Delhi’s Widows’ Colony Never Recovered From the Trauma of the Anti-Sikh Riots

Riot Ep2: Tilak Vihar is also known as the widows' colony. Every family here lost a loved one in the 1984 riots.

Short DoQs
2 min read
Edited By :Padmashree Pande

Cameraperson: Abhay Sharma

Video Editor: Kunal Mehra

Tilak Vihar in Delhi is home to almost 900 families, most of them Sikhs. The locality, rather the people living here, have a dark past which haunts them even today. Perhaps that’s the reason why everyone knows Tilak Vihar as the widows’ colony.

Almost every family here lost their loved ones in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.

There are very few success stories here, almost 90% of those who were in the 10-16 years' age group in 1984 could do nothing with their lives.

When the survivors of the riots were resettled in Tilak Vihar, the women were also given low-level government jobs. This was their only means to earn a living.

Every morning we left for work leaving our children behind. There was no one to take care of them. They loitered around and went astray.
Lakhvinder Kaur, Resident, Tilak VIhar

Lakhvinder Kaur’s son, Kirpal Singh, was 10 years old in 1984. Since he was the eldest child in the family, he had to start earning to support his mother. At a young age, a truck driver gave him opium, and soon he was addicted, an addiction which he still suffers from.

I studied till Class 6. I quit school to earn a living. I started helping a truck driver who gave me opium. That’s how I started doing drugs.
Kirpal Singh, Resident, Tilak VIhar

Locals allege that post-1984, drugs flowed freely & easily into Tilak Vihar as part of a ploy by the politicians & officials. They wanted to numb the youth, a ploy to curb any uprising for revenge after the riots. Many of these drug addicts died in their 30s.

Those who were in their teens in the mid 80s never got a decent education, they just got busy with survival.

We never got a chance to go to school. There was not enough money even for food. But today I have ensured my son gets a good education. He shouldn’t live the life we have lived.
Bhupender Singh, Tailor

More than 3 decades after the anti-Sikh riots, Tilak Vihar is still reeling under the aftermath of the riots. Even the current generation, who are in their mid-20s, are living the same life as their parents, with no hope for a better future.

I couldn’t even complete Class 10. Now I can’t get a job because I am not educated enough. My father suffered as my grandfather was killed in 1984, he could never go to school. And now I am suffering because my father never bothered to take care of us.
Manmeet Singh, Resident, Tilak Vihar

'Riot - Stories of those left behind,' is a special series which highlights the futility and aftermath of some of the worst riots in India. You can read the other stories and watch the videos in this series here:

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Topics:  1984 anti-sikh riots   Riot 

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