On Delhi – Jaipur road, after passing Gurgaon and proceeding about 10-12 kms, you will come across a place called Bilaspur. Turning right from there you will reach Pataudi. Follow the road from here towards Rewari and within 15 km, you will reach the village called Choti Dhani. Move a bit further and there is almost a forlorn locality, within the village Hojipur, the place is ‘Hondh Chiller’, where lies buried, one of the most heinous crimes against the Sikhs during the 1984 Riots.
Unthinkable, rather inhuman atrocities against the Sikhs happened at this remote hamlet on 2 November 1984, killing, burning…rapes and arson, by a mob of around 500 people.
But for 26 years thereafter, ‘no one’, neither the neighbouring villagers, nor the police, neither the successive Governments ever ‘knew’, about the macabre incident!
It was a chance discovery by a textile engineer at a private firm, which brought the incident into the light and raised many unanswered questions.
A Forgotten Incident
On January 22, 2011, Manwinder Singh Giaspur, who was working as a textile engineer with a private farm in Gurgaon, was into conversation by chance, beyond the official topics, with a person who had come to deliver some consignment at his factory.
During the conversation, the person told Giaspur about a “deserted village of Sardars” near his own village.
“At first, I could not connect the incident with 1984 riots. But when the person mentioned the words PM’s assassination and arson, I could easily understand that he was actually talking about 1984 Massacre of the Sikhs,” told Giaspur.
The person also told that nobody used to go to the village, considering it a haunted place. Even then, some miscreants had started removing bricks and wooden frames from burned down houses of the village.
The very next morning, Manwinder Singh Giaspur and that person drove down the Pataudi-Rewari road, from where they ultimately reached Chiller, which is at a distance of around 15 kms.
A road ran right up to Hondh Chiller. But the wild growth of foliage on both sides of the road almost made it inaccessible. As if, no one had walked on the path for many years!
Hondh used to be a ‘Dhani’ (cluster of farm houses outside the main village) of Chiller, so the place was popularly known as Hondh Chiller.
“We could see the ruins of Hondh village the moment we entered the area. Everywhere there were burnt down, razed houses…. within some of them we could also notice scattered bones! It was an eerie, unnatural place,” recalled Giaspur.
He then paused on seeing a bundle of husk stacked on a platform inside a door-less ruined, concrete structure, possibly by a local farmer. He could realise that the place was a Gurdwara once.
“It had quotes from Sikh scriptures written on the walls”.
An old farmer working in a nearby field they met had by then confirmed that the place was indeed a Gurdwara, which had been burned during the riot, many years ago.
Visiting the local police station could not produce much information, as it happened some quarter of a century back.
Giaspur took some photographs of the place and posted it on his Facebook page and contacted some Sikh religious bodies and organisations dealing with the 1984 Riots.
As a result, the Sikhs of other places came to know about the place and SGPC sent its representatives to visit the place.
With help of President Santokh Singh and the other members of Prabhdhank Committee of Guru Singh Sabha Gurudwara, Gurgaon, an Ardaas was then held at Hondh Chiller, where leaders from SGPC, Amritsar were also present.
But surprisingly enough, when the news about Hondh Chiller and its chance discovery by Manwinder Singh Giaspur came to known outside, Giaspur suddenly got a notice from his company to find another job immediately, citing financial constraint on the part of the company. And Giaspur was the lone person, served with a pink slip!
As if, the Company wanted to avoid any controversy, which might affect their business in a Congress ruled state!
What Happened At Hondh Chiller?
The attacker came in two waves, on 2 November.
The villagers were able to fend off the first group of attackers, when a few Sikhs came out with swords and neighbors also came out to defend. Some elders from the neighboring villages pleaded with the marauders too, finding some political faces among them.
But later in the evening in trucks, in a bus and few tractors some 400-500 people armed with iron rods, bamboo sticks, canisters full of diesel and kerosene oil stormed the village.
When the mob entered the village, first they targeted Gulab Singh’s family, killing 10 members of the family, right there.
Next was Sardar Singh’s family and 7 of the members were killed.
The mob then went to Gurdial Singh’s home.
The 12 members of his family, including children, had locked themselves in a room, but as the mob set the room on fire from outside and all those inside, sitting on a heap of wheat, were burnt alive.
Overawed by the aggression and repeated threats by the armed outsiders, the villagers stood helpless as they killed 31 Sikh men, women and children and razed their houses, havelis and the Gurudwara to the ground.
While some were burnt alive, others were beaten to death.
The list of the dead is as follows:
1. Krishna w/o Bhagwan singh
2. Bhagwaan singh s/o Kartar Singh
3. Kartar Singh s/o Gulabh Singh
4. Gulabh Singh
5. Dhano Bai w/o Kartar Singh
6. Sardar singh s/o Gulabh Singh
7. Dhan Singh s/o Sardar Singh
8. Harbhajan Singh s/o Sardar Singh
9.Joginder singh s/o Gurdial Singh
10. Jaggo d/o Durdial Singh
11. Gulabh Singh s/o Trilok Singh
12. Babloo s/o Arjan Singh
13. Surjit Kaur d/o Arjan Singh
14. Takht Singh s/o Thana Ram
15. Tara Wanti d/o Kartar Singh
16. Veerna Vaali d/o Kartar Singh
17. Jeeta s/o Bhagwaan Singh
18. Daya Kaur w/o Harbhajan Singh
19. Amrit Kaur w/o Harnam Singh
The next 12 names were given by Surjeet Kaur, who was only 6 years old on that unfortunate day.
