Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Gateway to Sikhism




Mrs. Ram Kaur

In the pre-Emergency(National Emergency declared by the late prime minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi in 1975) period, we used to live in Shivpuri (also known as Chand Nagar). In 1976, we came to set up home in Trilokpuri. The people living in this area were a mix of purbias (those from the eastern Indian state of Bihar), Punjabi Hindus, Sikhs, Bhangis (the scavengers), Muslims etc. We never had any problems or conflicts and everybody lived in complete harmony. On November 1, 1984 early morning, I saw the air filled with smoke. Like many other people, we went to see what was happening from the terrace of our house. We could hear loud cries. Sardaron nein hamari maan Indira Gandhi ko maar diya. Ab inko pata chalega (the Sikhs have killed our mother, Indira Gandhi; now, we will show them what we can do). We ran down to the safety of our rooms. We could hear stones being pelted, so we shut our door. After a while, when the noise outside became louder, my husband, his younger brother and my three children went and hid in the neighbours’ house. Then my husband came and asked me too to join them. Some time later, we learnt that our house had been gutted and looted. Some children came and told my eldest daughter, ‘your house has been burnt. My husband said to my daughter, don’t worry I will build you a bigger and better house.

My husband told me about it. I said, nothing is dearer to me than your life and that of our children and as long as you are there I am not worried about a house. He was very upset. We slept where we had sought shelter. My husband cut his hair and asked me, I hope I do not look like a Sardar now and nobody will harm me. But, please keep my turban with care. I agreed with him and told him that since he had cut his hair no harm would come to him. I did not reflect on why he had asked me to keep his turban safe. The next day, we went to the house of a Sikh neighbour where all men had cut their hair and become mona(It is a popular expression among Sikhs to describe Hindus).

On the evening of November 2, at about 8 P.M. when our neighbour served us tea, the wife told me that many people had been to her house to scout for Sikhs and she did not want any trouble and wanted us to move elsewhere. Meanwhile, my husband went to the terrace and tried to get into the house. The wall was too high for him to jump. He just sat next to the wall. Salim spotted him and started shouting, here is a Sardar who has cut his hair and is hiding behind the wall. Salim dragged him and brought him to the terrace of the neighbour’s house. My husband implored him with folded hands not to give him away. But Salim was merciless, he pushed him and my husband fell on a heap of concrete and stones below. The killer mob was waiting there, armed with knives, iron rods, swords and kerosene oil tins. Salim also joined the crowd.

Just then, I heard the front neighbour’s women yell, behenji (sister) they are killing your husband.’ I ran out only to stand in a corner and watch my husband burn alive. Even then he had his hands folded. The goons hit him with iron rods and then burnt him alive after pouring kerosene oil over him. Among the killers was Salim and some other men who went on hammering my husband. The people I recognised among them were Salim (30/499), Omi, Vedi, Doctor V.P. Singh (Block 31) and Lambu Doctor (Block 32). Both of whom have their clinics outside the Gurudwara, Ramsharan (30/426) and Mulla (30/493), his son and son-in-law. Besides, I saw Radhe (Block 19 Juggi), Ramkishan (19/452) who has a government job, Kishanlal and his sons, Rajkumar, Bharat and Trilokpuri (19/49), Gwalan (19/447) and Moti Pandtani’s Son, Mahendra (19/445). Lalit Gupta himself gave kerosene oil to have Sikhs burnt alive.

Meanwhile, the crowd was becoming larger and larger. The killers were shouting with joy and excitement after killing Sikhs. Ramsharan was among those who were dancing. People were shouting, where are the prey? Where are the fresh, fat rats? Come out and we will show you.

Police came to peep into our houses and if any one of us complained about the killer mobs waiting to get us, the police said,’ don’t worry, nobody will touch you’. But the same cops would go to the waiting crowds and tell them about our hideouts. There was no end to stoning and yelling. The crowds repeatedly shouted, we will rape your daughters and wives. If some hapless girls beseeched them, bhaia (brother) don’t harm us, the killers would say, 2don’t call us brothers, we are your men and will take you away in the night.

I had already sent my brother (after cutting his hair) alongwith the homeguards. On the evening of November 2, when the army came, all of us women fell on their feet and told them how our sons and husbands had been killed and burnt alive. Please save the honour of our daughters we begged them. The army people gave us an assurance, don’t worry, now that we have come, we will take you in trucks to police stations. We grabbed our young children and ran like mad towards the trucks. We spent the night in the Kalyanpuri Police Station.

