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In Punjab, ATR opens old wounds

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In Punjab, ATR opens old wounds


Posted online: Tuesday, August 09, 2005 at 0207 hours IST

CHANDIGARH, AUGUST 8: Sikh PM or not, Congress has always been and will remain an enemy of the Sikh kaum. The Nanavati report proves that.’’ Her voice chokes as Baldev Kaur, who lost her 21-year-old son Gurcharan Singh in the riots, tells you about what she now calls her ‘‘futile’’ testimony before the Commission in Ludhiana three years back.

‘‘I told them I had seen HKL Bhagat telling the mob, ‘tumne kuch nahin kiya in Sikhon ka’,’’ she says. She saw her house go up in flames before she managed to escape with her two younger sons, shorn of their hair by well-meaning neighbours. ‘‘I did not even get to see my son’s body,’’ she sobs.

For the 20,000-25,000 riot-hit settled in various towns of Punjab, the ATR only served to reopen old wounds. Inderjit Kaur of Mohali, who saw her father and four brothers being lynched at Shakarpur, rasps: ‘‘It’s like rubbing salt to our wounds.’’ She also remembers seeing Bhagat with the mob. ‘‘I saw at least 100 Sikhs being killed. Police filed FIRs on our statements but did nothing.’’

Manjit Singh Chawla, leader of the Danga Peerit Welfare Council, Punjab, who escaped from Kanpur to take refuge in Dugri, blames the riots on the Congress. ‘‘For Congress, the Sikhs are ‘jaraayam pesha (criminal) kaum’. They’ve exposed the bias by shielding those who engineered the massacre,’’ Chawla says. He alleges that victims in Bihar and UP were not even called by the Commission.

Interestingly, many riot victims in Punjab had named four Congress leaders — Jagdish Tytler, HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar and Dharmdas Shastri — while deposing.

Surinder Singh, pradhan of Danga Peerit Council in Dugri, Ludhiana, for instance, claims he saw Sajjan arrive in his car at the Mangolpuri Gurdwara and direct the mob to attack Sikhs taking shelter there. ‘‘The police had taken away our kirpans and we were defenceless,’’ he remembers.

Singh had named the leaders while deposing. He was told he would be called to Delhi to appear as witness, but the summons never came.

For many, life is yet to get back on rails. Balwant Kaur of Bilaspur in UP still awaits her husband’s return. He was heading for his sister’s place when the riots began. Kaur had searched in vain for him before settling in Chandigarh.

(With Kuldip Singh)

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