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Roundtable

1984 - Thirty Years Later:
Part I
The Roundtable Open Forum # 120

HARTOSH SINGH BAL

 

 

 

Every summer for the first 15 years of my life, my family would travel to our village of Khankot. It lay on the outskirts of Amritsar amidst pear groves, now almost subsumed by the march of suburbia.

The Golden Temple -- or, to use the name most often invoked by the faithful, the Darbar Sahib -- lay barely ten kilometres away. A visit soon after arrival was obligatory.

Even allowing for nostalgia, its memories evoke a rare tranquility. The singing of  gurbani rises and settles over the pool that surrounds the shrine, and gives the city its name -- the sarovar of Amrit, or Amritsar.

As the early morning light shimmers on the water, a sprinkling of pilgrims walk on the parikrama, the pathway that surrounds the pool, heading to the causeway leading to the central shrine encased in gold, the Harmandar Sahib.

The Darbar Sahib is central to the Sikh faith. A common version of the Sikh ardaas, or plea to God, which is recited at the end of the morning and evening prayers, and on every religious and social occasion, birth, marriage and death, includes the lines: sikhaa(n) nu sikhi daan / kesh daan / rehat daan / bibek daan / bharosa daan / naam daan / sri amritsar sahib dji e ishanan (Bestow to the Sikhs the gift of Sikhism, unshorn hair, the correct code of conduct, divine knowledge, firm faith, belief, the divine name and a bath in the sacred pool of Amritsar).

Following the Punjab insurgency, which extended from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s, the number of pilgrims to the Darbar Sahib has increased rapidly. The queues to enter the shrine now extend beyond the causeway; but the sense of quiet calm remains, though it is at odds with the shrine’s history. Perhaps no place of worship so central to a major religion in India has seen as much violence within its premises.

The sarovar was constructed in 1581 by Guru Ram Das, the Fourth Sikh Master. The tank was lined and the shrine completed by the Fifth Master, Guru Arjan, in 1601. By that time, the Sikh congregation had grown large enough for the Mughal Emperor Jehangir to see Guru Arjan as a threat to his sovereignty.

He was arrested in 1606, and tortured to death when he refused to convert to Islam. For his followers, this first martyrdom in their incipient faith would become the paradigm for Sikhism’s relationship with the durbar in Delhi.

The Sixth Guru, Hargobind, donned two swords to represent a change in the nature of his leadership -- he would be not only a spiritual guide to his disciples (piri), but also a preceptor in their temporal lives (miri). The weapons form Sikhism’s central symbol, the khanda -- a pair of linked swords. The Guru ensured the same symbolism was reflected in the architecture of the Darbar Sahib. Across from the causeway, facing the central shrine, which represents spiritual authority, he constructed the building known as the Akal Takht, the timeless throne, from where he administered justice like any temporal authority.

Once the line of living Gurus ended with Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, the temporal authority over the Sikhs came to be vested in the jathedar, or custodian, of the Akal Takht. Through the eighteenth century, as centralised authority broke down in the Punjab, the Sikhs grew in strength. Dispersed, led by various men and women, groups of Sikh warriors would gather periodically at the Akal Takht to plan and direct their course of action.

Those seeking to contain them would target the Harmandar Sahib and the Akal Takht.

Each person who has desecrated the shrine occupies an oversize space in the collective memory of the community. Every Sikh can recount the story of Massa Rangar, who was appointed the kotwal or ruler of Amritsar in 1740 and proceeded to host nautch parties in the Harmandar Sahib, having first removed the Scripture, the Guru Granth Sahib, from its place.

He was beheaded by two Sikhs, Mehtab and Sukha Singh, who claimed to be revenue officers coming to deposit a large sum of money.

Even better known is the story of a defender of the faith, Baba Deep Singh. In 1757, the Afghan emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali, having sacked Delhi for the fourth time, was waylaid by a Sikh contingent near Kurukshetra. Angered, he left his son Taimur Shah behind as the governor of Lahore to take care of this menace. Taimur demolished the Harmandar Sahib, but the 75-year-old Deep Singh led a contingent of five hundred Sikhs to take back the complex.

