Documentary on Sikh Widows of 1984 Massacre Created as a Catalyst for Change

September 6, 2006

Source: The Gazette

On September 6, 2006 The Gazette reported, "Anger inspired Harpreet Kaur to make a movie. And if this Gaithersburg High School alumna has her way, 'The Widow Colony' will help shake up the Sikh community and the Indian government — and lead them to help change the lives of about 1,200 women and their children now living in a New Delhi slum. The award-winning documentary will be shown Saturday afternoon at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre in Silver Spring. If nothing else, 29-year-old Kaur is passionate. Speaking in rapid-fire staccato, she proclaims, 'India is covering up the issues. The world’s largest democracy is playing games with its people. We want justice.' Kaur is referring to the massacre of some 4,000 Sikhs in New Delhi in 1984. Since childhood, she had heard stories of the four-day pogrom that followed the assassination of the country’s beloved Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards. The police turned a blind eye as unruly mobs marched through Sikh neighborhoods dousing men with gasoline and setting them on fire and dragged Sikh victims out of their yellow X-marked homes to certain death. Some gangs raped Sikh women. In the end, no one was prosecuted, and, Kaur contends, some of the suspects have been promoted to high government offices. While the murderous rampage was bad enough, what happened to the widows and their children since then is equally disturbing. India has never been kind to poor widows, no matter their age or religion. The subject is depicted in the feature film 'Water,' in which widows as young as 8 years old are banished from their community. Of course, these Sikh women were marked for life, with their broken families quickly herded to the west side of New Delhi into what the country called 'India’s Unsettled Settlement,' where they live in abject poverty, often begging for food. With only each other to rely on, they continue to relive 1984, Kaur observes."