Sant Jarnail Singh Ji Bhindranwale ---- The Lion of Punjab.
So far we were aware that it was Indian army sent to attack Golden Temple Amritsar by Mrs. Indira Gandhi, but the question arises who suggested and provoked her to take this foolish decision and to attack its own people who were just not well equipped to challenge the mighty India army equipped with heavy Artillery, Armored and Air force. Just to kill a handful rebellions the army was called, whether it was a cabinet decision?
The Army was sent on persuasions of Sant Harchand Singh Longowal and Parkash Singh Baadal, presently Chief minister of Punjab, revealed recently by a secret letter written to Sh. R.K.Dhawan on 25 April 1984 and addressed to 1, Safdarjang, New Delhi, by Sant Harchand Singh Ji Longowal, who disclosures that P.S.Baadal was already in a touch with Mrs. Gandhi for an attack by army on Golden Temple to kill Sant Jarnail Singh ji Bhindranwale and his men (the devouted Amritdhari Sikhs).
I have the copy of that letter. The contents are as follows:--
“As you know that S. Gurcharan Singh's life is in great danger so I am writing you this letter, Sant Jarnail Singh is not going to give up and now I strongly feel that we have to do what we planned earlier and Sardar Parkash Singh Badal has already explained it to you in details, most of his men will run away when they see the Army and most probably he will too."
So the readers and all Sikh people decide who played the role of JAICHAND to Khalsa destiny. Parkash Singh Baadal and Sant Longowal were the traitors of Khalsa Raaj. They were the conspirators of Operation Bluestar. Do you want to be ruled by a traitor? Do you want them to lead the Sikh Panth anymore ? They should be asked immediately to step down from the President ship of SGPC and resign from C.M. also.
By looking at this picture , the first impression one get that the heart of Sant ji is pierced by bullet from point blank range, no sign of any other bullet mark is visible. It seems that the Indian army had approached to Sant Jarnail Singh ji in Shri Akal Takhat Sahib, where they(army personals) shot him dead as they were feared of him. Indian army had one motto only to kill Sant ji as it was very much frustrated after the defeat and major loss of casuality in the fierce battle with Sikh militants who got martyred for their faith, for to show the power of Nectar, the Amrit which is blessed by 10th Guru Gobind Siingh ji .
All these twenty one Sikhs who laid down their lives heroically were awarded the highest gallantry award-THE INDIAN ORDER OF MERIT (IOM) equivalent to existing PARAM VEER CHAKRA, for their supreme valor and sacrifice by the British Govt.
Most of Indians are unaware of this battle and supreme sacrifice. Their bravery is not taught in schools in India but France and Italy have given them due importance.This saga is in the lesson of their High school books.
At last we are reminded of Guru Gobind Singh Ji's JAFARNAAMA, in which he says,"Chun kaar aj hamah heelte dargujasht ! Halaal asat burdan bashamsheer dasat !!22!!. Means--When all the approaches to the policies fails and no passage is left-open, The use of sword is only alternate and justified. It's clearly discrimination with Sikhs and misuse of power. If the leaders cannot do anything-they may step down in interest of Sikh Panth. I myself will come forward to lead the Panth with the support of Sikh Qaum. We don't need BADAL's anymore. Sikhs of Punjab are also requested hereby to sweep the congress in coming elections and socially boycott Sikh congressmen everywhere. At last, a ray of hope is upon the Militant organizations, they may take the revenge but a common person can not get justice.Udham Singh stormed after 20 years, now it has been 25 years. How long can the Panth wait. They are the only people, The defenders of Sikh gallantry and faith.)"
THE TRUTH REGARDING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST JARNAIL SINGH BHINDRANWALE ;
By Ranbir Singh Sandhu.
In order to justify the invasion of the Darbar Sahib complex and numerous other gurdwaras in Punjab in June 1984, the Indian Government issued a 'White Paper'.