By the time he neared Amritsar, their number had swelled to five thousand. Clashing with a much larger Afghan army, Deep Singh was injured by a blow to the neck, but continued to fight his way to the Darbar Sahib, eventually succumbing to his injuries by the sarovar. On the parikrama, the spot where he is believed to have fallen is marked by a portrait of him carrying his decapitated head in one hand, still holding a sword aloft in the other.

The martyrdom of Baba Deep Singh resonates through Sikh history.

Two centuries later, in June 1984, when the Indian Army invaded the Darbar Sahib on orders from prime minister Indira Gandhi, it was to disarm and dislodge Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, who according to tradition was the fourteenth head of the Damdami Taksaal, an orthodox Sikh seminary once headed, it is said, by Deep Singh.

In the mythology of a faith where the stories of Massa Ranggar and Deep Singh arouse intense and contrary emotions, Sikhs memorialised both Bhindranwale and Gandhi in accordance with the roles they had assumed -- one the defender, the other a desecrator.

The trajectory of those two lives, both of which ended violently thirty years ago, intersected for the first time in 1977, when Bhindranwale assumed charge of the Damdami Taksaal, and Gandhi was swept out of power after her span of dictatorship which she called the ‘Emergency‘.

Nowhere was Gandhi’s decision to suspend the Constitution of the land as strongly contested as in Punjab, and no party resisted it with quite the ferocity of the Akali Dal, which represented Sikh interests in the state.

Over the next seven years, Gandhi, Bhindranwale and the Akali Dal would lead three fronts in a battle in which they faced off, realigned with and schemed against each other until the very end.

From the moment an Akali Dal government, in alliance with the Janata Party and the Communist Party of India (Marxist), took charge of Punjab in 1977, Gandhi’s politics were guided by her desire to cut the Akalis down to size. The execution of her wishes was left to her son, Sanjay Gandhi, and her loyalist, the canny Sikh politician Giani Zail Singh, who chose Bhindranwale as their weapon.

Bhindranwale saw no reason to refuse their aid; any support for his brand of Sikh orthodoxy was welcome.

By the time the Congress returned to power in the state in 1980, Bhindranwale was well on his way to becoming a popular icon, accumulating so much power that the Akalis, whom he was supposed to be undermining, ended up turning to him for help. He became the dominant political force in Punjab: by 1983, he was running a parallel state from within the Darbar Sahib complex, handing down death sentences and dispensing rough justice before adoring supplicants. Even the policemen in Punjab tasked with arresting him were reduced to seeking his protection.

Bluestar, the military operation to remove Bhindranwale from the Darbar Sahib, ended this regime -- but at the cost of thousands of lives, and the credibility of the Indian Army, which subsequently had to deal with mutinous troops for the first time in the history of independent India.

Although the action has been examined in close detail in the years following the attack, the lack of planning and intelligence, and the hurry to carry it out, have never been properly explained.

In February this year, the declassification of intelligence documents in the UK revealed information about a commando operation inside the Darbar Sahib that was planned but never executed. Given this evidence, I revisited several people who had witnessed the events leading up to Operation Bluestar. In light of these interviews, it is possible to assemble a more coherent picture than ever before of the Gandhi family’s political calculations, which were central to the nature of the final operation.

The dismal story of Bluestar had been set on its tracks by Sanjay Gandhi, but it now appears that its disastrous conclusion was the work of his brother Rajiv, who swept to power with the biggest mandate in Indian history following his mother’s assassination.

Operation Bluestar was not just Indira Gandhi’s last battle; it was the first, and perhaps the most disastrous, of Rajiv’s blunders.

By the time the smoke cleared over the Darbar Sahib, thousands of innocent bystanders had died. Bhindranwale lay murdered, and the Akal Takht, where he had set up his final defiance of Delhi, stood shattered.

