NEW DELHI, India The wives of some 500 Sikhs killed in rioting after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi marched to the house of her son and successor, Rajiv Gandhi, Saturday to demand housing and compensation.

It was the first protest march on Gandhi’s home since he was appointed Prime Minister hours after his mother’s death at the hands of two bodyguards Oct. 31, 1984.

Wives of the slain Sikhs, clad in white as a sign of mourning, were escorted by police armed with rifles and submachine guns as they marched from New Delhi’s famed India Gate to Gandhi’s residence.

They were stopped by police about 200 yards from the entrance.

An aide to the prime minister meta five member delegation representing the widows and accepted a list of their demands, assuring them Gandhi would give it “sympathetic and early consideration,” said a protest spokesman.

Nearly 10,000 people, most of them Sikh men living in New Delhi, were killed by Hindu mobs in the week following Mrs, Gandhi’s assassination. The mobs also burned and looted Sikh homes, leaving hundreds of women and children alone and without shelter.

“Since then the distrust has not been removed from their minds and they are constantly under psychological distress,” said the petition presented to the prime minister’s aide.

The petition called for “top priority” to resettling 800 widows and their families in New Delhi who, unable to support themselves, have been living in tents in temporary government camps.

About 300 widows have been given permanent housing.

The petition, signed by the All India Sikh Conference, a pressure group set up to help the riot victims, said many claims for a $840 compensation payment for each family by the government had not been processed.

Most widows at the rally said their only source of income was a $20 monthly pension from Sikh temples.

“J heard the noise outside and ran in and closed the door,” said 25 year old Harjit Kaur, recalling the day one year ago when a mob of Hindu youths attacked her house. “When they could not get in by the door, they came in through the roof.”

“They came and poured gasoline on my husband and lit it,” Kaur said, as other widows pressed around to tell of their husband’s deaths. “While he was burning they laughed and said he was dancing like at a disco.”

The protest was among many events held in New Delhi and the Sikh dominated northern state of Punjab marking the first anniversary of the riots.

Article extracted from this publication >>  November 8, 1985