According to this:
"Bhindranwale and others operating directly from the Golden Temple complex began to extol and instigate violence." The army action was described as "operations taken to remove terrorists, criminals and their weapons from sacred places of worship." It charged that "the tactics employed by the secessionist and terrorist groups were: systematic campaign to create bitterness and hatred between Sikhs and Hindus; indoctrination in the ideology of separatism in militant terms behind the facade of gurmat camps; training in the use of modern weaponry; use of terrorism against specific targets in the police and the administration of Punjab; preparation of 'hit lists' of those who disagreed and organizing their murder; random killing of persons of a particular community aimed at creating terror and instigating communal violence; stockpiling of arms and ammunition in places of worship; utilization of smugglers and anti-social elements for procuring supplies of arms, ammunition and for looting banks, jewelry shops and individual homes; and obtain covert and overt support from external sources."
Indira Gandhi, the then Prime minister, described Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and his associates, as "a group of fanatics and terrorists whose instruments for achieving whatsoever they may have in view are murder, arson and loot."
These statements were intended to give Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale a bad name and to justify the killing of thousands of Sikhs branding them terrorists. This series examines the allegations in the light of contemporary reports and Bhindranwale's public statements.
On Extolling and Instigating Violence
Bhindranwale repeatedly declared that he would never initiate a dispute or a confrontation. Tavleen Singh reports:
"Contrary to the popular belief that he took the offensive, senior police sources in the Punjab admit that the provocation came in fact from a Nirankari official who started harassing Bhindranwale and his men. There were two or three Nirankaris in key positions in the Punjab in those days and they were powerful enough to be able to create quite a lot of trouble. The Nirankaris also received patronage from Delhi."
Harry Reasoner of CBS News met Bhindranwale in May 1984. About his conversation with Jarnail Singh, he reported:
"A Sikh is never an oppressor but only defends himself and his people. I have never, he said, initiated any attack with my tongue or my pen or with my sword. I only answer back or retaliate to actions initiated by the enemies of the Sikhs."
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, however, advised Sikhs that, as required by their Gurus, they should keep weapons and be prepared to respond to oppression. Consistent with this view that a Sikh should never initiate a conflict but must respond to oppression, Bhindranwale advocated that if the Government were to attack Darbar Sahib, Sikhs must resist. It is well known that even when the Indian army fired upon Sikhs in Darbar Sahib complex killing several in the days preceding the general attack in June 1984, those inside the complex did not respond. Bhindranwale's instructions were that so long as the army was outside the complex, they would not fire back. They were to fight only if the surrounding army physically entered the complex. The Sikh reaction to oppression must be totally defensive. Bhindranwale told the Sikhs:
"Do not commit any excesses, do not be unfair to anyone but just as for a Muslim there is only wilderness after Mecca, for a Sikh of the Guru, there is nothing but wilderness beyond Harmandar Sahib. We do not go to anyone's home, we do not loot anybody's shop, nor do we lay siege to any place. However, if someone intoxicated by his power as a ruler attacks our home, we are not sitting here wearing bangles that we shall continue to suffer as eunuchs and as lifeless people."
Terrorism against Specific Targets in the Police and the Administration of Punjab
As oppression against devout Sikhs escalated during 1982 and 1983, Sikhs from villages flocked to Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale seeking redress. At first he felt that there were some unscrupulous police officials who were responsible for the spate of arbitrary arrests followed generally by brutal torture and often death in police custody. He sought redress from higher authorities in the administration and from courts. Senior police officials listened to him, assured him of fairness but took no action. Referring to the assurances given by the Inspector General of Police in the case of Harbhajan Singh and Harpreet Singh, Bhindranwale commented:
"Deviously, they keep telling the President on the phone that the boys have not committed any offense. If they are innocent then why are they kept there, for fun? How long are we going to suffer this oppression?"
The news media and the political leadership did not care to investigate his charges of police brutality. The administration, instead of punishing the guilty policemen, rewarded them with promotions. Jarnail Singh found that the courts were powerless in enforcing their decisions. Frustrated in his attempts to get the Government to inquire into incidents of police excesses and to punish the guilty officials, the courts to provide protection and the press and the public at large to call for an investigation and redress, he declared:
"Khalsa Ji, one gets justice out of inquiries when there is room for legal representation, argument, and appeal. Here [under the Indian Government] it is outright injustice. They have decided to annihilate the Sikhs, to insult their turban, and to destroy their Faith. Under this situation, why do you need to use a lawyer and appeal?"