The operation was followed by the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards, and the organised massacre of thousands of Sikhs by Hindu mobs, led mainly by Congress politicians.

In Punjab, militancy against the Indian state reached levels unprecedented in the years before Bluestar; it took a decade for a semblance of peace to return.

Over the last thirty years, the debate over Bluestar has played out between two extreme points of view: that of radicals in Punjab and abroad, who dwell on the Congress’s role while overlooking Bhindranwale’s complicity, and that of people in the rest of India, who tend to focus on Bhindranwale with little sense of the Congress’s contribution to the tragedy.

Many Indians may believe the events of that June can be consigned to the history books, but their memory remains alive in Punjab. Many Sikhs continue to view the operation, and the figure of Bhindranwale, in a markedly different light from the rest of the country. Without understanding how such distinct perspectives came to exist, it may be impossible to come to terms with the history of Bluestar.

*   *   *   *   *

Like 1984, 2014 is an election year. In Amritsar, Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party ("BJP"), backed by the Shiromani Akali Dal, stands against Captain Amarinder Singh of the Congress. Thirty years ago, Jaitley’s party strongly backed army action in the Golden Temple, while Amarinder Singh, then an MP, quit both parliament and the Congress in protest.

That record echoed through the campaign in this constituency, where Sikhs form 65 percent of the electorate.

Amarinder, regarded as personally irreproachable, emphasised that the Congress had already apologised for its role, and that it was the Akalis who had never come clean on their tacit collaboration in the operation. (It is to evade precisely these charges that the Akalis let the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee -- or SGPC, the body that controls all gurdwaras in Punjab, and which they lead -- construct a memorial in the Darbar Sahib complex. Ostensibly meant to commemorate all those who died in Operation Bluestar, the structure is, in truth, a monument to Bhindranwale.)

Not a single candidate spoke in defence of the army action -- not even Jaitley, who is heavily dependent on the support of the local Akali cadre.

In Delhi, the journalist Satish Jacob, who covered Operation Bluestar and the events leading up to it for the BBC, told me a story that demonstrates one reason for this extraordinary political circumspection. Jacob attended a wedding in Ludhiana last month at an upscale club. As he was parking his car, he spotted a sticker on a vehicle parked alongside.

“It was a photograph of Bhindranwale, with a sentence in Gurmukhi which read, ‘Lagda hai mainu waapas aaona paiga’ (It seems as if I need to return),” Jacob said. “I said this was very funny. My friend remarked, ‘No, it is not. Every second car in Punjab has such a sticker. He has become a cult. For the young in Punjab he is a big hero.”

It isn’t just stickers. In the bazaars of the state, T-shirts and other Bhindranwale memorabilia have sold briskly for years. Car stereos can be heard blaring this song, nominally banned by the Indian government, by the hip-hop star Jazzy B:

Guru Dashmesh baaghi, Nalwa veer baaghi
Sada baaghi ea panth parivar loko
… tey saada baaghi Sarabha Kartar loko
Bhindra(n)wala baaghi , Rajoana baaghi
Bhindra(n)wala baghi, Hawara Jagtar baaghi


(The Tenth Guru a rebel, Nalwa a rebel
The Sikh Nation, a family of rebels
... A rebel too, our Kartar Sarabha
Bhindranwale a rebel, Hawara Jagtar a rebel”)

Trying to explain the phenomenon, Jacob recalled the last days of Bhindranwale.

On or around 2 June 1984 -- about a day before the Darbar Sahib was besieged by the Indian Army, and three days before troops entered the complex -- Gurcharan Singh Tohra, then the president of the SGPC, went in to tell Bhindranwale that matters were at a stage when it would be difficult to withstand the might of the army, and to recommend that he surrender while he could.

“Bhindranwale was very angry with Tohra,” Jacob said. “He told him, ‘You are not a bloody Sikh. Get out of here. I am not going to surrender.’”