While she was playing, she was chased by a buffalo and got seriously injured. She then went to a relative’s house in Rewari, for treatment.
She is the only surviving member of her family today. 12 of her family members were massacred by the mob.
She was saved as the destiny took her away on that fateful day!
The names of her 12 family members at Hondh Chiller, provided by Surjit Kaur are:
1. Gurdial Singh – Grandfather
2 . Jamna Bai – Grandmother
3. Arjun Singh – Father
4. Pritam Kaur – Mother
5. Jasbir Singh (Rinku) – Brother
6. Satbir Singh (Tinku) – Brother
7. Gurcharan Singh – Uncle – (Chacha)
8. Mohinder Singh – Uncle (Chacha )
9. Gian Singh – Uncle (Chacha),
10.Joginder Kaur (Aunti (Bua),
11. Sunita Devi – Aunti (Bua),
12. Jasbir Kaur – Aunti (Bua).
A few of the Sikhs managed to escape the massacre as it was harvesting time and they were working in the far away fields. On hearing the news, they ran away. A few even alerted the local police, but no help came on their way.
In the dark of the evening, a few surviving Sikhs and their families took shelter in Hindu families. in the adjacent village of Dhanora, from where they were ferried to Rewari by a local villager, Chandrabhan Singh late in the night.
“On the night of November 2, I ferried 30-odd members of the Sikh families to Rewari in a tractor trolley. There was no police protection to the victims…nothing!” recalled Chandrabhan Singh.
The ‘Lost’ FIR
A FIR was filed by Dhanpat Singh, the then Sarpanch, of Chiller at the police station Jatusana in Mahendragarh district, which now falls in Rewari district, on 3 November, 1984.
The FIR was registered at Jatusana police station against unknown persons on November 3, 1984 – a day after the massacre, which had been reported to the police immediately.
However, when the massacre came to light after 26 years in 2011, a reporter visited the same Police station and enquired with the SHO of Jatusana, Rajesh Kumar, who reportedly said, “The FIR is lost. The territorial jurisdiction of the spot of crime has also changed. The case can be re-investigated only on direction of the higher authorities.”
According to the FIR, no 91 — a copy of which was later traced out and presented in the Punjab and Haryana High Court — which was registered at police station Jatusana in Mahendergarh district, now in Rewari, based on DDR no 5, reveals that the killers had first arrived in a truck from the side of Hali Mandi in Pataudi, Gurgaon district on the morning of November 2, at around 11am, but were”pacified” by a group of villagers of Chiller and persuaded to go back. However, they returned in the evening, accompanied by more people in two or three trucks and started the bloodbath in the `Dhani’. “They said they were determined to eliminate the Sikhs in the Dhani (Hojipur) because those Sikhs had killed our beloved leader Indira Gandhi,” reads the statement recorded by the complainant in the FIR.
The FIR was attested and signed by head constable Ram Kumar and it was registered under sections 148/149/302/436 and 34 of IPC.
Police, hardly took any action or pursued the case thereafter.
Joginder Singh Makkar, who was lucky enough to escape with his family on that day, was 20 years old then and an advocate now, said: The police’s reluctance in investigating the matter is evident from the fact that they did not even bother to record the statement of the eyewitness who had lodged the FIR. This was obviously done under the influence of the Government of the day, as perpetrators of the crime belonged to the then ruling party.
As neighbouring villagers point out that, police inaction not only allowed the killers to go scot free but also left the panic-stricken and vulnerable survivors to their fate.
The then Chief Minister of Haryana, Bhajanlal’s anti Sikh attitude during those days is well known.
The surviving Sikhs, who came from Mianwali in Pakistan, during Partition, and settled there, to make it an agriculturally prosperous village, became the refugees again.
Physically, emotionally and financially, none of the Sikh families have been able to recover thereafter.
They had later settled in Bathinda, Ludhiana, Panipat, Chandigarh and in Delhi and tried to eke out livelihood for their families but none had gone back to wretched Hondh Chiller, leaving their abandoned properties behind , forever!
17 Sikhs were killed in neighbouring Patuadi, reportedly instigated by a known Congress leader.
There were havoc massacres in Gurgaon, Rewari and Mahendragarh too.
At Hondh Chiller , total 32 people were killed on that evening. No one came to collect the bodies. About 20 of the dead bodies were burned beyond recognition. However, a few dead were reportedly given a collective funeral by the police in that village, later. Their ashes were either thrown into the well nearby or spread in the fields.
After pressure from various Sikh organisations and Human Rights bodies, the then Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Huda, appointed a commission of enquiry headed by Justice T P Garg (Retd) , for probing the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 in Hondh Chiller village . It had submitted its report to the present Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in March this year.
It recommended various compensations for loss of lives and properties.
But Sikh bodies want reopening of the case and punishment of the culprits.
They want to know:
Who were the killers and where did they come from? Under whose instructions and patronization such well planned assault was organized? Who were the conspirators? Why no one had been named in the FIR?
What happened to the women folk on that evening? What was the role of the police after the killings were reported? What steps did the concerned police station take to find out the killers? Why the investigation was stopped?
All these questions are yet to be answered.
By Deep Basu
Images are the author’s self-contribution.