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17 years later, Avantika meets the man who killed her parents

Sunday May 2 2004 00:00 IST

LUDHIANA: It was an unusual meeting. A girl who was just five years old when her parents were murdered was meeting the man convicted for the murder. At the end of the one-hour meeting, they hugged each other and she said: ``I hope we can be good friends for life for one thing common between the two of us is the tragedy.''

Seventeen years after Congress leader Lalit Maken and his wife Gitanjali were shot at their New Delhi residence, their daughter Avantika, 22, met Ranjit Singh Gill, 42, the man who has spent 17 years in jail for the murder.

``It is time to move forward and after talking to Ranjit, I realised the fact the two of us are live consequences of politcal tragedies. If I lost my parents and my childhood, he too has lost his entire youth,'' she told this website's newspaperr after a the closed-door meeting.

``I was surprised to meet Ranjit Singh. He is a revelation to me for I thought that the person convicted in the murder of my parents would be a radical and a hard-core terrorist. I never thought he would turn out to be a totally opposite person, a person who is so well-informed and well-read,'' she said. ``After meeting him, I have decided that I will stand by him and will not only work for his release but will also help him start life afresh.''

Gill alias Kuki, sentenced to life for murdering the Congress leader and his wife in New Delhi after the anti-Sikh riots, is on parole. Avantika is now a general secretary of the National Students Union of India, the students wing of the Congress. Avantika is in Ludhiana to campaign for the Congress candidate Manish Tewari and Gill, who hails from the city, sought an appointment with her.

Gill, who came to meet Avantika accompanied by his sister and brother-in-law, said: ``I simply explained to Avantika the circumstances that prevailed in Punjab at that time. The way the youth were swayed. I told her that the people who shot her parents had no personal grudge against them and that they committed the crime after they heard and saw the injustices perpetrated on the Sikh community. I even told her that in case she felt so wronged I was ready to undergo another ten years of imprisonment but she should hear me out at least once.'' They reportedly hugged each other after the meeting.

Gill had applied for state pardon but his case had been postponed for want of ``some more documents.'' Avantika was against a pardon until the meeting. ``Yes, my cousin Ajay Maken (Delhi Assembly speaker and Congress candidate from New Delhi Lok Sabha constituency) had approched me and had asked me to pardon Gill for that would help us garner more votes. But I didn't want to play politics on the death of my parents. But after meeting Ranjit, I have realised that the two of us need to work together for a better society,'' she said.

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