Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Hindu: Their Simplistic Logics n Hideous Ways

Taken from

‘I Had To Dress My Boys In Frocks’

BHAGGI KAUR, Lost 10 family members

PEEP INTO ANY room in west Delhi’s Tilak Vihar and you will see framed pictures of dead men, hung on peeling walls. The pictures may be old, but the marigold flowers that garland them are fresh. So is the memory of 1984. Morning only illuminates the faces of men who will not return — husbands, sons, brothers —killed for no reason except that they were Sikh.

Photo : Shailendra Pandey

Bhaggi Kaur, 53, will never forget four names: Rotas, Manu, Rishi and Kamal. These are the men who killed 10 members of her family during the 1984 anti-Sikh violence. They all lived near Bhaggi’s jhuggi in Trilokpuri. It has been 25 years, and now the outlines of their faces are beginning to fade in her memory, but their words still pierce. “Indira Gandhi has died and you are distributing sweets,” screamed a mob before charging in. “We won’t leave even the sons of Sikhs alive. Saanp ka bachcha bada hokar hamein dasega (the snake’s offspring will grow up to sting us).” Bhaggi’s family scrambled for shelter. Seven families hid in one room, but it wasn’t long before the mob barged in.

“They put my brother, Soan Singh, in a cardboard TV box and drove a knife through it,” she says. It’s as if she can see them right before her eyes. “My brother, Jagdish Singh, died at Block 30, my brother-in-law Gyan Singh at Block C.” Her husband, Lacchu Singh’s disfigured body was found in a canal.

It was clear that the mob was after men. The ladies tried to pass off the last remaining man as an ailing woman, covering him in white sheets and placing a baby by his side. But the mob dragged him off the bed. “They threw him and the baby into the fire right before our eyes,” Bhaggi says. Amid all this, Bhaggi remembers HKL Bhagat, the Congress politician she thought had come to save them. “He was dressed in a white kurtapyjama, white shawl and black glasses, watching people kill and be killed.”

She pauses, and cries in muffled sobs. Her eyes lower, and her shoulders crouch as she whispers: “I don’t like to tell people, but you know, they were all drunk, they raped us all.” The next morning, all the women who managed to stay alive left the room wrapped in thin sheets. For days after, Bhaggi wandered homeless with two sons, dressed in frocks. “When they were thirsty, I’d make them drink water from the drainage canals.”

Six months later, Bhaggi was given the one-room quarter where she now lives. The room has enough space for a bed, a couch and a TV. She moved in with her two sons, candles and matchsticks. Her husband had been a coolie at the New Delhi Railway Station; he had left little behind. Friends brought clothes and utensils. The government gave her a job as a “waterman” at a local municipal school. From 1 pm to 6 pm everyday, she goes from classroom to classroom pouring water for the teachers. She earns a few thousand rupees to feed a family of seven — a son, his wife, and their four children.

Her eldest son, Balwant Singh, 31, has a job at the Rakabanj Gurdwara, but he rarely goes to it. He spends most of his time popping blue spasmo-proxyvon pills, taking at least 12 a day. “I have to force him to go to work in the morning,” says Bhaggi. Her younger son, Balbir Singh, was two years old at the time of the Sikh massacre. Three years ago, he committed suicide by overdosing on spasmo-proxyvon. Bhaggi found him dead when she came home from work.

“[Prime Minister] Manmohan Singh had promised us jobs but nothing came,” she says. “Balbir was depressed and unhappy. I couldn’t save him.”
The women tried to pass off the last remaining man as a woman, covering him in sheets and handing him a baby. ‘But,’ says Bhaggi, ‘the mob threw them both into a fire right before my eyes’

IN TILAK VIHAR, Delhi’s largest resettlement colony for the widows and orphans of 1984, at least 250 children have died in the last five years because of drug overdose, says Mohan Singh, Chairman of the All India Sikh Riot Victim Action Committee. The drugs are easily available over-the-counter at the local chemist’s. In fact, some have used proxyvon so long, it has stopped intoxicating. Now, they’ve turned to pills used for pets, Mohan says. The addicts mix the pills with a liquid, pour it onto the street and lick it up. “It literally turns them into animals,” says Mohan.

Residents suspect that a lack of education, parenting and jobs may have caused the lethal addiction among so many boys. For years after the killings, women in Tilak Vihar were afraid to send their children to school. With no education, most children who lost their families in 1984 now drive autos and do odd jobs around gurdwaras.

For them, and the hundreds of widows living in Tilak Vihar, the 1984 massacre is not an event in history, but a reality they grapple with everyday. “They say it has been 25 years, so forget 1984,” Bhaggi says. “But how can I? Not one day goes by without me thinking about it.” She praises journalist Jarnail Singh for galvanising the Sikh community to demand justice. Jarnail recently threw a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram after asking why the Centre had allowed the CBI to give a clean chit to Congress leader Jagish Tytler, who is accused of leading the mobs that killed Sikhs.

Twenty-five years after her family was killed before her eyes, Bhaggi still makes the journey to Karkardooma court in east Delhi to protest against Tytler, to testify against Rotas. She is one of the many thousands still waiting, hoping for justice.

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 16, Dated Apr 25, 2009

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