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1984 Sikh massacre: When former Indian cricketer and UP cabinet minister Chetan Chauhan rescued Sikh teammates from an irate mob

Former Indian cricket players recollect how had it not been for Chetan Chauhan, they would not have made it unscathed through the rampaging mob in the aftermath of Indira Gandhi's assassination.

Chetan Chauhan, a former Indian cricket opener and known for his umpteen memorable partnership with another cricketing legend Sunil Gavaskar, left for heavenly abode on August 16 due to COVID-19 related complications.

While he was known for his gutsy and gritty character on the ground, especially after he scored three consecutive centuries with a broken jaw, his off-the-ground personality had not been any different. In the wake of his tragic death, former North Zone cricketers recollected the fearless attitude the former opener embodied in the face of adversity.

North Zone team was return to Delhi from Punjab on the day Indira Gandhi was assassinated

In the aftermath of the assassination of the former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, Sikhs across the country, particularly in Delhi, were targeted by the Congress party led mobs to exact the revenge of Ms Gandhi’s killing.

During the turmoil, the former North Zone cricketers remember, Chauhan staked his life to rescue embattled Navjot Singh Sidhu and Rajinder Ghai, who were on their way back on ‘Jhelum Express’ from Pune after playing their Duleep Trophy semi-final.

Reminiscing about the incident, former Haryana off-spinner Sarkar Talwar detailed the ordeal the team had to go through while their return to the national capital amidst the Sikh riots triggered by Ms Gandhi’s assassination.

In an interview with the Times of India, Talwar said, “Our match concluded on October 30 and the next morning we were supposed to fly Delhi. However, the news came that PM had been assassinated. So our team manager got us first-class tickets on Jhelum Express. The arduous journey took us 4 days to reach Delhi.”

Chetan Chauhan confronted the mob baying for Sikh blood

Talwar continued that at one of the stations, an angry mob baying for the blood of Sikhs entered the compartment. Navjot Singh Sidhu, Rajinder Ghai and Yograj Singh were the three Sikh players in the team. Salwar claims that it was Chetan Chauhan and Yashpal Sharma, who entered into a heated quarrel with the hoodlums and once they were convinced that they were Indian players, the mob relented.

Salwar asserts that players were so terrified by the violent mob that they hid Navjot Singh Sidhu and Ghai beneath the lower berth. Former Indian all-rounder Yograj Singh even advised Sidhu to trim his hair.

Were it not for Chauhan, we would not have survived: North Zone cricketers

The fear that shot through him and other players amidst the cacophony is still fresh in the memories of Yograj Singh, former Indian player and father of Yuvraj Singh. “I remember one of the people from the mob shouted at Chetan paaji and said, ‘We are here to kill the sardars, nothing will happen to you.’ Chetan paaji replied back, ‘They are my brothers and you can’t touch them.’ The way Chetan Chauhan dealt with the situation was quite commendable,” he said.

Another player, Gurucharan Singh, who was in another coach, recollects that had it not been for Chetan Chauhan, they would not have made it unscathed through the rampaging mob. “I and Rajinder Hans were in a different bogey. When we came to know about the incident, it sent a chill down our spine. However, Chetan Chauhan came and reassured us that we would be safe and the mob won’t harm us,” Singh said.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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