November 1, 1984, is a day which Surjeet Kaur can never forget, much as she may try. Kaur was sitting in her Y block house in west Delhi's Nangloi when someone hurled a burning tyre at her house.
"For a moment we thought there were mischievous elements trying to stir trouble. We scrambled to our terrace to see an armed mob which had surrounded our house. My husband tried to scare them off by chucking a flower vase. But soon a larger mob returned and attacked our home. We ran helter-skelter to save ourselves and I passed out. When I regained consciousness, I saw my entire family had been wiped out. There were burning corpses of four of my brothers-in-law, their four children, son-in-law and others and 28 years later, I do not know if my husband is still alive.'' Now a resident of Delhi's Tilak Nagar, Kaur lives in hope, thinner as it gets with each passing day.
For those who survived the horrors of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots which followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi which claimed, according to official figures, 2,733 lives, existence has never been the same again.
Atri Kaur remembers sitting on that traumatic evening when a group of attackers forced their way into her house. Within a matter of minutes, six people in her family including her husband and one-year-old child were bludgeoned to death. "The only survivors were my mother-in-law and me and we somehow managed to reach a refugee camp. We survived for four months in gurdwaras and government-sponsored camps. We were finally allotted a house in Tilak Vihar and three years later I was employed at the Sena Bhawan. I freeze with fear when I remember those days,'' Kaur reminisces, her eyes looking out into the horizon.
According to S Atma Singh Lubana, chairman of the 1984 Sikh Riot Hit Victims Committee, promises made by the government have been met only partially. "The surprise is that despite the thousands who were killed, there are no official figures available. The records that have come to us have so many anomalies that it is difficult to organise proper compensations,'' he points out.
Of the victims, about 2,200 have been resettled in the capital's Tilak Vihar, Raghubir Nagar, Madipur Red Quarters, Jehangirpuri, Sangam Park, Lajpat Nagar Garhi, Rohini and GT Karnal Road.
Lubana says they have not yet been given ownership rights of the houses as yet, even as the government increased their compensation package from Rs 3.5 to Rs 7 lakhs. By 1996, families of almost all the 2,733 killed had received Rs 3.5 lakhs. Of them, 1,827 have got the full compensation of Rs seven lakh. What the 906 are waiting for is the increased compensation. As for employment assured by governments, only 600 have been accommodated. It is of little surprise that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots continues to come back to the haunt the Congress party.