That afternoon, Jacob, along with other journalists, met Bhindranwale. One of the journalists asked him what he would do when the army came in. “Aan deo (Let them come),” Jacob said Bhindranwale told them. “What can they do? They’ll kill me, but we are going to give them a fitting reply.”

Jacob, who wrote a book with Mark Tully on Bluestar called Amritsar: Mrs Gandhi’s Last Battle, told me he would have picked up Bhindranwale’s story again if he could. “Bhindranwale was a rustic, but he knew that if he surrendered, he would survive, but be forgotten. ‘Banda nakli hai’ (The man is a fake), they would say. If he laid down his life, like so many of the Sikh martyrs, he would be immortal. This is the line I would take. His name is still alive. Not only alive; there is a resurgence.”

II

Just a short distance from the Darbar Sahib, a narrow stairwell leads up to the residence of Baba Ram Singh, a general secretary of the Shiromani Akali Dal. Following Operation Bluestar, Ram Singh, who was a close associate of Bhindranwale, had been imprisoned by the Indian government.

When I met him last month, he had just spent the day campaigning for Jaitley. Right away, he dismissed the arguments about Bluestar that had raged throughout the campaign. “Everyone agrees today that it was a mistake.”

Instead, he said, he wanted to set the record straight on Bhindranwale. He was upset not because the rest of India saw him as little more than a violent fundamentalist, but because so much uninformed hagiography surrounded his life among Sikhs.

“What can be done?” he said. “It is a fact that his name sells.”

Ram Singh entered the Damdami Taksaal in 1967, once he had finished school. At the time, he said, Jarnail Singh, the young man who would become Bhindranwale, was already studying there, having come to the Taksaal as a child, the youngest in a family of seven brothers. Gurbachan Singh, the head of the seminary, “had himself brought him to the Taksaal, after asking his father.”

Jarnail Singh, born in 1947, was from the village of Rode in Faridkot district, and his family had long been associated with the seminary. Ram Singh came from a similar background. This was no coincidence. The Green Revolution had brought prosperity to rural Punjab, but it had also exacerbated inequalities among Sikh peasants and the predominant landowning community in Punjab state, as differences in landholding sizes multiplied into differences in wealth and status.

Both Bhindranwale and Ram Singh’s families had to struggle for a living. (This was also the background of many of the young men who took up arms against the Indian state in Punjab after Bhindranwale’s death.)

According to tradition, the Damdami Taksaal traces its lineage back to the Tenth Master, Guru Gobind Singh, who while living at the Damdama Sahib gurdwara committed from memory the text of the Guru Granth Sahib, and taught a select band of Sikhs the correct forms of reciting and understanding the holy book.

The Taksaal developed a reputation for spreading the orthodox understanding of Sikhism; until the SGPC established a number of missionary colleges in recent years, it remained the source of many jathedars and raagis -- singers -- at major gurdwaras. It provided room for many young men, whose families were attracted to the organisation by the thought of having one less mouth to feed.

The training that awaited them was rigorous.

“We started by learning the proper recitation of the Guru Granth Sahib,” Ram Singh said of his extensive education. “We would learn the meaning of each word in the text, the meaning of each verse, and then would move on to the study of Vedanta. The whole process would take seven to ten years.”

By the time Ram Singh arrived at the seminary, Jarnail Singh had become, for the time being, a part-time resident, because Gurbachan Singh insisted that he return home to be married and live as a householder. The young man left reluctantly, married in 1966, and made ends meet by working his meager share of the family land.

The journalist Dalbir Singh, who worked for The Tribune newspaper, became part of Bhindranwale’s inner circle in the 1980s. In his book, Nerreyo(n) Ditthey Sant Bhindranwale (Sant Bhindranwale Seen Up Close), he relates a story that Bhindranwale once told him about life on his farm.