He publicly identified some of the most notorious culprits in the police force. In a speech on 18 May 1983, he explained:
"We have no personal enmity with anyone; we are not jealous of anybody. However, if someone tries to destroy our religion, we must be steadfast in securing our rights. … We fight those who strip our sisters naked, we fight those who dishonor our sisters, and we fight those who insult our Satguru Granth Sahib. This fight will go on and no power in the world can stop us until these things are stopped."
Some of these officials were eventually killed, possibly by surviving relatives of their victims. The Government and the news media immediately held the Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale responsible for "death of conscientious police officers" without any evidence that he was connected with these incidents in any direct manner. For example, he protested that he had nothing to do with Atwal's murder in April 1983. However, most writers continue to blame him for it. Later on, faced with continuing torture and brutality, Bhindranwale declared that he would shelter anyone who would punish the police officials guilty of torturing to death people they knew to be innocent. Many reports appearing in the news media have indicated that the few killings of police officers were selective and only the worst perpetrators of torture were killed.
Preparation of 'Hit-Lists' and Organizing Murder
The Indian Government claimed that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale kept "hit lists of those who disagreed with him and organize their murder." There never was such a list though many journalists bought the official line and kept harping on it. Amarjit Kaur refers to "the barbaric acts, duly sanctioned by the author of the 'hit-lists' living in the safety of Akal Takht." Bhindranwale responded to this propaganda:
"If, from this stage, I say something naming someone they say: 'Bhindranwala has given out the name of such person, now this name has come on the list.' This kind of gossip goes on."
"It is said that I have already made a list. I haven't made any so far but the way these people are forcing us, it is quite possible that the youth may have to start such a list. I have not made any."
He got upset upon learning that Indira Gandhi had accused him of keeping 'hit lists' and said:
"I have challenged her and given a warning. Upon my life and upon my breath, let her prove where did I get the paper for that hit list, where did I get the pen, and the ink and the inkpot. She should get the C.B.I. to check this out. If she proves that I have signed any paper; that I have signed for the purpose of anybody's being killed; standing here in the presence of Hazoor, I declare that I shall cut off my head and place it before the congregation."
Hating and Random Killing of Persons of a Particular Community; Instigating Communal Violence
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale emphasized the uniqueness of the Sikh faith being founded upon its set of beliefs and practices, not upon hatred of any religion. He advised everyone to be true in his or her own faith. Bhinderanwale did not consider Hindus to be 'close' to the Sikhs in their beliefs and practices. However, emphasizing the catholicity of the Sikh faith, he pointed out that Siri Guru Granth Sahib includes verses composed by some Hindu saints. Addressing the Hindus, he said:
"Who was Jaidev? Wasn't he a Hindu from amongst you? He was a Brahmin. Jaidev is sitting here in Guru Granth Sahib. If a son of a Sikh has made obeisance here he has done so at the feet of Jaidev, the Brahmin."
Answering his critics who depicted him as a Hindu-baiter, he said:
"I have no enmity with the Hindus as such. If I were their enemy, why would I rescue the daughter of a Hindu from Jalalabad?
Citing another incident, he said:
"Kailash Chander owns a retail shop here. His shop was burnt down. The Retail Merchants Union asked him: 'Name Bhindranwale.' He refused. That Hindu, along with two Sikhs - the three of them - came to see me in my room. He came and started to cry. I asked him: 'what is the matter? Why are you crying?' He said: 'My shop has been burnt down.' I asked him what he wanted from me. He said: 'If you give me about a hundred rupees, it will give me the excuse for making a collection.' I gave him five hundred rupees."
Nayar states: "Bhindranwale asked Longowal to give a call to the Sikh masses to purchase motorcycles and revolvers to kill Hindus in Punjab." This accusation was based upon a public statement by Sant Harchand Singh Longowal, President, Shromani Akali Dal, and was part of the Akali campaign to defame Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Bhinderanwale took Longowal to task for attributing to him something that he could never even dream of, namely, killing members of a certain community. He explained that he did not support killing of innocent people or destruction of temples and that Sikhs have been building temples for Hindus and not destroying them.
