Crying out would have given away her hiding place — a rooftop in her native town, Sheikhupura, where Kumari, her mother and dozens of others lay, watching the carnage on the streets below. “We couldn’t show our heads,” she said. “You show your head and you’re dead.”
From the holes in the roof, Kumari saw her uncle and his family being killed by men with spears in the street. Her uncle was a tax collector who had made the error of filling their suitcases with cash — unnecessary weight that had kept his family from running fast enough, Kumari said. “My aunt was wearing white trousers, I remember,” she says. “She was crying, ‘Don’t kill my son, don’t kill my son.’ Then they took her daughter from her. They took her, and they pierced the spear through her body. She died like that, a 1-year-old girl.”
Kumari’s family scattered. Her town had been reduced to ash and rubble. For days, she and her mother hid from rioters who were looking for Hindus to kill and loot.
When armed men eventually found them, they were hiding in an attic packed with about 300 others from the town.
The townspeople were ushered out to a playground, where the previous day’s captives had been doused with oil and burned alive. Corpses lay strewn across the streets. “One dead body here, one dead body there. All people we know,” Kumari said. “There’s Khyaliram, there’s Baleddiram.”