The killings spread to Haryana too

When ’84 riots’ survivors from Hondh Chillar village in Rewari lost hope, one man ensured they got justice

Deepender Deswal in Hisar

The Delhi High Court recently sentenced former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar to life imprisonment in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. This has revived the hopes of families of several other victims who lost their lives in attacks by frenzied mobs in Hondh Chillar village of Rewari and in Gurugram and Pataudi towns. As many as 79 persons were killed at these three places following the riots that took place after the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

The families that survived these riots have not been able to put up any fight to get justice, even though they were witness to the horrific massacre that occurred on November 2, 1984. The ones who survived had to flee for their lives and take shelter with relatives in Punjab, Panipat, Delhi and Maharashtra.

The verdict has given hope to people like Manwinder Singh Giaspura, who have been seeking justice for those brutally killed in the riots. A chance encounter with a driver on January 20, 2011, in his corporate office in Gurugram led textile engineer Giaspura to discover an abandoned village of Sikhs in Hondh Chillar village in Rewari district. He found that the village had been abandoned after 32 persons were massacred during the anti-Sikh riots of 1984. The driver told him that after the inhabitants fled their houses, the empty houses became easy targets for thieves and burglars who stole wooden bars and even bricks from these houses.

Giaspura visited the village the very next day. The charred remains of the houses were testimony to the bloodbath that occurred in the village. On further inquiry he found that an FIR (No 91) had been registered in the Jatusana police station of Mahendergarh district (now Rewari district). The FIR had mentioned that an unknown number of persons were killed by a mob comprising unknown accused on November 2, 1984. Shockingly, on March 5, 1985, the police file was closed as untraceable after about five months. Those who survived the incident fled the village and took shelter elsewhere.

Giaspura took pictures of the site and interacted with residents of Chillar village, who confirmed the mob attack on the Sikhs. He shared the pictures on social media. This got attention of the mainstream media. An outcry followed the exposé in January 2011. In March 2011, the then Congress government in the state set up an inquiry commission, which was headed by Justice TP Garg, a retired judge of the High Court. Later, two similar incidents — killing of 30 Sikhs in Gurugram and 17 Sikhs in the Pataudi town in Gurugram district — also came to light. The same commission was assigned inquiry into these cases as well. 

The affected families were traced by the commission with the help of the authorities and others. They have received monetary compensation on the basis of the Garg Commission report, which was submitted to the state government in March 2015 after seven extensions. The state has paid a compensation of about Rs 12.07 crore to families of Hondh Chillar, Gurugram, and Pataudi violence victims.

“It’s some consolation that these families recieved compensation but justice remains to be done as perpetrators of the crime continue to roam freely,” Giaspura said. He added that victims were yet to muster courage to bring culprits to book.

 The commission also pointed out the negligent behaviour of the cops, including the then Superintendent of Police Satender Kumar, then Jatusana DSP Ram Bhaj, then Jatusana police SHO Ram Kishore and investigation officer head constable Ram Kumar. All of them are retired now. “The cops who had failed to perform their duties during and after the riots should be held accountable and punished,” said Giaspura. He filed a petition in the Punjab and Haryana High Court last year seeking action against the erring cops. The court has asked the state government to file its reply regarding the culpability of these cops on the basis of findings of the commission. 

In its reply, the state government has said that the matter was pending with the Home Department. The court has fixed February 15, 2019, as the next date of hearing. 

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