He told Dalbir that he got the worst share of both the land and cattle when they were divided up between the family. One winter, he ran out of fodder for the cattle. “I went to my brother Jagjit Singh’s sugarcane field, picked up a bundle of dried sugarcane leaves and put it before my cattle,” Bhindranwale told Dalbir. “Soon my brother came and said, ‘Oy Jarnail, who did you ask before you picked up the dry sugarcane leaves?’

“I answered, ‘Brother, I did not ask anyone.’

“My brother told me to pick up the leaves and scatter them in the same field from where I had picked them up,” Bhindranwale continued. “With due respect, I went and scattered them in the field I had gathered them from.”

Years later, Dalbir recounted, Bhindranwale was sitting with some of his followers in the Darbar Sahib complex when the door to their room opened and Jagjit Singh peered inside. “The Sant said, ‘Oy, what have you come here for?’ Jagjit began to say, ‘For the sake of your darshan.’ The Sant said, ‘Get out. The darshan is over.’”

Jarnail Singh was not one to forgive an affront; perhaps those in Delhi who attempted to make use of him never understood this. In the peasant society he was born into, the merest slight could trigger a cycle of bloodshed descending through the generations. This was a culture mediated by the idea of honour; a man who could not stand by his word and back it up with violence did not count for much. Journalists who saw only an unsophisticated rustic in Bhindranwale overlooked the fact that his bluntness of speech and overbearing manner appealed to the Sikh peasantry.

Without his theological training, however, his manner would not have been enough to appeal to the orthodox. Whenever Jarnail Singh visited the seminary, Ram Singh recalled, he kept to himself, speaking, eating and sleeping very little. “His mastery of the recitation of the gurbani and the daily prayers stood out.”

In August 1977, Jarnail Singh was called back to the Taksaal. Gurbachan Singh’s successor, Sant Kartar Singh, had been killed in a road accident. Even as a part-timer, the appeal of Jarnail Singh, Kartar’s favoured disciple, was so strong that he was chosen to head the Taksaal over Kartar’s son, Bhai Amrik Singh, who went on to become one of his closest associates.

The Taksaal had once been located at Bhindran village in Sangrur district. Like a number of his predecessors, Jarnail Singh, the impoverished farmer who could not afford fodder for his cattle, took on the name of that village, and became Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, head of one of Sikhism’s most prominent seminaries.


THE ROUNDTABLE OPEN FORUM # 120

Even though this story continues tomorrow, we invite our readers to post their comments and/or their own memories, or their take on the events described herein.



To Be Continued Tomorrow ...

[Courtesy: The Caravan. Edited for sikhchic.com]

May 23, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Jagjit Kaur (Chandigarh, Punjab), May 23, 2014, 6:55 AM.

The fools have no idea what they have taken on by their mischief against the very community that has helped liberate the land. It will for sure prove the nemesis of the Brahmins and their hangers-on -- just you watch, as the country unravels. With 1984 and all the badmaashi during the 30 years thereafter, I don't believe there is any turning back now.

2: Mandeep (United Kingdom), May 23, 2014, 7:59 AM.

I have an issue that I just cannot come to terms with. The Indian Government was WRONG in attacking the Harmandar Sahib BUT Bhindranwale shouldn't have lodged himself in the complex either. Throughout Sikh history no Guru or Shaheed (not even Baba Deep Singh) fought inside the Darbar Sahib. Even Guru Gobind Singh ji left Anandpur for the jungles. The point being they did not want to expose the Harmandar. Bhindranwale should not have brought the fight with the enemy to OUR Darbar Sahib. The fight should have been outside of the Darbar Sahib. You do not fight an enemy that is a thousand times your size and has organised artillery, in your own home. He should have taken the fight to Delhi to fight just as Jassa Singh did. I have a question - would all the Bhindranwale supporters be as supportive of him if he was from Delhi, or with origins from West Punjab, instead of being a farmer from East Punjab?

3: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 23, 2014, 10:42 AM.