Mrs. Bhagwati Kaur

On November 1 at 8 P.M. about 500 people gathered outside our block . The people had sticks, iron rods and knives on them. Shortly thereafter there was a sudden attack on our house. My husband was not at home. My son-in-law, my nephew (sister’s son) and my own two sons were at home. Some people broke into our house after smashing the front door. They felled my elder son with an iron rod right next to the door. Then they poured kerosene on him and burnt him alive. Another man got my nephew with a sword and burnt him outside, close to the park. My son in law escaped into a neighbour’s house. Draupdi’s sister, Tallo saw him run and told the mob. The mod chased him to the neighbour’s house and dragged him and battered him with iron rods. He still did not die. Then they electrocuted him to death. Block 32 had its electric cables cut and these were used to kill some Sikhs.

The younger son, who had only been married for three months, was hiding behind me. Some people in the crowd dragged us women out. When I was being dragged out, my son was trying to hold on to me, pulling me back to him. He knew that he would be killed as soon as I am out of sight. In the pushing and jostling, my left arm broke. Then, somebody yelled, let us take this boy to Jagga’s house. (Jagga is a known goonda of Trilokpuri). They dragged him to his house and killed him there.

My husband had a grocery shop on the main road. He was there when the mob went to shop. The goons burnt the shop and him. This, I was told by my neighbours. My house too had been looted and burnt. I do not know who saved me and how because I fell unconscious.

There were about four to five hundred people who attacked us. It was not possible to recognise so many people but after having lived in block 32 of Trilokpuri for eight year, I certainly recognised some of my neighbours in the crowd. Those who killed Sikhs brutally, are Tallo, smuggler Manu, Jagga and his wife Draupdi, Kishori Zamindar (pig meat-seller) Ramlal Saroj (Indira Congress leader and goon), Rooplal and his three sons, who were known thieves. Later on, in the relief camp a reliable person told me that my radio, tape recorder and other valuables were in the house of Jagga and Draupdi.

Rampal Saroj had come to our street around 4 P.M. and assured us that nothing would happen to the Sikhs. He told us there was nothing to fear. Not just that, in his capacity as a local leader, he told us Sikhs not to move out of our houses. That is the only way to escape the violence and the killings, he said. I could not believe that he could be such a traitor. Rampal Saroj turned out to be the leader of the killers and, in retrospect, I think, it was a very cunning move on his part to tell us not to move out of our homes. He did not want any Sikh to move to safety. Within five hours he brought goons with him and pointed out our houses to them Hundreds of Sikhs were brutally killed under his supervision. The next day the army came and took us to a police station before moving us to a relief camp.

Mrs. Gurdip Kaur

My husband was in the army. He and my son were killed. On November 1, my house was burnt and looted and some people told my husband and son to either cut their or run away. Among those who said this were the Block 16 Jamandaar and the Block 18 bania who worked in the ration shop. Then, they took my husband and locked him up in the dhobi’s house. On the night of November 1, some people came and announced that a Sardar was hiding in the dhobi’s house and broke part of it. They made a big hole in the wall and fired four bullets. My children were told by their friends, your father has been shot dead by Farash Singh of Block 18. ‘They also said that Farash Singh was accompanied by Soleh Singh of Block 18, who was armed with a sword. Farash Singh had always been after my husband’s life. Earlier, he had a heard and long hair but now we hear that he is clean shaven.

After killing my husband, the killers came to the front of our house. A tailor from our street told the mob that my son was hiding in our burnt house. The mob came inside and the tea shop Pandit told the mob to drag my son out. I was also inside. I fell on the feet of the killers and told them to please spare my children, The goons from block 16 and murderer jamandaar(whose names are on the list of offenders in the police station) were all there. They dragged my son out and a little distance away, they showered sticks on him. He fell down and then one of the jamaandaars from Block 16 slashed my son with a sword and killed him. My neighbours later told me that they took my son close to the drain where my husband’s body was lying and both were burnt. They came back to my house and spread a pule (cloth canopy) over the terrace and were about to torch it when the tea shop pandit came and began to strangle my daughter. Some people standing there told him to spare the rest of us. Then the mob went away. Prem (police mukhbir) also got Sikhs killed.

Just then two cops came on a motorbike to Block 18. The rioting mob was told by the cops, you have two days to kill Sikhs or whatever, you can do it in these two days. Police had a direct and deliberate role in getting our men killed. We had recently built our house and some people were jealous of this too and some in Block 18 even expressed their resentment to us. But because my husband was in the army (for 18 years he was a Nayak driver), he was allowed to build a house in the area. He fought on India’s borders during three wars and also won a medal in the 1971-72 war (Indo-Pak).

