He made the Sikh men wear bursars. Then, with the help of other Muslims in the neighborhood, he escorted them out of Block 32 and out of Trilokpuri. Meanwhile, the city burned and angry mobs raged through the blocks, pulling out Sikhs from their homes and killing them. Mohd Ali Zaid lived on Block 32 in the East Delhi locality, where the worst carnage happened. Half of the houses on that block belonged to Sikhs and mobs arrived there first, voters list in hand. They knew exactly where to find the Sikhs.
When the state media – Doordarshan an All India Radio – announced that Indira Gandhi had been shot dead by her two Sikh bodyguards, chaos descended upon the city, fed by rumors that Sikhs were celebrating the murder by distributing sweets because the then Prime Minister had ordered the army inside the Golden Temple.
Angry men wielding swords and knives killed more than 3,000 Sikhs in the three days of the worst carnage the city has ever experienced. “They killed more than 300 Sikhs in Block 32 alone,” Zaida recalled. “I had to help otherwise the guilt would have been too much to bear.”
Zaidi owned five plots on the block at the time. At first he sneaked around 25 Sikh men from his neighborhood into his house; he then called a barber around 2:30 am. The Sikh men sat there too shocked and scared to protest. The barber cut their hair and the turbans came off. “We had to do it. There was no other way out,” Zaidi, who relocated to another part of the city in the aftermath of the riots and returned only two years ago. “It was a strange day.” Early next morning, he got bursars from the women in his house and made the men wear them. He then sent them out one by one with bearded Muslim men so as to not arouse suspicion. But he couldn’t save them all. His block looked like a ghost town, with men and women from other parts of the city entering homes, pillaging and looting. Blood was all over, stench from the bodies and the tires was overbearing.
No Sikh families ever returned to Block 32. Gurcharan Kaur, a widow whose husband Naik Teja Singh was killed near their house on Block 36, is among the very few Sikh families that chose to stay back. For her, the neighbors who came to their rescue made her stay back. “Who knows where the killers came from? We will never know. Even if we know, justice will never be given. It is men like him (Zaidi) who helped us. In those dark days, goodness prevailed too,” she said.