@#2: Growing up in those turbulent times, I have heard the opinions of many on Bhindranwale, both against him and those in his favour. Your argument holds water. There are many Sikhs who believe in what you said. If he had to fight the Indian State he should have fought them elsewhere and not from the Golden Temple. As rightly said by the author, the Sikhs of Punjab fiercely opposed Indira Gandhi during the emergency and she wanted to teach Sikhs a lesson. She appointed Zail Singh as the Union Home Minister and this man played sinister games with Punjab. Bhindranwale was initially propped up by the Indian state against the Akalis. He would come to Delhi to meet Indira Gandhi with thousands of his armed supporters in a show of strength. A lot of people still wonder what exactly he wanted to achieve by fighting a suicidal battle against a state much more powerful than him. Did he even think about Sikhs living outside Punjab and what they had to endure?

4: Bicky Singh (Ontario, Canada), May 23, 2014, 10:45 AM.

I agree with Mandeep's posting that Bhindranwale should not have barricaded himself in the Harmandar Sahib but rather, come out and surrendered - sure this may have looked bad on his part, but as a so-called "Jathedar" or leader of the Panth, he could have saved the lives of thousands of individuals who came that time to commemorate Guru Arjan's shaheedi. Imagine if he used diplomacy such as having some members of the press be available during his arrest / surrender? If the Indian Gov't was intent on getting him out, this act could alone would have put them to shame. I feel that due to the stockpiling of weapons, armaments in / around the Harmandar Sahib, that he was planning for a war - albeit an unsuccessful one. I also don't buy the fact that the Indian Army had no choice to move against the Harmandar Sahib on this particular day - as they too had an intent on one day demolishing the Akal Takht and Bhindranwale just gave them the excuse to do so.

5: Harman Singh (California, USA), May 23, 2014, 11:05 AM.

Over the last few years, I have read exhaustively on Bhindranwale to make up my own mind about him. I am still continuing to learn. Hartosh Singh provides yet another peep into the life of this enigmatic leader... I am intrigued. I have to say that the way he is portrayed in print and the media is a lot different from the high regard that people who were closely associated with him held him in.

6: Beant Singh (Chicago, Illinois, USA), May 23, 2014, 1:13 PM.

@#2: Bhindranwale based himself in the Akal Takht because this has historically been the temporal seat of authority for Sikhs. It is from there that directives are given to the Sikh Nation on temporal matters. Bhindranwale was arrested in 1981, but then released without any charges filed against him. The Indian army then showed up with tanks to eliminate him in 1984. We now know that the army had been practicing the attack on a replica of the Golden Temple since 1983. If the plan was to arrest him peacefully, then why bother rehearsing the attack and showing up with tanks? It is the Indian army that brought the fight to Harmandar Sahib.

7: Sevak (New York, USA), May 23, 2014, 4:12 PM.

Although the author did point out some valid points, I feel compelled to put in my two cents as well. First and foremost, it is the media alone which can, in the political context, make a person into a saint or a militant. In Bhindranwale's case, the media kowtowed to the majority community and the government and took an antagonistic approach towards him. They mischievously portrayed him in a negative manner, which in turn influenced people's thinking towards him. Take for example, Mohandas Gandhi. The media depicted him solely as a non-violent protester and helped him gain sympathy from the people. (I am not in anyway a Gandhi supporter, just wanted to point this out, We all know that Gandhi had said some insulting remarks towards our Gurus, he even called Guru Gobind Singh ji a misled warrior.) The media in India has always taken a negative approach towards the minorities, especially the Sikhs. KS Brar, (one of the key people to invade the Golden Temple under the Indian army's command), falsely told the media that Khalistan would have been created in a day or two and the capital would have been the Golden Temple. This is one of the most absurd things that came out of the misinformation campaign. Unfortunately many people seem to overlook one factor: prior to Operation Blue Star, Parkash Singh badal, Surjit Singh Barnala, and other Sikh politicians had written to Indira Gandhi actually advising her to invade the Golden Temple.

8: Kanwarjeet Singh (USA), May 23, 2014, 7:42 PM.

