1984: Train to Delhi


Rohit Mahajan

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 17

Chetan Chauhan, who died on Sunday, was, at 37, the oldest man within the North Zone squad which boarded the practice in Pune for what turned out to be a daunting journey to New Delhi. North Zone had overwhelmed Central Zone within the semifinals of the Duleep Trophy, the match ending on October 30, 1984. The subsequent day, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

It was a horrible state of affairs, however I used to be not afraid. More than scary, it was unhappy. I requested God — ‘Why have you made human beings like this?’On the stations on the way in which, there was chaos, they needed to seek out and kill Sikhs. I had brief hair, and I didn’t appear to be a Sikh. Sidhu and Ghai wanted to be protected. We hid them below the seats, positioned package baggage round in order that nobody might work out anybody was there — Yograj Singh

North Zone had been scheduled to journey to Ahmedabad by bus for the ultimate towards South Zone. Instead, with the match cancelled as components of India descended into lawlessness as mobs attacked Sikhs, the crew boarded the practice to New Delhi.

Ashok Malhotra, Arun Sharma, Chetan Chauhan, Yashpal Sharma… They would exit when the practice stopped at a station, and they might attempt to make it possible for nobody got here in — Rajinder Singh Ghai

It turned out to be a deadly journey, with mobs surrounding the practice at stops on the way in which and searching for Sikh travellers.

North Zone had 5 Sikh gamers within the squad — Yograj Singh, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rajinder Singh Ghai, Maninder Singh and Gursharan Singh. Of them, Maninder had gone to Delhi by flight, with the captain, Kirti Azad, remembers Ghai. Yograj had brief hair and didn’t put on a turban and didn’t must be protected against the mobs — he was, in actual fact, one of many extra aggressive protectors.

He (Chauhan) was the senior-most, and he remained very cool, and made certain that all of us protected Sidhu and Ghai. …Everyone was scared, however we managed to stay very cool — Ashok Malhotra

Gursharan Singh says that he had boarded one other practice to Delhi with one other Sikh participant, Rajinder Singh Hans, who had performed for Central Zone — fortunately, they didn’t encounter any hassle throughout the journey.

This meant that Sidhu and Ghai — the previous solely 21 years outdated, and Ghai solely 24 — had been the 2 susceptible gamers who wanted to be saved from the mobs thirsting for blood.

Scary

“As we travelled, we learned about the riots and killings,” says Ghai, who now runs a enterprise within the US. “Luckily, we were travelling in an AC compartment, which had tinted glasses, so people could not see inside.” But because the practice stopped at stations on the way in which, goons did are available in. “They would be looking for us… They would ask, ‘Where’s Sidhu, where’s Ghai…’ But our teammates hid the two of us under the seats, and told the goondas that Sidhu and Ghai were not there, that they had travelled separately.”

“Ashok Malhotra, Arun Sharma, Chetan Chauhan, Yashpal Sharma, Sarkar Talwar… They would go out when the train stopped at a station, and they would try to make sure that no one came in,” says Ghai.

Malhotra, one of many seniors, says Chauhan was the “akalmand” one. “He was the senior-most, and he remained very cool, and made sure that we all protected Sidhu and Ghai,” says Malhotra. “We were wearing hats, and one goonda asked Arun Sharma to take off his hat (to see if he was Sikh)… And Arun, obviously, had short hair. Everyone was scared, but we managed to remain very cool. Some of the boys were prepared to fight if needed… One of the boys said they had gathered soda water bottles! I said how many of the mob can we fight!”

Prepared

One of those that was decided to struggle, if wanted to guard his teammates, was Yograj. “It was a horrible situation, but I was not afraid,” says Yograj. “More than scary, it was sad. I asked God — ‘Why have you made human beings like this?’ On the stations on the way, there was chaos, they wanted to find and kill Sikhs. I had short hair, and I didn’t look like a Sikh. Sidhu and Ghai needed to be protected. We hid them under the seats, placed kit bags around so that no one could figure out anyone was there.”

Yograj has a poignant reminiscence of Sidhu’s resoluteness. “At one point, I asked around for scissors, and found a pair. I proposed, for the sake of safety, that their hair be shorn,” says Yograj. “But Navjot, he was very firm. He said he’d die but not cut his hair. I’m very proud of him because of this.”

“I’m sure of one things — if we had been attacked, I would have fought back, and I would have died protecting them, but I would have taken a few of the goons with me!” provides Yograj.

Malhotra remembers that the journey, which normally took lower than two days, lasted for “three-four” days due to the chaos and stops on the way in which. “There was a long stop at Agra,” he remembers.”

Lucky escape

Gursharan, who was solely 21 on the time, says he was fortunate to flee the mayhem. “I was with Hans paaji… And fortunately, our train was not attacked,” he says. Gursharan, nonetheless, landed in a Delhi that was burning. “I lived in GK-II then, and we could see columns of smoke from far,” he remembers. “It was scary. I left my hair open, like a girl, and managed to reach my home.”

“Delhi was burning,” says Yograj. “I could not believe this was my country in this modern era — that people had become worse than beasts.”

It’s value remembering, too, that within the mayhem, some individuals did develop into heroes and did the precise factor. As for Chauhan, Malhotra, Yograj, Yashpal, Talwar and others, standing up for his or her brother gamers was the least they might do.



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