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Sikhs hope Manmohan Singh will help riot victims

May 21, 2004 15:13 IST

With the appointment of Manmohan Singh as the next prime minister, victims of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots are finally beginning to see a silver lining at the end of a dark cloud, which stretched for 20 long years.

While some are brooding over the old question of justice to the victims, others say that the 'children of widows and orphans of those killed in the riots have grown up and it is their future which needs to be secured'.

"It will always bother us that justice was delayed, but there are more important issues to be addressed employment for the children of riot victims and giving them a secure future," said Wing Commander (retd) R S Chatwal of Sikh Forum, which has been involved with the education of such children.

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"The Forum has enrolled about 1,500 children in various schools, but of them only around 20 have been able to complete their schooling and take up some professional course. Others hardly completed their primary education and are today doing menial jobs," he said.

The main task before Manmohan Singh's government would be to urgently provide employment and training opportunities for these youth, he said adding, "The earlier governments too had done their bit for the widows, but it is now the time to settle their children, give at least a job to one person from each family."

The frustration level, both among educated and uneducated groups, is high because the former have not been able to get good jobs and the latter have not been able to get good education, said Chatwal.

"Justice was delayed because of the judiciary but nothing stops the government from coming out with welfare schemes for the victims," said Kuldip Singh Bhogal, convener of the All India Riot Victims Relief Committee.

"The riot victims had met Manmohan Singh when he was finance minister in Narasimha Rao's government. He had helped get grants for the widows. We hope that he would now also be able to get justice for the Sikh community.

"We will also urge him to write off the loans, which the government had provided to these widows. According to official records, around 18,000 people were given loans (called grants at that time) by the government," Bhogal said.

However, he says, the most important issue as far as the Sikh pride is concerned, remains the issue of justice.

"The Nanavati Commission has almost completed its work. The new prime minister, rather than setting up another Commission, as has been the practice with successive governments, should make the findings of the Nanavati Commission public.

"The appointment of a Sikh prime minister has raised lot of hope," says Bhogal.

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