for us, unbeloved country
Ghotki in Sind was
the ancestral village of Lubana Sikhs — workers of coir. Jesibai,
now the matriarch seated at the centre of the portrait, crutches in hand,
was 12 at the time of the Partition. She recalls the day Nehru personally
came to the village to ensure their safe passage to India, “Our
Muslim Pir Mahboob Shah told Nehru he had kept count of the children he
is handing over. When my children reach Bombay, he told Nehru, not one
should be missing. We travelled by train and then boarded a ship. For
three nights we saw not a single habitation, not a single gleam of light
at night. But when we reached Bombay it was as Mahboob Shah had willed.
Today where is Nehru? It was our own people who killed us in what they
say is our land. It is not our land, it is a randikhana.
widows of Block 32, Trilokpuri. Photographed in Tilak Vihar on
August 9, the morning after the Nanavati Report was released
the migration to Bombay, tempted by the promise of land, the Lubanas moved
to the farmland near Alwar. But the land could not be made to yield a
harvest. Some years later they were on the move again to a slum in Shahdara.
During the Emergency, they were given a sum of money and allotted pucca
houses in block 32 of Trilokpuri. “We had nothing against Indira,
she had given us our houses. But someone killed her and we were made to
pay,” she says.
the morning of November 1, 1984, hours after her youngest granddaughter
Baby was born, the Lubanas had come out in force to defend themselves
against organised mobs. The promise of a few prominent local leaders saw
them head back to their houses, “Then they came looking for us.
Twenty to a house, pulling the men out, slaughtering them before our eyes.
We tried to disguise some of our boys as girls but even then not all of
them got away safely. The violence began only when HKL Bhagat came to
the area. He told the mob not to spare a single male. The Sikhs, he said,
were like serpents. If you spare the boys they will grow up to kill you.
Days later he came to the relief camp at Shahdara to distribute blankets.
We chased him out.” This group of women lost over 50 male relatives.
Another migration followed. To the resettlement colony in Tilak Vihar.
Some of the women got jobs, as ‘watermen’ or maalis at schools.
When they would go to work there would be no one to look after the children.
Few, if any of them, ever finished school. Every household has a man addicted
to drugs, several have died of addiction. But even then there are signs
of renewal: abandoned by the State and by their own community, some of
the sons of coolies have opened small shops, a few own autorickshaws.
And they have reasserted their identity, “After the riots all of
the men had cut off their hair. But every year when we would go back to
Trilokpuri we would feel ashamed. Today when they walk in the streets
where the murderers of their fathers still roam free, it is clear the
Sikhs have come back in greater numbers. They cannot finish us off.”
Which is why they say what they want, above all, is justice. “Give
us a day’s leave. The same leave that was granted to those men.
We will put tyres around their throats and set them afire. Without justice
our curse be upon this nation. It happened to Rajiv, his children suffered
the same fate our children did; they were unable to see his face in death.
Let not the curse spread to the entire nation.”
Hartosh Singh Bal n Photograph Gauri Gill
the Bloody People
CRY FOR US, NBELOVED COUNTRY
by Hartosh Singh Bal.
Photograph by Gauri Gill
felt like a Jew in a Nazi camp’
a man who has already chronicled his death, it isn’t easy looking
back on 1984. Khushwant Singh, the ageing grand old
man of letters, who admits to fading health, took time off for an
interview on the carnage that first made him conscious of being a
Sikh. Excerpts from an interview with Harinder
TRUTH: Feeling and the Unfeeling
politician has been punished for the obvious part they play in organising
these outrages, says KPS GILL
about the big fish?
The Nanavati Commission describes the riots as an organised carnage
but falls short of indicting the political organisers. The government
uses this as an escape route. Ajmer
home minister hid like a rat’
says former LG, Delhi, PG Gavai on 1984 riots in conversation with
tragedy of hope
is a reminder that neither our investigators nor prosecutors are independent
agents, says KTS Tulsi
Ghosts of Mrs Gandhi
out into a perfectly ordinary day, on October 31, 1984, writer Amitav
Ghosh was sucked into the cataclysm that gripped the
country. Writing years later, he rakes through his memories and tries
to make sense
of the violence that followed in this spare and deeply moving essay