Indoctrination in the Ideology of Separatism
The Khalistan bogey was apparently a creation of the Indian Government and the extremist factions among the Punjabi Hindus. The Government alleged: "The obvious direction and thrust of the movement was towards an independent Khalistan - fully supported by neighboring and foreign powers. The terrorists led by Bhindranwale were perhaps only cogs in the wheel. If the army action had not been resolute and determined, the movement would have moved towards full scale insurgency which would have crippled the armed forces in any future confrontation across the borders."
Many Hindu writers joined in this chorus of wild and baseless accusations. According to Chopra: "It is argued that all this would end when shackles of slavery are broken. Bhindranwale never elaborated what he meant by this. An obvious connotation is the achievement of sovereign state."
Nayar claims that Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale said "the next stage was to have a separate homeland, and for that the Sikhs must be ready to fight."
There is no corroboration available for these speculative statements. In fact, Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale repeatedly declared that he had no interest in political matters. He had not raised the slogan of Khalistan. The gurmat camps were not organized by him and the only ones he spoke to were those held within the Darbar Sahib complex. He asserted that the Sikh religion had an identity of its own and was not a sect within Hinduism. To misrepresent this as a demand for an independent state is mischievous propaganda. Repeatedly questioned regarding the demand for an independent state for Sikhs, he responded:
"I have given my opinion that we do not oppose Khalistan nor do we support it. We are quiet on the subject. This is our decision. We wish to live in Hindostan but as equal citizens, not as slaves. We are not going to live stuck under the chappals. We have to live in freedom and with the support of Kalghidhar. We wish to live in Hindostan itself. It is the Central Government's business to decide whether it wants to keep the turbaned people with it or not. We want to stay."
"How can a nation which has sacrificed so much for the freedom of the country want it fragmented but I shall definitely say that we are not in favor of Khalistan nor are we against it."
There were persons, some of them close to Sant Bhindranwale, who supported an independent state. However, he himself had a neutral attitude. Sant Longowal is said to have confirmed that, as late as 5 June 1984, Sant Bhindranwale refused to declare his support for an independent state. He did, however, declare:
"I wish to say this with firm conviction that this time when this place is attacked by the police, it will provide its own example to the world in that Khalistan will be created. Khalistan will certainly be created the day that the police come in here and wish to engage in some improper activity."
The above statement only expressed his conviction that the invasion would permanently alienate the Sikhs.
Getting Covert and Overt Support from External Sources
Raising the specter of 'the foreign hand' was Indira Gandhi's favorite ploy. The accusation was added to other innuendoes against Bhindranwale in order to mobilize public opinion. Jarnail Singh challenged Indira Gandhi to provide proof. He did not seek funds even from Sikhs living outside India. To those who wished to help the families of victims of torture and extra-judicial killings by the police, his advice was:
"The foremost way of helping the martyrs is that if the congregations in foreign countries collect some money, bring it yourselves.…. The second alternative, if you cannot adopt the first, is that I can give you the addresses of all the martyrs. You can take these and directly send help to the martyrs, not through intermediaries. The third alternative is that if you can trust the Jatha and you voluntarily wish to send the moneys to the Jatha - I do not ask you for any money - you may send it. I do not ask for it."
There was nothing underhanded or secretive about this at all. His enemies interpreted, and continue to do so, this assistance to the victims of government brutality as support of terrorism.
Procuring Supplies of Arms, Ammunition for Looting Banks, Jewelry Shops and Individual Homes
Keeping weapons is part of the Sikh faith and has been for centuries. The ideal lifestyle for a Sikh is that of a 'saint-soldier'. Bhindranwale often reminded the Sikhs that, in line with the principles of their faith, they should possess and carry arms and quoted Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's instructions. He explained that a Sikh does not keep weapons for offense, for hurting others, or for personal gain. He reminded Sikhs that the use of weapons is very well circumscribed by their Faith; they are only for defense against oppression. He compared the Sikh concept of keeping weapons with a nation's maintaining its defense forces in a state of preparedness. He quoted from Siri Guru Granth Sahib:
'When the house is on fire, he [one who did not use his time to prepare for the possibility] goes to dig a well to get water.'