Mr. Inder Singh

We came to Tirlokpuri in 1976, after the Emergency. The colony had a mix of people-Sikhs, Hindus and Muslim but we had a good rapport. I left for work on the morning of November 1 as usual. I had just finished weaving one cot and had started a second when someone came and told me that a Gurudwara had been burnt in Block 36. I ran back to my house from Block 27 where I was sitting and working. Then I saw the people who had burnt the Gurudwara heading towards the houses in Block 36. It must have been about 10 a.m. When they started pelting stones at us. We returned the attack. We did the right thing when we told them that we would not allow the Gurudwara in our block (No 32) to be burnt. Some people said that they would support us but we were about 200 of us. The cops came. They told us, ‘don’t quarrel, go to your homes’. So we all went home. Then the mob came and started burning our houses and attacking people. The electric cables to our block were cut and people were killed through electrocution or torched alive. They took away women and young girls and raped them. They also burnt the Gurudwara.

At 12 in the night women folk from several Sikh families in the area took shelter in our house. About 200 people attacked our house. Children started howling. I was the only man in the house. Sher Khan (A cement-trader who lives in my street) pointed to my house and told the crowd, ‘there are two hounds in the house and lots of good items, good looking women, take them away’. After this, Sher Khan and others started looting the house . They also torched parts of the house. The door fell as it burnt. Then the mob stormed into the house and started beating us with sticks. I hid under the bed. Sher Khan had a knife in his hand. He lifted the cot and bared me to the crowd. People attacked me with sticks. Sher Khan threatened my wife on knife point and asked her the whereabouts of my son. He was heading with the knife towards me but my wife pushed him. I fell unconscious and later on my two children told me that our neighbour, who has a flour-grinding shop in Block 27, shouted when he saw me unconscious,’ you sinners! Why did you kill this old man? Then they moved away from me but after a while when I regained consciousness I saw that Rampal Saroj and Kishore were personally supervising that Sikhs are hacked and torched alive. Jain sahib of Block 32, house no 318, who has a kerosene depot sent four to five big frumps of kerosene for the purpose of killing. On the night of N0vember 2, at about 4 a.m. we started out to chilla village nearby, alongwith our women. When we reached the village we saw the Gujjars of the village armed with sticks waiting for us. ‘Don’t dare come this way, run to the jungle or we will burn you alive. ‘We were thirsty but there was no water. We went to a temple outside the village and squatted there. Hundreds of people again gathered around us. We all hid in the bushes. All of November 2, we stayed in the bushes. The mob returned at night but one of our men from block 32 came to us in a military truck and we were all transported to Kalyanpuri police station.

Mr. Sant Singh

On October 31, at around 2:30 p.m. I parked my three wheeler near Kasturba Nagar local bus stand. I asked for tea from a stall there. I had just taken a couple of sips when I saw a friend of mine, a fellow auto-rickshaw driver, Navin, about to take a passenger. I offered him tea. He smiled, told the passenger he was not going. And said to me, you enjoy yourself, I’ll just come’. He told me not to stay put. I wondered why he did or said that. In the meantime, he returned and asked me to accompany him to his house. ‘Whatever you are going to give me to eat there you can give me here’, I joked with him. ‘Buddy, you won’t come like this, ‘and pushed my vehicle which turned to the side and I fell out. I still thought he was joking. Then I went home with him. As we sat in his house, I asked him why he had come back from work so early. He said that on Grand Trunk (GT) road, Vishnu Halwai was forcing all shopkeepers to down their shutters. I asked him the reason. He was surprised that I did not know and told me about a Sikh having shot Indira Gandhi. It was news to me, I could not even believe it. Then I said, even though it does not seem true, I hope she survives.’

‘Buddy cut your hair and remove you turban because Sikhs are going to be killed.’ My friend said. I refused to believe that this could happen and got up to go out. He repeated what he had said to me. ‘If you want to see your children again do as I tell you’, he said. I said, I needed time to think but he signalled to his mother to get a blade. The door was partially open. Gopi Mahto the auto-rickshaw driver, was passing that way, shouting, Sikh shops are being looted and burnt in the market. Just now I saw Tarlochan Singh(The sweet mart-owner) was throwing sweets outside and people were picking up and eating. Then my friend’s mother came and asked my friend to cut my hair and beard. The friend’s mother is dumb and started crying. The friend asked me to stay indoors still and warned me that I would be killed if somebody recognised me. I said,’ I have lost my hair, what do I care if I lose my life now? And I walked out of his house.