Anyone that condemns Sant Bhindranwale for taking hold of the Akal Takht in 1984 obviously does not understand the concept of the Akal Takht - the throne of the Timeless One; the center for justice and political bulwark for the Guru's followers. The same people need to also read the history of why and how it was built and why hukamnamas are proclaimed from there. Perhaps we need to educate ourselves before judging our own history. I would highly recommend Maskeen ji's and Prof. Darshan Singh ji's kathas on the Akal Takht. Perhaps Sher Singh ji can write about it in the eloquent way that he does.

9: H. Kaur (Canada), May 23, 2014, 8:10 PM.

There was no Bhindranwale in the 37 other historical gurdwaras attacked on the same time by Indian troops, including those outside Punjab!

10: T J Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), May 24, 2014, 12:25 PM.

H. Kaur - thank you for reminding those ignorant Sikhs among us who foolishly seek to justify the Indian Government's actions against the Sikh Nation. I challenge my brothers and sisters who make such ridiculous comments to spend some time to seek out the facts. This was an organized and calculated attempt by Indira Gandhi to commit genocide against the Sikh nation. Why must we have to explain this to our own, 30 years after the fact?

11: Daljit Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), May 24, 2014, 2:05 PM.

I was really depressed the first time I read the article. I decided to stay away and not comment until I could be more rationale. This article might as well have been written by the RSS or be an Indian Govt whitepaper. What it shows you is that the generation especially in India fully bought into the govt. media, govt white papers and the hinduisation of the Sikh institutions under the Badals. The article couldn't be more removed from the truth and the facts. The fact that we have to explain to fellow Sikhs is agonizing. Does the author know that first large model of the Golden Temple was built by the Indian Army for an assault exercise in 1981? Does the author know the British govt was approached six months previous to the assault for assistance? As H Kaur said, why 38 other gurudwaras? If Bhindrawale and his band were the only culprits, why the Operation Woodrose where army fanned out in the countryside post-operation Bluestar for a decade and tens of thousands more were butchered Wake up! And stop making falsestatements like: "...by 1983, he was running a parallel state from within the Darbar Sahib complex, handing down death sentences and dispensing rough justice before adoring supplicants". Can he quote the exact govt white paper? Waheguru samat bakhshey.

12: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 24, 2014, 2:35 PM.

@9 & 10: So you think this man was the "Moshe Dayan" of Punjab who could save Sikhs from genocide? I will not buy that.

13: N Singh (Canada), May 24, 2014, 5:48 PM.

@12: No, he was the "David" to the Indian Goliath. Had he lived he would have been the "King of Punjab" just as David went on to be King of the Israelites!

14: TJ Singh (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), May 24, 2014, 5:54 PM.

Kaala Singh ji, Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale awoke a sleeping nation of Punjabis who had forgotten the basic ideals of Sikhi. What truly amazes me is the attitude of the mainstream Punjabis from Punjab who are more focused on increasing their land holdings and wealth through whatever means possible, consuming alcohol as if it were in short supply and greasing the dirty politicians of both the Akali Dal and Congress Party such that their personal interests can be achieved. Shame on such Punjabis who claim to be Sikhs and make excuses for this corrupt un-democratic state. Sant Jarnail Singh stood up against all of these vices to remind the lost people of Punjab of their rich history and their basic human rights. Perhaps you should read the following biography written in 1997 by Profession Ranbir Singh Sandhu. It contains factual information that I am sure will challenge the brainwashing your generation of Punjabis have gone through and maybe its not too late. http://www.gurmat.info/sms/smspublications/SantJarnailSingh.pdf Sadly, the hope of the Sikh nation remains with Sikhs living abroad that are bringing attention to the atrocities and genocide committed by the Government of India. Perhaps you should follow one of these Sikhs, for example, who are not even allowed to visit India given the attention they have raised around the world. www.jagmeetsingh.ca

15: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 25, 2014, 4:07 AM.