He told the Sikhs that, following Siri Guru Gobind Singh Sahib's teachings, they were never to seek conflict or confrontation but, when all other means of redress fail, it is right to use weapons to defensively fight oppression. This teaching, basic to the Sikh faith, was described by many Hindus as 'cult of violence'. Explaining the Sikh attitude towards possession of arms, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale expressly reminded his listeners that being armed, there is no greater sin for a Sikh than attacking an unarmed person, killing an innocent person, looting a shop, harming the innocent, or wishing to insult anyone's daughter or sister. Also, being armed, there is no sin greater than not seeking justice.
The Indian Government as well as the press has harped on the circumstance that an armed retinue often accompanied Bhindranwale on his travels in the country.
It is not at all uncommon for important persons in India to have armed escorts. All the weapons carried by Sant Bhindranwale and his men were, at one time, duly licensed and he was not breaking any laws. There have been no reports of any of Sant Bhindranwale's escort hurting anyone with these weapons. On the other hand, the press never protested the fact that the Nirankari Baba traveled with armed men with him and that, in Amritsar on 13 April 1978, they fired upon an unarmed group of Sikh protestors killing thirteen and injuring another seventy-eight.
The Indian Government's solution to the problem was to disarm the victims, instead of protecting them. In 1981, responding to the clamor of the extremist Hindu Press in Punjab, the licenses issued to Sant Bhindranwale and his men were ordered canceled. In March 1983, after Hardev Singh's murder, the Home Ministry asked the State Government to seize all firearms in the possession of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale and his men.
When the Sikhs launched a peaceful protest movement in August 1982, the Government response consisted of beatings, torture, and killing in fake encounters of Sikh youth. Bhindranwale placed the number of persons so killed at 113 in February 1983, about 140 in July 1983 and about 200 later that year. Over two thousand were said to have returned from police stations as cripples.
Much has been made of the Darbar Sahib complex having been turned into an arsenal and a fort by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. Since 1982, extremist Hindu factions had demanded that the Government forces should enter the Darbar Sahib complex and arrest Bhindranwale. All the Sikh leaders, including Bhindranwale, had made it clear that if the Government invaded this center of the Sikh faith, they would resist with whatever means they could muster. The list published by the Government shows that the weapons recovered from them were World War I vintage, mostly obsolete, and quite useless in fighting organized military units. The Government is also alleged to have even arranged for weapons to be smuggled into Darbar Sahib to heighten the scale of the conflict in order to justify the killing of as large a number of Sikhs as possible without arousing a national protest against the genocide and to ensure that after the invasion was complete, these could be shown as having been recovered from the so-called 'rebels'.
Criminals in Sacred Places of Worship
Bipan Chandra et al state: "To protect himself, Bhindranwale moved in July 1982 to the sanctuary of Guru Nanak Niwas, a building within the Golden Temple complex from where he directed the campaign of terrorism in Punjab." And: "Fearing arrest, in December 1983, Bhindranwale moved into the safe haven of the Akal Takhat…" Khushwant Singh speculates: "When Bhindranwale sensed that the Government had at long last decided to arrest him, he first took shelter in the Golden Temple, then occupied and fortified portions of the Akal Takht."
Why, one might ask these distinguished writers, would Bhindranwale present himself, along with over fifty of his supporters, at the Deputy Commissioner's residence on the day he moved to Guru Nanak Niwas, if his purpose was to hide from the law? Gurdev Singh, District Magistrate at Amritsar until shortly before the invasion, is on record as having assured the Governor of the state that he could arrest anyone in Darbar Sahib at any time.
Bhindranwale had apparently not committed any serious violation of the law and, accordingly, had no need to 'hide'. No court of law had asked for his personal appearance for any crime. He lived in a place of worship open twenty-four hours a day.
In December 1983, a senior officer in Chandigarh confessed: "It's really shocking that we have so little against him while we keep blaming him for all sorts of things." The fact is that when the Government was in the process of training army units in the planned invasion of Darbar Sahib, the only charges against Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were that his speeches were 'objectionable'.
