was reportedly assaulted a dozen times.

Another victim of the riots, Bhagi Kaur, lost 11 family members, including her husband Lachhu Singh and her four brothers. She says the verdict comes as partial justice. “His family can come visit him in prison. We cannot ever meet our families,” she added.

Recalling the incident, Bhagi said the mob killed all the men they could find in the family and insulted and raped women. She was part of the group who burned effigies of Kumar and Kamal Nath, the newly crowned Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, at Akbar Road that houses Congress headquarters on Monday.

Nath, who was sworn in hours after the High Court judgment on Kumar, is under the scanner for his alleged role in inciting a mob that burnt two Sikhs alive outside the Rakabgunj Gurudwara in New Delhi. Nath’s appointment after a big win for Congress in the recently concluded Assembly elections in five states has incensed those who have sought justice for 34 years.

Sixty-five-year-old Lakshmi Kaur, who is Bhagi’s sister-in-law, also lost her husband Gyan Singh in the riots. Though she would have preferred a death sentence for Kumar, she says it is a day of happiness for her. “It went on for three days and three nights. Seventy hours. We were not even compensated properly. We got some Rs 10,000 (as compensation). Do Sikh lives not matter?” She adds, “Everyone knows he was at Rakabgunj that day. Now murderers are chief ministers. Congress should drown in shame,” she said.

Darshan says, “For 34 years, we somehow carried on and fought for justice. But this day doesn’t bring any relief.”​

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| Edited by: Anu Parthiban
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