I walked via new Vishwas Nagar to the a red light close to the bus stand. It must have been about 4:30 p.m. and I saw bus no 312. I boarded the bus and asked for a ticket upto Lakshminagar. I wondered as I sat in the bus as to what was happening. Crowds, armed with sticks and iron rods, were running on the roads. It was for the first time in my life that I was seeing such a commotion with my own eyes. From Lakshmi Nagar I took an autorickshaw to Trilokpuri. I saw Salim and 25-30 others running towards block 32. They were telling me to come. So, I also started running after them. Among the crowd three to four people had kerosene-filled tins with them. Many had sticks and rods. When we reached the houses near Block 32 and 33, they poured out kerosene oil onto the local Gurudwara compound and doors and threw burning match-sticks. The Gurudwara is right in the middle of the residential colonies and his nephews, Inder Singh and Lalloo Singh, were pouring buckets of water to douse the fire. Just then, I saw Salim grab Bhai Chatter Singh’s sword and Budhram Bhuggi also joined him. They were armed with sticks and rods. Rampal Saroj shouted, you ass what are you doing? Kill the bloody Sikhs. Houses were afire, women and children were running from their houses. Rampal Saroj said, you have burnt the house, now proceed to the Gurudwara. People were shouting slogans, Indira Gandhi amar rahe. They did as they were ordered. Three young men, Bhajan Sing, Attar Singh and Arjun Singh were stationed outside the main gate of the Gurudwara to guard it against mob attack. Rampal Saroj again gave orders, pour kerosene. About five to seven people then poured oil on the three Sikhs and torched them alive. When some Sikhs from inside the Gurudwara tried to escape, they were thrashed with sticks and rods and hacked with knives and swords. I could not bear to see any more and ran towards Shahadra and spent the night in a tea shop owner’s house in Jawalangar. The next morning I borrowed Hariram’s (pakorewala) bicycle and went to Sultanpuri where my four nephews (sister’s sons) live. There I was told that all of them had been killed and the parents had been killed and the parents had sought shelter in a village. Then I went to inquire about my brother-in-law who too lived in Sultanpuri. There, a gurkha woman neighbour of his told me that he had been killed by Jaikishan and his men. I was shocked out of my wits and went about the streets like a mad man until the evening. Then I went to Mongolpuri to see my brother’s son-in-law. A crowd was standing in the street. I asked a man whether he knew that happened to Giani Singh. He wanted to know who I was. Meanwhile, Lala’s wife from the house opposite Giani Singh came and identified me. She told me that a woman had locked the house from inside and was refusing to open and asked me to yell for her. She opened the door when heard me.

Mrs. Jasbir Kaur

On October 31, there was no incident of violence except a lot of commotion. On the morning of November 1,at about 11:30 a.m. When my brother and I were having breakfast we heard a big noise. A big crowd was coming towards our house. I locked my brother in a room and told the crowd gathered outside my house that there was no man inside. They came from the back door, broke it open, looted the house and dragged my brother out before torching the house. The mob included Shamlal and his sons, Santosh and Nilu. Shamnlal had a knife in his hand and his sons were armed with rods. They were giving instructions to each other to eliminate every single Sikh in the street when I saw Radhesham, a police informer, directing people to burn the houses. I begged the goondas to take away everything I had hut spare my brother. They snatched my ear rings, gold bangles and chain. I got hurt while trying to save my brother. They thrashed me and told me, ‘we will loot and kill you, it is Sajjan Kumar’s order and we have got 500 rupees each as fees to do the job’. They left after killing my brother. Shamlal stabbed him and the others hit him with rods.On November 2, at 11a.m. again they came and said that as per their list there should be two more men in my house. I told them that my husband was away to Madras on duty and son (who is a factory worker) is not at home. Then they burnt the house saying if they are there the fire will take care of them. They told me to throw out my brother’s corpse but I did not let them touch it. I cremated him with wood from the broken and burnt doors of my house right there.

That day and night I was all alone. At night too, some people came looking for my husband and son. On the night of November 3, an army vehicle came and took us to the Sadar Bazaar Gurudwara. Three or four men of the army had to lift me away from my house because I was badly injured.


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The etymology of the term 'gurdwara' is from the words 'Gur (ਗੁਰ)' (a reference to the Sikh Gurus) and 'Dwara (ਦੁਆਰਾ)' (gateway in Gurmukhi), together meaning 'the gateway through which the Guru could be reached'. Thereafter, all Sikh places of worship came to be known as gurdwaras.
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