Apparently, Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale was 'wanted' by the 'lawless' police and an oppressive government so that he could be killed, as many other Sikhs had been, in order to silence the voice of protest and to check the revival of the Sikh faith, which he led?
There were people who felt offended by Bhindranwale's views and wanted him silenced. There were demands for his arrest after Baba Gurbachan Singh's murder in April 1980 even though supporters of the Home Minister of India were reported to have said:
"Whatever Bhindranwale's involvement, the Government had no concrete evidence and the ministry thought it inadvisable to arrest him on a flimsy case only to have him acquitted and transformed into a hero."
His innocence was noted but stubbornly refused to be accepted.
Shourie conceded: "For all I know, he is completely innocent and is genuinely and exclusively dedicated to the teachings of the Gurus." However, he went on to state in the same paragraph: "It is not Bhindranwale who triggers reflex actions in the tension that precedes a riot, it is this apprehension and fear that he has invoked."
Why were these people frightened, one might ask, and so apprehensive if he had committed no crime? Evidently, it was a self-imposed dread of the revival of the Sikh faith and the popularity of Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale that worried them. Also, it is important to point out that the riots mentioned by Shourie were, without exception, massacres of Sikhs by mobs of Hindu hoodlums encouraged by the police.
Opposition to Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale
People often ask why would a democratic government launch an invasion against its own people unless they were engaged in some illegal activity?
Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale's phenomenal success in reviving the Sikh faith among the rural masses of Punjab was viewed with concern by the established leadership. The Congress party under the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty had always been suspicious of and hostile towards the Sikhs. The secularists, including various communist and socialist groups, viewed the revival of the Sikh faith as a reversal of the ongoing process of weakening religious bonds. Noting how enthusiastically people responded to Jarnail Singh's sermons, they feared that under his leadership the Sikh religion might strengthen, spread and possibly result in the emergence of a cohesive Sikh nation.
Even though many Hindus join in Sikh prayers, attend gurdwaras, and regularly participate in Sikh religious ceremonies, the extremists among them have been loud in their criticism of the Bhinderanwale as well as of the Sikh tradition. They have misrepresented the centuries old daily Sikh prayer as a call for Sikh domination and Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale's emphasis upon the distinct identity of the Sikh religion as political separatism.
The traditional Sikh leadership was worried that even though Bhindranwale insisted that he had no personal political ambition, he could emerge as a kingmaker and jeopardize their hegemony over the Sikh community. The Indian news media, by and large, joined in the witch-hunt along with several well-known 'intellectuals'.
Each of these groups had a role in promoting misunderstandings about the Sikh religion. All of them, with different perspectives and interests, focused on a common target - Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.
The Government waged a campaign of character assassination. It engaged in false apportionment of all crime to Jarnail Singh. It stage-managed numerous crimes, for example, throwing cows' heads in a temple, throwing bombs (innocuous ones) at the Chief Minister of the state and rigging cases of extortion, all the time placing the blame on Jarnail Singh despite his vehement protests and demands for impartial inquiry.
The police would enact a crime of violence and then pick up some members of Bhinderanwale's entourage for torture, often resulting in death of the victims. Often the bodies were not handed over to the families but cremated without even an autopsy.
This encouraged mobs of frenzied Hindu zealots in perpetrating violence against Sikhs while the police watched. When Bhindranwale referred to these brutalities in his speeches and said that the Sikhs will not tolerate them, it was depicted as instigation to violence. Unfortunately, India's news media accepted the official view without question and published what was fed to them through official channels.
Hindu extremists demanded Jarnail Singh's arrest even when he had committed no cognizable offense. They had historically refused to accept the Sikh identity; denied their own mother tongue, Punjabi, opposed all Sikh institutions and traditions, created the concept of a 'moderate' Sikh who would violate the Sikh Code of Conduct and be ready to mock his own professed faith and insisted that linguistic identity implied political separatism and a demand for secession.