@TJ Singh ji, I will not contest what you said, but the point I am trying to make is that you fight an enemy only when you have the capability and resources to win, otherwise you let diplomacy work. In this case the Indian state was looking for and found an excuse to attack the Golden Temple and many other gurdwaras and Sikh institutions and then carried out a wide-spread massacre all over the country. Sikhs were completely unprepared for this and became sitting ducks. If his objective was to reform the Sikh society, confrontation with the Indian state was not required and if his objective was to attain an independent Sikh state -- which all available evidence contradicts -- clearly he did not have the military, economic and other resources to achieve that. What followed was a systematic campaign by the government to wipe us out with no international sympathy for us. If you see my first post, I did not give any verdict on Bhindranwale and just wanted to know about his objectives for which Sikhs as a whole have paid a huge price.

16: Gobinder Singh (USA), May 25, 2014, 11:14 AM.

Kaala Singh ji, his intent was what neither of two you have stated. Being from Amritsar and as a young teenager at that time, I heard and have read his speeches several times. He categorically stated every time that he is not seeking an independent Sikh state but equal rights and treatment of Sikhs as equal citizens of the Indian nation! If you notice, most of the earlier demands by Sikhs -- like The Anandpur Sahib Resolution, for example -- were all genuine demands for Punjab and its fair share for all, not just Sikhs. It is a pathetic Indian nation which dreams of depriving minorities of their fair share and turn it into a Hindutva nation.

17: H. Kaur (Canada), May 25, 2014, 7:14 PM.

Kala Singh ji, frankly I don't care what Jarnail Singh was or wasn't -- in particular, I disapprove of the Damsami Taksaal's stance on the role of women, which is quite contrary to Sikhi and the teachings of the Gurus. I don't approve of his words either: that the original Punj Pyarey were not women, should be the basis for not having having women in the current punj pyarey. He did, however, make people aware of a lot of discrimination they were facing at the hands of the Indian state. The point is, he wasn't in all those other gurdwaras that were attacked by the Indian military at the same time. As well, if, as you insist, the Indian government was just looking for an excuse, well it could have found some other one. The things the Indian government did have no justification; there just is no excuse for some things. Who or what Bhindranwale was or who or what he did was besides the point. What matters is what the Indian government did and the question is what are they capable of and willing to do again? If you look at our history, the same people who are the current power holders were willing to attack gurdwaras through the military by kissing up to the Moguls. From day one the Brahmins have feared Sikhi and petitioned to have it eradicated via the Mogul emperors. I think they would enjoy Sikhs squabbling over things that don't even matter.

18: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), May 26, 2014, 7:37 AM.

I don't think Sant Bhindranwale had expected the Indian army to challenge him in the Darbar Sahib. Anyway, he should have left the premises and challenged the Indian Army from another area, as did our Tenth Master.

19: Kaala Singh (Punjab), May 26, 2014, 10:21 AM.

H. Kaur ji, I get your point but then, given our history with the Brahmins since the Mogul times, why did we elect to live with them in 1947 when we had the chance to go our own way and protect our faith and way of life? Why did we believe in their false promises? Didn't we know what was coming? Was it compulsion or naivety?

20: N Singh (Canada), May 26, 2014, 7:59 PM.

@19: This is because we had 'traitors' in our midst. This is why we are here today ...

21: Satvir Singh (India), October 30, 2014, 10:10 AM.

Kaala Singh ji, it was our leaders who betrayed us. Our leaders like Master Tara Singh and Baldev Singh were lured by Jawaharlal Nehru and his gang to join the newly created India and reject Jinnah's offer of having their own independent state which would have included East Punjab also. As fate would have it our leaders decided to go with Nehru and when they asked him to fulfill his promise, he very shamelessly and bluntly refused saying that "ab vakt badal gaya hai" (times have changed). And what followed was a two-decade long struggle to get Punjab which was devoid of many Punjabi speaking regions; they were lost to either Haryana or Himachal Pradesh.

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Part I
The Roundtable Open Forum # 120"









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