The Akali leadership, which had joined hands with Bhinderanwale in August 1982, started to distance itself from him after September 1983 and often misrepresented him, encouraged hostile behavior towards him and finally is said to have invited the military intervention by the Indian Government.
There were several attempts to murder Jarnail Singh. The Akalis wanted to make a deal with the Government and Bhindranwale reminded them that they had done Ardaas at Siri Akal Takhat Sahib on 4 August 1982 and could not, as devout Sikhs, go back on that. The Indian Government waited until there was near unanimity for military action and then struck a massive blow not only at Jarnail Singh but the entire membership of the Sikh faith. In Joyce Pettigrew's words:
"The army went into Darbar Sahib not to eliminate a political figure or a political movement but to suppress the culture of a people, to attack their heart, to strike a blow at their spirit and self-confidence."
Widespread mopping up operations under the code name "Operation Woodrose" followed the invasion. Mary Ann Weaver reported this phase as:
"The pattern in each village appears to be the same. The Army moves in during the early evening, cordons a village, and announces over loudspeakers that everyone must come out. All males between the ages of 15 and 35 are trussed and blindfolded, then taken away. Thousands have disappeared in the Punjab since the Army operation began. The Government has provided no lists of names; families don't know if sons and husbands are arrested, underground, or dead."
The Indian troops was instructed:
"Some of our innocent countrymen were administered oath in the name of religion to support extremists and actively participate in the act of terrorism. These people wear a miniature kirpan round their neck and are called Amritdhari …. Any knowledge of the 'Amritdharis', who are dangerous people and pledged to commit murders, arson and acts of terrorism, should immediately be brought to the notice of the authorities. These people may appear harmless from outside but they are basically committed to terrorism. In the interest of all of us their identity and whereabouts must always be disclosed."
Considering that the word amritdhari denotes a person formally initiated into the Sikh faith, this grievous misrepresentation was in essence an order to kill all devout Sikhs.
Jarnail Singh Khalsa Bhindranwale stands out in Sikh history as one of the great martyrs. Head of the premier Sikh institution for religious training, he led a major wave of religious revival in the community.
His phenomenal success with the rural masses of Punjab was viewed with concern by the established leadership, which finally used the Indian army to wage war against the Sikh faith by eliminating those who devoutly practiced it. Jarnail Singh, as the symbol of a religious renaissance, became the most visible victim of the Government's policy, which was shaped by its need to please the extremists among the Hindu majority population.
The national leadership, seeking to consolidate its Hindu electoral base, went along with the extremist Hindu propaganda and decided to eliminate Bhindranwale and inflict a blow on the Sikh religion as historically understood.
Waging a campaign of character-assassination, the Government stage-managed acts of terrorism and sacrilege in order to blame Jarnail Singh and promote hatred against Sikhs in general and Bhindranwale in particular. All crime in Punjab was ascribed to Jarnail Singh and his immediate retinue.
Members of the Damdami Taksaal were routinely picked up and tortured at police stations. When Bhindranwale protested this oppression, he was described as a rebel and a terrorist. Clearly, this farce was enacted to prepare the general Indian public for the large-scale massacres of devout Sikhs that were to follow.
Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale never engaged in or encouraged extortion or crime, or ask for the creation of a separate Sikh state. However, this did not stop the Indian Government from blaming him for all of these and more. What is worse is that the news media abdicated its responsibility to report the truth and joined in the witch-hunt along with several well-known 'intellectuals'.
Several questions come to one's mind.
Many people in the media and academia, who expect honesty from state agencies and hold them accountable for their words and deeds, might have to undertake a probing self-analysis. They might ask themselves, where were they when the official media blitz of misinformation completely distorted the truth? The Hindu populace might ask themselves why they believed whatever they were told and did not try to find the truth. The people of India might have to ask themselves whether their system of government is indeed "the world's largest democracy" or merely a majoritocracy in which religious minorities have no place.
The Sikhs have to ask themselves what their options are and if they wish to be second-class citizens in the Indian majoritocracy, where they are constantly forced to prove their allegiance to India by renouncing their religion and see their faith forcibly ground into oblivion. The question they need to answer is how and where their Faith can flourish free from oppression.
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